Pristina Parish Priest: Priests banned from serving liturgy in the Church of Christ the Savior; No response from KP

The Kosovo police banned Orthodox priests from serving liturgy on Ascension Day in the church of Christ the Savior in Pristina this morning, Stanisa Arsic, the parish priest from Pristina, said in a statement for KoSSev. The Kosovo Office reacted, describing the ban as „uncivilized act“. In connection with these allegations, KoSSev made several attempts to reach out to the police in Pristina, however, we failed to get an official statement by the time the news was published.

As Arsic testified for KoSSev, he began serving the liturgy in the church in Pristina this morning around half-past five, accompanied by the priest Zoran.

„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,“ said the parish priest from Pristina.

Arsic says that the police officers ignored his questions, while one of them mentioned the lights on his vehicle.

„He mentions something about car lights. ‘At three o’clock with the lights off,’ which is not true. I was at the church site at half-past five, and my lights were not turned off, simply because of the traffic,“ he underlined.

He added that he unsuccessfully tried to get in touch with someone who would help him with the translation.

„I did not manage to reach anyone. And they (cf. the police) simply did not allow me to enter (cf. the church). ‘Officially it’s not a church property and we cannot enter it’,“ says Arsic, emphasizing that both he and Father Zoran were wearing their priest clothes – not plain clothes.

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

The Kosovo Office also announced that the clergy was prevented from serving the liturgy in the church in Pristina this morning. The Office also said that the congregation were also present with the priests.

„When the believers and the clergy gathered in front of the church this morning, members of the police in large numbers did not allow them to approach the Church of Christ the Savior, nor to enter the holy site. To avoid any incident and protect the believers, the priests of the Serbian Orthodox Church called on those gathered to go to the Church of St. Nicholas in Pristina, and liturgy was served there,“ the Office said in a statement.

They claim that this „uncivilized act“ of the Kosovo Police was directly „guided by the authorities in Pristina“ and reflects their attitude towards religious freedoms in Kosovo, the Serbian Orthodox Church, and the faithful.

„Serbs in Kosovo are prevented from entering churches and shrines, from praying to God and professing the faith, while the SOC temples are desecrated daily and that is the reality in which Serbs in Kosovo live,“ they pointed out.

The Office also recalled last year’s incident, when the inscription „Jesus hates Serbs“ was sprayed on the same church, along with numerous other offensive messages.

„It is high time that the representatives of the international community clearly see what kind of persecution Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija are facing and take appropriate steps to protect the legitimate rights and freedoms of the Serbian people in the province,“ the Office said.

Regarding the allegations presented by the Pristina parish priest and the Kosovo Office, KoSSev made several attempts to reach out to the police in Pristina, however, we failed to get an official statement by the time the news was published.

KoSSev journalists contacted four spokespersons of the Kosovo Police in the Pristina region, both via phone and e-mail.

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.

Preuzimanje i objavljivanje tekstova sa portala KoSSev nije dozvoljeno bez navođenja izvora. Hvala na poštovanju etike novinarske profesije.