An ethnic Albanian, Nikolla Xhufka, who claims to be an Orthodox priest, together with a group of people, entered the church of St. Archangel Michael in the village of Rakinica near Podujevo on November 28th, announcing that he founded the „Albanian National Church“ and changed the name of this religious SOC site. This act represents a blatant assault on the property of the Serbian Orthodox Church, aimed at fostering ethnic and religious hatred and instability, the Diocese of Raska-Prizren reacted, stating once again that Xhufka is a „fraudulent priest“ who actually broke into the church along with a group of individuals. The Diocese also said it will be filing a criminal complaint.
Nikolla Xhufka announced his visit to the church of St. Archangel Michael near Podujevo on Facebook, where he also shared several photographs.
„Today, for the first time in the history of Kosovo (Dardania), the First Orthodox Mass in the Albanian language was held in the municipality of Podujevo, in the village of Rakinica, in the church of St. Michael!“ said Xhufka.
He claims that „this historical event“ in the church, which is approximately 500 years old, was attended by representatives of the Municipality, the Conservative Party, as well as representatives of „various beliefs“.
Xhufka also took it upon himself to change the name of the church.
„As of today, this church with the old name established by the Serbs – ‘St. Michael’, by the decision of the Albanian National Church, has been renamed the ‘Church of Fan Nolli’,“ he wrote.
He also added that the 28th of November „should be remembered for centuries“ because „the Albanian National Church was founded“ in the municipality of Podujevo on that day.
Moreover, he claims that the Church of St. Michael is now allegedly under the jurisdiction of the „Albanian National Orthodox Church“ St. Kozmaj in Elbasan.
Xhufka’s allegations went practically unnoticed when it came to the Pristina media. Only a select number of media outlets, such as kosovapost, wrote about it, stating that he is „an Orthodox priest who follows the path of one of the greatest Albanians – Fan Noli“.
Diocese: Fraudulent priest, a blatant assault on SOC property with the aim of spreading ethnic and religious hatred
In response to this news piece published by kosovapost, the Diocese of Raska and Prizren said that this group of individuals actually broke into the Church of St. Archangel Michael, together with “the self-proclaimed and fraudulent priest Nikolla Xhufka” to purportedly perform a religious ceremony.
“This act represents a blatant assault on the property of the Serbian Orthodox Church (SOC), aimed at fostering ethnic and religious hatred and instability in Kosovo.”
Due to the violent break-in and misuse of the Serbian Orthodox Church property in the village of Rakinica, the Raska-Prizren Diocese will file a criminal complaint against Nikolla Xhufka and seek investigation from the police regarding the involvement of representatives of the municipality of Podujevo in this criminal act.
Rakinica was once a villager inhabited by Kosovo Serbs, but the last Serbian families moved out after the Serbian-Turkish War of 1878. The village preserves an old church dedicated to St. Archangel Michael. The Albanians in the village call it “Kisha Lazërit” – Lazar’s Church, as legend has it that the body of Serbian Prince Lazar rested there overnight after the Battle of Kosovo, while being transported from Pristina to the Ravanica Monastery. Based on architectural and stylistic features, the church was built in the 14th or 15th century, first renovated in the 16th century, and again in 1936. In the village, there are also remnants of an old Serbian cemetery. The church occasionally held services until the remaining Serbian population in the surrounding villages and Podujevo was expelled by the KLA in 1999. Several churches in the Podujevo municipality have been ruined, the Church of St. Archangel Michael in Rakinica, with minor damages, survived because it was respected by the older Albanians, the Diocese said.
The Diocese underlined that this criminal act represents yet another in a series aimed at usurping the spiritual and cultural heritage of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Kosovo:
“Effectively ‘Albanianizing’ or ‘Kosovarizing’ our spiritual and cultural heritage.”
The Raska-Prizren Diocese has been highlighting the process of cultural appropriation of our heritage for years.
“This latest incident confirms our claims, this time in an undeniable and extremely worrying manner.”
“Such acts underscore the urgent need to protect our cultural and spiritual heritage, primarily from individuals and organisations connected with Kosovan institutions, or those acting with their greater or lesser support.”
After the Diocese, the Kosovo Office also reacted, condemning the intrusion into the SOC facility.
„The intrusion into the Church of St. Archangel Michael in the village of Rakinica by officials from Podujevo, led by the fraudulent and self-proclaimed Albanian priest Nikolla Xhufka, represents a new attack on the Serbian Orthodox Church and the Diocese of Raska-Prizren, with the aim of erasing and appropriating the Serbian Orthodox religious heritage in Kosovo and Metohija“, announced the Kosovo Office.
They accused Pristina of supporting Xhufka, alleging that the authorities in Pristina are trying to use various „perfidious and dangerous strategies“ to take over the churches and monasteries of the Serbian Orthodox Church and declare them part of „so-called Kosovo heritage“.
„And in the end, they resort to brutal incursions into the property of the holy places of the Serbian Orthodox Church, precisely because of the strength and importance that the Serbian Church has for the Serbian people in Kosovo,“ they stated.
This Office once again appealed to the international community to react.
SOC and OCA are sister autocephalous churches; Albanian church on Xhufka: He is not an Orthodox priest
The Diocese of Raska and Prizren also shared details about this alleged priest.
They underscored that Nikolla Xhufka is a citizen of the Republic of Albania from Elbasan and is not an ordained clergyman but “falsely presents himself as an Orthodox priest.”
The canonical Orthodox Church of Albania has reported extensively about him, they added.
“The Serbian Orthodox Church and the Orthodox Church of Albania are two sister autocephalous Churches with their own jurisdictions and enjoy exceptionally good and brotherly relations. Orthodox believers from Albania often visit our holy sites in Kosovo, and on several occasions have served in the Albanian language with our priests and monks.”
The Orthodox Church of Albania stated in a statement last year that Xhufka is not an Orthodox priest, and that he is not recognized by any Christian church in any country.
“This is simply a deception of public opinion. Nikolla represents only himself; he has neither a church nor a community of believers, despite his grandiose statements occasionally made in the media,” the OCA said in a statement last year.
They added that Xhufka makes “patriotic” statements, while simultaneously ridiculing and belittling Albanian Orthodox clerics, also jeopardizing and mocking the seriousness of religious leaders and clergy of other faiths.
“His irresponsible media statements, under the guise of religious authority, cause dissatisfaction, inciting rivalry among religious faiths, a lack of mutual respect, and consequently, interfaith hatred.”
The OAC indicated that his lack of religious education means his media statements regarding the Orthodox faith are incorrect and misleading.
Nikolla Xhufka caught the public’s public attention last year when he claimed that he was allegedly „kicked out“ from Visoki Decani Monastery „simply because he is Albanian“.
At the time, the monastery immediately reacted, stating that Xhufka tried to take photos and video material in this monastery with „provactive nationalist intentions.“
Visoki Decani also underlined that he was not kicked out, but that they informed KFOR about his activities.
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