Pristina, Kosovo, December 26, 2022
The authorities in Pristina have decided to ban His Holiness Patriarch Porfirije of the Serbian Orthodox Church from making his planned visit to Kosovo today through Wednesday.
The Serbian primate had planned to visit the ancient Patriarchate of Peć, Visoki Dečani Monastery, and other holy sites. The ban was announced yesterday evening.
Both the Patriarchal office and the Diocese of Raška and Prizren in Kosovo have issued responses.
The office of Pat. Porfirije states:
His Holiness the Serbian Patriarch Porfirije received with astonishment the news that the authorities in Pristina today forbade him to travel to the Peć Patriarchate, which is the first and centuries-old seat of the Serbian Orthodox Church and the monastery in which the Patriarch is the abbot, in the days before the great feast of the Nativity of Christ, which is being celebrated by the entire Christian world.
Patriarch Pofririje does not give up his intention to serve the Divine Liturgy in the Patriarchate of Peć and expects that this extremely discriminatory decision will be repealed and that the trampling of the human rights and religious freedoms of Orthodox Serbs living in the Province, on the land of their ancestors, where the Serbian people have lived continuously for at least fifteen hundred years, will be stopped.
His Holiness Patriarch Porfirije prays to God for peace and goodwill among all people, and especially prays for peace to prevail between Serbs and Albanians in Kosovo and Metohija, where they have lived together for centuries.
And the Diocese of Raška and Prizren states:
The Serbian Orthodox Raška-Prizren Diocese with its clergy, monks and faithful people received with astonishment and deep disappointment the news that the authorities in Priština today did not approve the planned visit of His Holiness the Serbian Orthodox Patriarch to Kosovo and Metohija in the period between 26-28. December. It was planned that in addition to his patriarchal monastery (in Peć), the Patriarch planned also visit Visoki Dečani Monastery, our faithful people in Orahovac and Gračanica.
As stated in the Communique of the Cabinet of His Holiness, this is a discriminatory decision that once again confirms the threat to the human and religious rights of our people in this region, because the Serbian Patriarch is also the Archbishop of Peć and he wanted to make a pastoral visit in order to visit his people and holy places in the days before the joyous Feast of the Nativity of Christ. Our Patriarch has repeatedly appealed on peoples of all faiths to live in peace and mutual respect and during his recent enthronement in Peć, he once again called for peaceful coexistence of Serbs and Albanians in Kosovo and Metohija.
Unfortunately, the authorities in Priština have been continuing for weeks with rhetoric aimed at criminalizing the entire Serbian people, and even harassing the Church, although the Church only went public with calls for peace and demands for the respect of its rights. Recent interviews of Mr. Kurti in which he openly attacked and unfairly accused the Serbian Orthodox Church, various proscription lists published by members of the Kosovo Assembly in which the Serbian Orthodox Church is mentioned as a kind of extremist organization, as well as constant attempts to drag our Church into the political narrative, cause serious concern. During the time of the current Kosovo Government, inter-ethnic relations have worsened considerably, the relations between Kosovo institutions and our Church, on which we have worked for years in the spirit of cooperation and dialogue, have never been at a lower level. Rhetoric displaying open ethnic hatred towards everything Serbian and Orthodox deeply threatens to take us all twenty years back. This situation does not lead to a better future not only for the Serbs, but also for the Kosovo Albanians and other communities in Kosovo and Metohija.
In recent weeks, while the latest crisis in the north of Kosovo has emerged, the SOC has not made any political statements because we are not a political organization, and our Diocese has publicly called for peace, restraint and solving of all problems through dialogue. This is what we are doing this time too by appealing to everyone to show responsibility in this situation and preserve peace and restraint, not using any form of violence or aggressive rhetoric. We especially expect the international representatives to do everything in their power to prevent the current crisis from escalating and to stop what the Serbs in Kosovo rightly perceive as open persecution.
The rights of all citizens, regardless of their origin, must be adequately protected, which unfortunately has not happened in Kosovo and Metohija, where for the last 23 years we have been continuously facing with discrimination on an ethnic basis, belligerent political rhetoric which threatens the safety of our believers as well as the SOC religious and cultural heritage. This happens amid the open disrespect for court decisions, laws and selective application of justice by the Kosovo institutions. It is unfortunate that this behavior continues and even intensifies during the Christmas holidays. The latest illegal and utterly uncivilized action against the Serbian Patriarch represents the culmination of arrogance, which threatens further deterioration of inter-ethnic relations.
Therefore, we pray to Christ, the only true Peacemaker, that in these days when we prayerfully observe and celebrate His Birth, reason and peace prevail over madness and cries for violence, so that all citizens in Kosovo and Metohija may live peacefully and safely and that all existing problems may be solved in spirit respecting the basic human and religious rights of all people living here.
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