Caring for our sanctuaries is not an act of hatred but a civilizational duty and a matter of religious freedom

Following another attack on the Diocese of Raška-Prizren in Kosovo media:

On the Telegrafi portal, Bekë Berisha, a member of the Kosovo Parliament and chairman of the defence and security committee, made unfounded and severe accusations against the Serbian Orthodox Church regarding the recent visit by Bishop Teodosije and his clergy to the archaeological site of the Monastery of the Holy Virgin of Hvostan near Istok on March 4th this year. Immediately following the visit, this site was vandalized by unidentified individuals who damaged the fence around the Monastery compound.

The Serbian Orthodox Church’s Diocese of Raška-Prizren remains concerned for the Holy Virgin of Hvosno, one of our significant historical holy sites listed among the nearly fifty other SOC sites in Kosovo as Special protected zones (SPZ). The latest damage to this site indicates that our church’s properties remain at risk and require protection, as in this area there is no Serbian population and the site is not protected by police.

Regarding Bishop Teodosije’s visit, it is crucial to emphasize that the visit was organized in coordination with representatives from the EULEX international mission and the Kosovo police due to previous illegal activities at this location. The Holy Virgin of Hvosno site is listed under this name in the Law on Special Protected Zones adopted by the Kosovo Parliament, which stipulates that no activities or work can occur in Special protected zones without the consent of the Serbian Orthodox Church and the Council for the Implementation of Protected Zones (IMC). Unfortunately, Kosovo authorities often disregard this law.

Given that Mr. Berisha apparently is not familiar with this Kosovo’s law, despite being a member of the Parliament, he should be reminded that the law was enacted to protect Serbian Orthodox Church sites in Kosovo, which have been repeatedly attacked and desecrated over the years. As a result, 45 locations were designated as special protected zones, additionally including the Serb village of Velika Hoča and the historical part of Prizren city, home to several medieval Serbian Orthodox churches.

The history of the Holy Virgin of Hvosno monastery has been extensively researched before and after World War II, uncovering significant artifacts that attest to the site’s complex history. From the early Orthodox Byzantine basilica of the 6th century to the 13th century the facility was expanded and renovated, the Holy Virgin of Hvostan became the seat of the Serbian Orthodox Diocese of Hvostan in 1219. Valuable finds from that era include the Rodop’s bell with a Serbian inscription, two antimensia (liturgical cloths), and remnants of a basilica, narthex, refectory, and towers. This important monument is extensively documented in medieval and modern literature, as the center of this diocese was a significant Christian, cultural, and educational hub in the area. After the Great Serb Migration of 1690, the facility fell into disuse, beginning its decline and demolition. Since then, the Holy Virgin of Hvostan has remained in ruins, but the Serbian faithful often gathered and prayed on its ruins, a practice that continues to this day.

Mr. Berisha’s accusations that our Church spreads hatred by caring for its holy sites, officially recognized in Kosovo’s laws, is itself an open expression of ethnic and religious hatred and indicates that the fence damage is a direct result of animosity systematically spread against the SPC and our religious sites, over 150 of which have been damaged or desecrated by Albanian extremists since the 1999 conflict.

Therefore, our diocese appeals for the protection of this site and its proper marking in accordance with the title stated in the Law on Special Protected Zones – Holy Virgin of Hvosno Monastery. Otherwise, there is a risk that it will be exposed to further vandalism and historical revisionism by individuals from Kosovo authorities, violating the fundamental principles of human and religious freedoms existing in the democratic world.