Moscow, June 30, 2017
His Holiness Patriarch Irinej of Serbia celebrated the Divine Liturgy on the feast of Vidovdan, June 28, at the ancient Gračanica Monastery in the heart of Kosovo, calling upon the faithful to remain courageous and not leave the holy lands of Kosovo and Metohija, reports the site of the Serbian Orthodox Church.
Vidovdan is a Serbian national and religious holiday, celebrated annually on June 15/28 in honor of St. Lazar and the holy Serbian martyrs who gave their lives in the epic Battle of Kosovo against the Ottoman Turks on June 15, 1389. The feast and the continuing memory of those who fell in battle continue to be an important part of Serbian identity. Gračanica Monastery, dedicated to the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos, is located in the center of Kosovo and Metohija. This monastery—an endowment from the Serbian King Milutin—was built in 1321. It is one of the pearls of medieval Serbian culture, and one of the most significant places in Serbian history and spirituality, and the residence of the Raška -Prizren bishopric since 1999.
The Divine Liturgy was concelebrated by His Grace Bishop Theodosije of Raska-Prizren and His Grace Atanasije, retired Bishop of Zaholm-Herzegovina, with the clergy and monastics of the Diocese of Raska-Prizren. The celebration was attended by numerous faithful from all Serbia and Montenegro, notably including Crown Prince Alexander Karadjordjevic, and a number of public officials.
In his address following the Liturgy, His Holiness Irinej called upon the Serbs living in Kosovo and Metohija not to leave their homes and sell their land, which, in his words, is soaked with the blood of their ancestors. Every inch of Kosovo’s land calls out with suffering, but as the patriarch reminded those gathered, suffering must precede resurrection, as Christ first went to the Cross.
“Few have remained on this sacred Serbian soil. We admire those who stay here. We admire their courage. We have come to encourage you to remain here,” said the Serbian Patriarch, referring to the persecution that the Serbian Orthodox are continually facing in Kosovo at the hands of Albanian Muslims living there.
His Holiness has several times referred to Kosovo as the Serbian Jerusalem, at the spiritual center of Serbian Orthodox life. “Kosovo is not just geography, Kosovo is our Jerusalem, our hallowed ground, everything that grew its roots in the Serbian history and culture; all of our most sacred is there and these people, who were many in Kosovo and Metohija, did not leave on their own volition or, but instead they were forced to do so... And this pressing force had been present for a long time – this struggle has been going on for more than a hundred years,” he said in a television interview in 2016.
A moleben for all the Serbian heroes who fell in the Battle of Kosovo was then served at the Gazimestan memorial site, four miles southeast of the Kosovo battlefield.