FaithWorld

Biden visit to Kosovo monastery splits Serbian Orthodox Church

By Adam Tanner
May 22, 2009

biden-in-kosovo-1DECANI, Kosovo – A visit by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden to one of the best known monasteries in Kosovo has again revealed a deep split in the church. A veteran of Balkan complexities from his U.S. Senate activism against Serbian aggression during the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s, Biden visited the 14th century Decani monastery on Thursday afternoon to highlight the importance protecting the Serbian minority in Kosovo.

(Photo: Fr. Janjic with U.S. Vice President Biden at Decani monastery, 21 May 2009/Adam Tanner)

Father Sava Janjic, sometimes called Decani’s “cyber monk” because of his embrace of the Internet, warmly welcomed the vice president, who had first visited there in 2001. “This is his second visit to this monastery which is one of the most important Serbian Orthodox sites in Kosovo,” Fr. Sava told Reuters in fluent English. “We sincerely believe his visit will help the preservation of Serbian Orthodox heritage in Kosovo and generally help the position of the Serbian people in Kosovo.”

However, the diocese overseeing Kosovo, which the church considers the cradle of Serbian Orthodoxy, issued a strong statement condemning the visit. “The U.S. vice president is visiting Kosovo as an independent state, to confirm forceful secession of Serbia’s territory and its hand over to Albanian terrorist who were not punished for numerous crimes against Serbian people, Serbian property and Serbian cultural and religious heritage,” the diocese said in a statement. “Does Joseph Biden want to confirm with his gesture that Decani is an American base in Kosovo, the same as Camp Bondsteel?”

biden-security-in-kosovo“The Decani monastery unfortunately has become known for its acts against Serbia’s interests, becoming in a sense a base for anti-Serbian acting in Kosovo as confirmed by this visit.”

(Photo:Heavily armed U.S. Secret Service agents during Biden visit to Decani, 21 May 2009/Adam Tanner)

The harsh words were the latest as the church seeks to sort out how to deal with Kosovo’s declared independence last year. The conservative acting church leader, Metropolitan Amfilohije Radovic, told Reuters in an interview last year that Serbs were treated so poorly in majority Albania Kosovo that future war was inevitable.

Fr. Sava did not want to address the latest controversy publicly, but noted the church leadership, the assembly of bishops meeting in Belgrade, had blessed the visit the day before Biden arrived. His monastery has in the past favoured a more moderate approach that includes dialogue with ethnic Albanian Kosovars, who are mostly Muslim.

Security was tight. In addition to Italian soldiers who normally guard what is the biggest Serbian Orthodox monastic brotherhood worldwide (with 30 monks), many secret service agents accompanied Biden inside the compound. Some heavily armed agents remained on guard as he went inside for talks, although a few took a tour of the church to admire its magnificent frescos.

biden-kosovo-churchBiden said he tried to bolster the monks by contrasting the often bitter racial tensions in the United States between blacks and whites when he started his professional career in 1968 and today when he serves as number two to the first black U.S. president barck Obama.

“I told the story to Father (Sava) today. They were down a little bit, they are feeling a little isolated, but wondering whether Europe is going to walk away,” Biden told Reuters and a few other reporters in an interview on Thursday night. “It’s going to take some time but we’ve got to stick with it.”

(Photo: U.S. officials at Decani church during Biden’s visit, 21 May 2009/Adam Tanner)

At the end of his three-day visit to Bosnia, Serbia and Kosovo, Biden said real integration among ethnic groups in the Balkans could prove even more difficult than it had been to end the 1990s wars in the former Yugoslavia. “What we are talking about now is real integration, not just the elimination of carnage and brutality, but there is where it really gets hard and it’s going to take time,” he said. “Things are drastically better than when I was last here, with a long way to go and in a sense the hardest piece to go.

“This is a process … it’s going to take a while,” he told reporters covering his visit.”

Here’s the Reuters TV report on Biden’s visit to Kosovo and Serbia:

Here’s a YouTube clip showing Decani and Fr. Sava, who calls Kosovo the “Serbian jerusalem.”

Comments
12 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

The Bishop Of Rashka and Prizren, His Excellence Artemije Radosavljevic, who opposed the visit by the racist thug who called to “put Serbs in concentration camps”, has the courage to speak against the tide of betrayal of Orthodox values imposed on the majority of the Serbian Orthodox Church by the manipulative president of that country, one Boris Tadic.

In fact, Bishop Artemije is a genuine Mark of Ephesus of today.

N.B. Bishop Mark of Ephesus was the sole bishop who opposed the Union of Florence between Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches imposed on the Byzantines at a time of peril of an impending Turkish invasion.

All other bishops were forced to sign the union, and the patriarch who was reluctant was poisoned in Florence.

But the people of Constantinople — and of all independent Orthodox churches except Ukrainian — rejected the union and remained Orthodox.

Posted by Serbo-Canadian from Macau | Report as abusive
 

It is time for the Kosovo Orthodox church to be separated from the Serbian one.

The Serbian orthodox church is a political church who has embraced Serbian leaders like Karadzic and Mladic who were/are wanted by the International Tribunal for War Crimes in Hague.

