DIOCESAN COMMUNIQUE – Kosovo Ministry of Culture bans reconstruction works at Holy Archangels Monastery near Prizren
Kosovo Ministry of Culture with its Institute for Protection of Cultural Monuments and the local Prizren Department of Urbanism has blocked continuation of the reconstruction works on St. Nicholas church at the Holy Archangels Monastery near Prizren these days. The Inspectors appeared at the monastery requesting an immediate termination of all works. The workers who take part in the construction of this ancient church as the only place of worship at the Holy Archangels Monastery were threatened with police and fines if they continue their work. Kosovo daily KOHA published an article today saying that the Ministry of Kosovo claims that the works at the Monastery are “illegal because no construction permit has been issued”.
Our Diocese agreed the beginning of the works on reconstruction at Holy Archangeli Monastery already in May this year at the Implementation and Monitoring Council with participation of the heads of EU and OSCE Missions in Kosovo and two Kosovo Ministers, of Culture and Spatial Planing. Mr. Kujtim Shala, the Minister of Culture (who is also a deputy PM and member of the LDK party) personally gave assurances that the permit would be issued in ten days, so the next IMC meeting was agreed for the beginning of June in Prizren. However, since then no permit has been issued and the Ministry after months of delay ultimately made a decision to stop the reconstruction works (which in the meantime had begun due to the expenditure timeline of the grant). Kosovo and International representatives were informed on the works in August and no cessation of works was suggested by Kosovo representatives.
“Such a behavior of the Kosovo Ministry of Culture is a sad example of direct violation of a fair agreement made in the presence of the highest international representatives in Kosovo. The Ministry demonstrates a deplorable lack of both professional and moral credentials for the continuation of the heritage reconstruction and shows that there is no good will to work with the Serbian Orthodox Church along the internationally granted principles”, said Bishop Teodosije. “The construction ban at the Holy Archangels Monastery is a deliberate act of misuse of institutional powers directed against our freedom of worship and normal life of our Church”, emphasized the Bishop.
Due to such an attitude of the Ministry of Culture, the work of the mixed Council on religious heritage (IMC) has been suspended for five months which does not only inflict damage to our Church but also to the Kosovo Government which seems not to be ready (or able) to guarantee the compliance with the principles accepted in the Ahtisaari Plan. These principles were confirmed by highest Kosovo political figures in their public letter in November 2015, which provided full discretion of management and reconstruction of its property was granted to the Serbian Orthodox Church in lines with the Annex V of the Ahtisaari. The readines of the Church to work together with Kosovo institutions on the reconstruction of the heritage in the spirit of cooperation and with international mediation has clearly been misused. We can, therefore, only conclude that after the campaign of systematic destruction of Serbian Orthodox churches in Kosovo we are facing now a new strategy of institutional pressures and denial of our freedoms and rights on all levels. An example of this strategy we can see in the relationship of the Priština Municipality towards the church of Christ the Savior.
Holy Archangels Monastery near Prizren was built in the 14th century. In 2004 massive Kosovo Albanian riots the previously reconstructed part of the monastery was looted and burned to the ground and monks forced to flee. Some premises have already been reconstructed since 2005 but the process is continuing and will take years.
Diocese of Raška and Prizren, Serbian Orthodox Church
12 October 2016