Diocese: By banning the service, religious freedoms and the right of access to SOC property are violated

„With its openly discriminatory attitude towards the SOC in Kosovo, Kosovo institutions are constantly sending the message that our people cannot live freely and that basic religious and human rights do not apply to Orthodox Serbs,“ the Diocese of Raska-Prizren reacted to the news that Kosovo Police banned Orthodox priests from serving a liturgy in the Church of Christ the Savior in Pristina this morning. While the Serbian Orthodox Church and Belgrade condemn this morning’s events, the Kosovo Police present different allegations and emphasize that the liturgy was not announced.

Pristina parish priest, Stanisa Arsic testified for KoSSev, that he and another priest were prevented from entering the Church of Christ the Savior in Pristina, where they were headed to serve liturgy, by the Kosovo police early this morning.

“We just reached the church to unlock the door, when a policeman first approached us, followed by at least seven more police officers. They asked for our IDs. Although they spoke Albanian, which I do not understand very well, I realized that they would not allow us to unlock the church. Soon after that, they returned our IDs,“ the parish priest from Pristina told KoSSev.

The priests then went to the church of St. Nicholas, where the ritual bread was cut and the liturgy was served.

The same allegations were made today by the Diocese of Raska and Prizren. The Diocese also alleged that the priests were accompanied by a number of faithful.

They say that they are worried and disappointed, and that such an act violates basic religious freedoms and the right of access to SOC property.

„The Church of Christ the Savior is registered in the cadastre as the property of the Serbian Orthodox Church, and no one has the right to prevent us from accessing our property,“ the Diocese pointed out.

This morning’s events in Pristina were also condemned by the Kosovo Office, as well as Srpska Lista.

They say they expect a reaction from international representatives, and announce that the Serbian Orthodox Church will inform all relevant international organizations that monitor religious rights and freedoms.

What do the police say?

Regarding the allegations presented by the Pristina parish priest and the Kosovo Office, KoSSev made several attempts to contact the police in Pristina since this morning.

While KoSSev’s inquiries still remain unanswered, several media in Pristina managed to obtain a response from the Kosovo Police.

Gazeta Express, Koha, Kallxo and other media published a brief statement from the Kosovo Police this afternoon, stating that the police pulled over a car in the city center at 4.30 this morning with three people, two of them „foreign nationals“.

They also claim that after checking their IDs, the passengers were allowed to continue their journey, without providing any details about the whole situation, as well as whether the passengers were actually priests.

Gazeta Express also reported, citing police allegations, that, apart from the liturgy in the village of Bardos in Pristina municipality, they had not received any other announcements about planned religious activities.

„Today, around 4:30 AM, a police patrol unit pulled over a car with three people, two of whom are foreign citizens, while performing regular work in the center zone. The police carried out the necessary checks and they were allowed to continue their journey. As for the request for any religious activity, apart from the liturgy of the Orthodox Church, which is still being held in the village of Bardos in the municipality of Pristina, we have no other announced activities. This activity has been announced and, as far as it is concerned, the police are monitoring the event in order to facilitate the normal course,“ the KP told Pristina media earlier today.

Protests in 2021

The unfinished Church of Christ the Savior in Pristina has been a frequent topic in the Kosovo media and the public addresses of politicians for years.

Along with frequent claims that the cathedral was illegally built, it is also being brought into connection with the rule of Slobodan Milosevic, as a result of which initiatives were brought about for its demolition.

The Church of Christ the Savior, whose construction began in 1990 only to be suspended in 1998 due to the outbreak of war in Kosovo, was repeatedly subjected to attacks, while several attempts were made to mine the church. At one point, the church was even used as a public toilet. A music video was filmed at the site, and in 2015, and the walls of the church served as „rock-climbing walls“.

On the other hand, the Diocese of Raska and Prizren states that it has detailed documentation with permits and sources from the cadastre proving that it is the rightful owner of the land and the unfinished church. The Diocese also revealed that all documentation related to the construction of the church and land ownership has been submitted to all international institutions in Kosovo.

The church has repeatedly emphasized that it will treat any attack on the cathedral as an open attack on the Serbian Orthodox Church.
In June of last year, for the first time in 23 years, Saint Patron’s Day of the Christ the Savior was celebrated in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Pristina. The liturgy was served by the Bishop of Raska and Prizren, Teodosije, with a small number of believers. Pristina officials, however, deemed the act to be “a provocation.”

Protests soon followed, and graffiti – “Jesus hates Serbs” and “The symbol of chauvinism is becoming sacred, with the blessing of Albin Kurti” – was sprayed on the church door.

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