The Serbian orthodox church instead of promoting unity and peace among all ethnic and religious groups, it constantly promotes non-consolidation of Serbian minority to Kosovo structures. Sometimes it even uses hate speech, by calling Albanians “terrorists”, and unfortunately this article sources kosovo.net which is an example of church’s hate propaganda.

The Orthodox churches in Kosovo are cultural and religious heritage of all people of Kosovo, including Albanians who at the time they were built were a part of this community. It is time to stop equating churches or mosques to nationalities or ethnic groups.

I would suggest the Serbian orthodox church to follow God and not the dirty politics, otherwise Albanians are still going to associate you as a non-peaceful regime rather than religious institution.

Peace, Liberty and Freedom!

 

This is one priest of dubious character who obviously does not represent the whole Serbian Orthodox church.There are many forces at work ,both in Serbia and abroad who are trying to destabalize our holy church because it is the foundation of our nation.God bless Serbia!

Posted by dragan | Report as abusive
 

If I were a Serb I’d be angry with Biden’s visit. He is like Madeleine Albright who right after the bombing of Serbia ended, (with the killing of hundreads of innocent Serbs by NATO forces), she wanted to meet to congratulate then prime minister Kostunica for his victory in the elections and tell him how much the US loved the Serbs who they were bombing and killing relentlesly just a few days prior. In the same way Biden tells the Serbs that they can forget Kosovo which the US has given to Albanians, but then also pretends to be a friend of Serbia. How shameful.

Posted by rivera | Report as abusive
 

We love u BIDEN..U are always wellcome in kosovo..Thanks BIDEN God Bless USA and KOSOVO..(K)

Posted by ArTa..Ks (K) | Report as abusive
 

Unfortunately Serbian orthodox church is to much involved in the Serbian state policy making. Rather than being an advocate of peace and tolerance, the Serbian orthodox church continues to be an initiator of hate against other ethnic groups. After weak condemnation of Artemije by the church the fact that bishop Artemije is not removed is an indicator the his hate speech is silently condoned.
Serbs need to figure out that there needs to be a separation of state and religion.

Posted by gjoni | Report as abusive
 

gjoni, I have read your comments of distaste of Serbian people on other sites and so you continue with your accusaitons without any substance.

Do tell us how Serbian church spreads hatred through politics. Every church and the Catholic church has had a lot of opinions on almost every subject puts their advice and thoughts forward. We see the Pole travel around the world and he also has opinions on world events but seems that only the Serian church is not allowed to speak up.

Please enough of your hypocracy and bias. Give us examples of anything you alege or stop making these accusations.

Posted by Peggy | Report as abusive
 

Voicing concerns the Serbian Orthodox Church has every right to be angry with Bidens visit. US has failed them in Kosovo, failed to offer Serbs any security or protection from Albanian thugs burning looting and murdering anything Serbian. 1000 year old Serbian Orthodox Churches are attacked daily and burnt to the ground by these extremist Islamic thugs.

Posted by Mick | Report as abusive
 

The Serbian Orthodox is angry with Biden because the United States intervened to interrupt the genocide against the Albanian population of Kosovo, conducted with blessing for the “Christian” Church of Serbia.

There is no greater insult to the image of Jesus Christ than the actions of the priests of this church who inspired ethnic cleansing and violence against the innocents.

Posted by Ruben | Report as abusive
 

Oh, you guys! Neither you nor the author(s) of the news article understand the purpose and significance of Biden’s visit.

Then again, neither does Biden. He is still living in the same fantasy world he was living in when he decided that supporting the terrorist KLA was a good idea. He just does not understand Balkan realities, as should be crystal clear from his comparison of Balkan strife with US racial strife in the 60s.

But as if that did not make it clear enough, there is also his sad confusion, in that he thinks that Serbs can live peacefully under a Moslem dominated government in independent Kosovo! He just has NO idea how unrealistic this really is.

He has no idea because he neither understands just how corrupting Moslem influence is, so that the Moslem majority in Kosovo is incapable of governing with even a modicum of respect for human rights, nor how deep the bitterness runs in Serbs for the horrific way Moslems have treated them for centuries.

Unfortunately, this failure to understand is typical of the people who elected him to office, too.

Posted by Matt J. | Report as abusive
 

I disagree with Fr Sava: our Jerusalem is in Pripet Marshes, near Belarus. We are slavs, not Illyrians! We only came to Kosovo in 13th century, long after it was an Illyrian, Bulgarian and Byzantine province. Jews were the first in Jerusalem and in the Balkans Raska (now Sandzak) was our first place we invaded, not Kosovo.

As for Artemije, I agree with him and I hope that allegations of siphoning funds (http://www.b92.net/eng/news/politics-ar ticle.php?yyyy=2009&mm=01&dd=16&nav_id=5 6462 ) don’t ruin his chances for Patriarch.

Posted by L Nikolic | Report as abusive
 

Why is a Albanian ashamed of putting down his own name, but uses a Serbian one instead? Come on, be a man.

As for Biden, he has nothing to do in Kosovo exept visit that military base build on stolen Serbian ground.

Posted by Veljkovic | Report as abusive
 

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