27 March 2007

Christmas celebration in Visoki Decani Monastery

KIM Info Service, Decani, January 7, 2007

The feast of the Nativity of the Lord Jesus Christ was formally celebrated today in Visoki Decani Monastery. Christmas Day services began at 4:00 a.m. The morning services continued with Holy Hierarchal Liturgy served by the abbot of Decani Monastery, Bishop Teodosije of Lipljan, with the assistance of the priest-monks of Decani. Liturgy was attended by some one hundred faithful, monastery guests and Serbs from returnee villages who arrived early in the morning to celebrate the feast of the Nativity of Christ together with the monks. Liturgy was also attended by high representatives of the international community in Kosovo and Metohija: the UNMIK chief, Dr. Joachim Ruecker; the KFOR commander, General Roland Kather, and his deputy, General Bernardini; representative of the German office in Pristina; and local representatives of UNMIK. Also present in church were a number of KFOR troops who expressed a desire to see how Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas.

After Holy Hierarchal Liturgy the guests were received in the monastery library where Bishop Teodosije had the opportunity to speak with the UNMIK chief and the KFOR commander regarding current matters related to the protection of Serbian Orthodox holy shrines and the return of displaced Serbs. Special emphasis was placed on the fact that the preservation of the Serbian spiritual and cultural heritage is one of the key elements for the survival of the Serbs, as well as the return of the displaced.

"For centuries our holy shrines have been the spiritual sanctuary of our people and they continue to play this important role in these times we live in," said Bishop Teodosije. The guests were soon joined by the commander of the Italian contingent in Metohija, General Claudio Borrecca, who arrived directly from the Serb village of Gorazdevac near Pec, where he distributed Christmas and New Year's presents to the Serb children.
The UNMIK chief and the KFOR commander conveyed their most sincere greetings on the occasion of the feast of the Nativity of Christ and the Orthodox New Year (January 7 and January 13, respectively, according to the Julian calendar) to Bishop Teodosije and his monks. Bishop Teodosije thanked them for their greetings, saying that the Serbs are welcoming the Christmas and New Year's holidays with joy but also with fear and trepidation because of an uncertain future.
"Many Serbs from Kosovo and Metohija are again celebrating the Christmas holidays this year far from their homes in exile, while in many of our Church's holy shrines no Christmas hymns will be sung because 150 churches have been destroyed since the war, and many parishes have been completely extinguished," said Bishop Teodosije. "Nevertheless, we place our faith in the God-Child Christ, who was Himself born in a cave and in exile but who showed that a Bethlehem cave was more radiant than the palaces of the powerful men of that age."

After the luncheon, a formal Christmas banquet luncheon was prepared for all guests and pilgrims in the monastery refectory.

During the course of the day Visoki Decani Monastery received a visit from the Ambassador of the Republic of France in Belgrade Mr. Pernet with his wife and colleagues.