The Diocese is not able to accept the interference of Kosovo institutions in the life of our Church and the assumption of protection of Banjska Monastery. We primarily see this initiative as a political act aimed not only at placing the religious and cultural heritage of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Kosovo and Metohija under the political control of Kosovo institutions but also as a step towards further degradation of our basic religious freedoms and rights and the cultural appropriation of our churches and monasteries,“ the Diocese of Raska-Prizren announced today.
At the Kosovo government session held yesterday, Kosovo Minister of Culture Hajrulla Ceku said that the damage done to the Banjska monastery, which was at the center of events during the conflict in this village on Sunday, will be repaired by the Kosovo government as a part of cultural heritage protected by the laws of Kosovo.
„The Ministry of Culture already has a budget code and the necessary tools for rehabilitation interventions in the Banjska monastery. We are waiting for the necessary conditions to be created for our expert teams responsible for cultural heritage to visit the monument to assess the damage. Immediately after that, we will undertake all the necessary actions for professional intervention in order to repair the damage to the physical structure of this monastery,“ Ceku said yesterday.
Ceku then added on Twitter that the Banjska monastery „was built on the ruins of an earlier Paleo-Christian church and it is assumed that there was an ancient-Roman settlement at this location.“ In his statements, Ceku continuously used the term „Orthodox Church“.
Yesterday, the Serbian Ministry of Culture immediately interpreted this as hypocrisy on the part of Pristina, which is „trying to cover up the crimes committed against the Serbian cultural heritage“.
They also told Pristina not to „feign concern“. The Diocese also reacted today, saying that it is unable to accept the interference of Kosovo institutions in assuming control over the protection of the monastery and the life of the Church, due to unacceptable situations, which they have explained.
While noting that they are deeply disappointed by Ceku’s public statements, in which he once again refused to acknowledge the proper name of the Church, that is, by failing to identify the monastery as a SOC site.
They believe that this approach not only appropriates the cultural heritage of the Serbian Orthodox Church and denies its identity but also:
„Indicates a preference for the monastery’s early Christian history over its current status as a living monastery, revealing the real attitude of Kosovo institutions towards our cultural heritage.“
The Diocese explained that Banjska Monastery is not just a cultural and historical monument cared for by the Church and the state for years but, above all, a holy site crucial for the spiritual life of the faithful, especially in northern Kosovo.
„Mr. Ceku’s statement refers to an early Christian church, overlooking Banjska’s status since the 14th century as one of the most important sanctuaries of the Serbian Orthodox Church and the burial church of St. King Milutin, significantly restored in recent years.“
They also underlined that the Diocese of Raska-Prizren has been facing continuous denial of the church’s spiritual and religious identity in Kosovo and Metohija for years, with the aforementioned minister leading this trend.
Moreover, they stressed that these same institutions are denying the existence of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Kosovo and Metohija basic religious rights:
„Evident in the non-execution of the Constitutional Court of Kosovo’s ruling on the land of Visoki Decani Monastery, not registered in the municipal cadastral records for seven years, despite persistent appeals from international representatives and esteemed international organizations dealing with religious rights and cultural heritage protection.“
The Diocese said that Kosovo institutions consistently deny the Church access to several of its religious sites, preventing the clergy and faithful from entering:
„Contrary to both international standards on religious freedoms and Kosovo’s own laws, which these institutions should uphold foremost.“
„These institutions are currently also adopting laws intending to revoke some of the last rights remaining to the Serbian Orthodox Church from the so-called Ahtisaari Plan, despite these being internationally guaranteed rights,“ the Diocese concluded.
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