HARRI HOLKERI AT DECANI AND PEC PATRIARCHATE MONASTERIES FOR CHRISTMAS
Holkeri - the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for
Kosovo took part in Orthodox Christmas festivities at Decani Monastery,
January 7, 2004
Celebration of Christmas in Kosovo and Metohija - Harri
Holkeri in Decani and Pec Patriarchate
KIM Info Service
Formal Christmas Liturgy was served today in all monasteries and churches in Kosovo and Metohija. The atmosphere was especially joyous in the Pec Patriarchate, where His Holiness the Serbian Patriarch Pavle served in the presence of the faithful who were accompanied by military escorts from nearby enclaves, as well as in Gracanica where Holy Liturgy was served by Bishop Artemije of Raska and Prizren.
The religious holiday of the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ was especially solemnly celebrated in Visoki Decani Monastery. Holy Liturgy was served by Abbot Teodosije and the hieromonks of Decani Monastery. Over one hundred eminent international figures and believers took part in Holy Liturgy and a formal Christmas luncheon. Among the officials who visited Decani today were the chief of UNMIK, Mr. Harri Holkeri, and his closest associates, as well as representatives of diplomatic missions (the U.S. and Great Britain. The Christmas celebration was also attended by the commander of KFOR Multinational Brigade Southwest, Italian general Alberto Primiceri with his officers.
Bringing special joy to the Christmas ceremony was the presence of Russian pilgrims headed by Senator Sergei Shebligyn and Aleksandar Melnik, the director of the Foundation of St. Andrew the First-Called. The pilgrims visited many Serb enclaves throughout Kosovo and Metohija as part of a tour organized the Russian-Serbian Friendship Society with Serbian theatre actress Ivana Zigon before coming to Decani. They were accompanied by a large group of Russian journalists who wanted to see for themselves the situation in the southern Serbian province. Gifts were exchanged during the luncheon, and Svetlana Stevic, a vocalist specialized in old Serbian music, sang a song originating in Kosovo and Metohija. The luncheon in the great hall concluded with Ivana Zigon's recital of the poem "Gracanica" by Desanka Maksimovic.
Abbot Teodosije welcomed the eminent guests, especially the chief of UNMIK, Mr. Harri Holkeri, and thanked them for their consideration and visit. He expressed special gratitude to the Italian KFOR troops who have protected Decani Monastery for more than four years. "The Monastery has always been a place that brings people together and we are happy that today, on this holiday of peace, the joy of Christmas is shared with us by people from different parts of the world who can learn about Orthodox tradition and customs," said Fr. Teodosije.
Addressing the gathering Mr. Holkeri praised Orthodox Christians in the province for their courage and perseverance, adding that the UN mission was aware that the conditions under which many Kosovo residents live are still unacceptable. "We have reached the consensus that, in order for Kosovo to be a comfortable home for the majority of its population it must become a safe and dignified home for all people," said the governor. He especially praised the example of Visoki Decani Monastery which during the war "not only by words but also by actions" demonstrated its solidarity with all the victims of war. He thanked Jelena Zigon who, on behalf of everyone present, gave him a medal with the image of the White Angel and a book on the suffering of the Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija in honor of his birthday yesterday.
(photo Fonet: After Christmas service in Decani, Holkeri visited Patriarch Pavle in Pec Patrarchate Monastery and wished a merry Christmas to him)
After the formal luncheon a one hour-long meeting with Mr. Holkeri took place in the monastery library. Abbot Teodosije and Fr. Sava acquainted Mr. Holkeri with the problems confronting Decani Monastery and the Serbian people in this part of the Province. They expressed their great concern regarding the most recent attempt to usurp the Church of Christ the Savior in Pristina and the hoisting of a large flag of the Republic of Albania at the main intersection in Decani on the very eve of Christmas. Fr. Sava emphasized that unfortunately, the transfer of competencies to provisional institutions is being misused against the Serbian community and that instead of a multiethnic society, what is being built in the Province is an ethnically pure Albanian society where the Serbs are hard pressed to see a place and opportunity for themselves.
"Although we are ready to cooperate with local Albanian authorities, we expect them to also accept us as we are, with our own culture, religion and language," said Abbot Teodosije. He pointed out that Christmas especially is a holiday of peace and God's love which should bring together all people of good will, expressing the hope that in the new year of 2004, processes of mutual reconciliation and especially the return of displaced persons will be intensified, and that UNMIK and KFOR will give their full support to achieve this. Abbot Teodosije also emphasized the need for protection of Serbian patrimonial sites which must be placed under special protection.
Mr. Holkeri expressed the hope that the implementation of the "Standards of Kosovo" will result in society's turning toward the future and called on the Serbian Orthodox Church to encourage participation by Serb representatives in public institutions.
After visiting Visoki Decani Monastery, Mr. Holkeri visited the municipality of Decani and spoke with Decani mayor Mr. Ibrahim Selmonaj and his associates. Before leaving Decani Mr. Holkeri and Ibrahim Selmonaj visited the mosque in Decani town and met the local imam Mulla Hysni Hoxha.
Around 13.00 Mr. Holkeri visited His Holiness Patriarch Pavle at the Monastery of the Pec Patriarchate and personally extend his Christmas greetings to the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church.