Bishops Atanasije and Teodosije receive the head of UNMIK and the KFOR commander in Gračanica Monastery

Today (March 2), at 11 o'clock in Gračanica Monastery Bishop Atanasije, the administrator of the Diocese of Raška and Prizren, and Vicar Bishop Teodosije received Lamberto Zannier, the head of UNMIK, who was accompanied by Mrs. Elizabeth Orlando and Mr. Dmitry Shlapachenko. Mr. Zannier wished Bishop Atanasije luck in his work and expressed the hope that cooperation between UNMIK and the Serbian Orthodox Church will continue to be successful, as it has been with regard to the restoration of holy shrines destroyed in March 2004. Since the mandate of the Commission for Reconstruction, in which UNMIK officially represents Kosovo provisional institutions, expires at the end of this year, Mr. Zannier expressed readiness to assist in finding a model for continued restoration of churches, including those destroyed before March 2004, which would be acceptable to all interested parties. Bishop Atanasije thanked the guest for his understanding and cooperation so far, expressing readiness for further cooperation by the Serbian Orthodox Church and the Diocese of Raška and Prizren, although he noted that he is only a temporary administrator until the meeting of the (Holy Assembly of Bishops).

Talking with KFOR Commander General Markus Bentler

Today at 2:30 p.m. in Gračanica Monastery Bishop Atanasije, the administrator of the Diocese of Raška and Prizren, and Vicar Bishop Teodosije received the KFOR commander German general Marcus Bentler and the commander of Zone “Center” Finnish general Seppo Toivonen. General Bentler stressed that KFOR remains committed to the protection of the monasteries of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Kosovo, adding that KFOR will not stay in Kosovo forever and that it is therefore necessary to gradually prepare the ground for the inclusion of other types of protection for the monasteries, referring to the Kosovo Police.

Bishops Atanasije and Teodosije emphasized that there is still no confidence in the Kosovo Police by the SOC because of bad experiences in the very recent past, and that the eventual withdrawal of soldiers from those monasteries that are in Serbian regions, e.g. Gračanica, could have not only security but also political consequences that are very negative and discouraging for the entire Serbian community. The situation in the entire region and particularly in Kosovo is still unstable, said Bishop Atanasije. In the end it was concluded that all the moves related to the safety of monasteries must be coordinated between KFOR and the Serbian Orthodox Church and that, as General Bentler put it, "there cannot and will not be any surprises” in this regard nor rush in implementation. Bishop Atanasije stressed that his service as administrator is only temporary and that his mandate cannot extend to such questions, that for this reason haste would certainly be a bad thing, and that situation should remain the same as before.

This was followed by a discussion regarding the enthronement of His Beatitude Patriarch Irinej in Peć, in which KFOR is interested in order to ensure full security. It was stressed that this ceremony has been delayed until the autumn in order to carry out all necessary preparations and give guests, especially high dignitaries of the Church, the opportunity to plan their visits in a timely manner. The bishops emphasized that this event will have a primarily religious character, in order to serve the peaceful coexistence of all who live in Kosovo and Metohija. The general pledged the full support of KFOR for our Church in this regard.