Bishops Atanasije and Teodosije visit Serbs in Staro Gracko, Lipljan and Laplje Selo

Bishops Atanasije and Teodosije this morning visited the much suffering village of Staro Gracko, Lipljan municipality, where they handed out help in clothing and food to local Serb families with the commander and soldiers of the Greek contingent of KFOR. The commander of Greek KFOR said at the time: "I am very glad that we are here with our Serbian brothers. We bring you little but it is from the heart and it is from the Greek Orthodox Church and the Greek army. We know that with these gifts we cannot solve your problems and difficulties but we hope that we will in this way show our love, that we love you and that we are with you." Bishop Atanasije most warmly thanked the members of Greek KFOR for this assistance, pointing out that even during difficult times of suffering we have an opportunity to strengthen the traditionally strong links between the Greek and the Serbian people. Old Gracko is a symbol of Serb suffering but also of the Serbs' strong determination to stay in their ancestral homes despite the heinous crime in the summer of 1999 when 17 Serb harvesters were killed by Albanian extremists. More suffering followed after that, and the graves of those killed are often desecrated. Nevertheless, the village has survived and the residents, especially the children, live in optimism and faith in the Risen Christ.

After visiting Staro Gracko the Bishops visited the parish priest in Lipljan, Father Siniša Milenković, with whom they visited work being done by experts from the Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments of Serbia on the old medieval church of the Presentation of the Theotokos. This is one of five projects for the rehabilitation of the Serbian cultural heritage in Kosovo and Metohija funded by UNESCO. Nakon visiting the works of the Serbian restorers, the Bishops visited the Health Center in Laplje Selo, where a dental X-ray machine was ceremoniously placed into service, the only one of its kind in the Serb enclaves south of the Ibar. This event was attended by the head of the French office in Priština. The Bishops were officially welcomed by the director of the health center, Dr. Rada Trajković, with the doctors and medical staff. Once again sincere gratitude was expressed to the donors of the equipment, which was delivered in February by Archimandrite Elie Ragot of the Monastère de la Transfiguration in France, the gift of Dr. Jérôme Galoup. The Bishops had the opportunity to learn about the great difficulties in the work of the medical preventative services since self-proclaimed Kosovo institutions initiated the dismantling of Telekom and Telenor mobile phone networks, which has proved a tremendous obstacle in receiving calls for emergency assistance and the work of the medical preventative services.