the Bishop of Rome was seeking primacy among the Christian bishops, the Greek
Orthodox Church was busy building a strong Orthodox bloc in the Balkans by the
conversion of newly settling tribes.
Serbian Orthodox Church in the west and the Bulgarian in the east eventually
proclaimed independence from the Greek Church.
came Islam with the Ottoman conquest. The Turkish empire lasted from the 13th
to the 19th centuries. But Serbia kept her Orthodox culture alive and it was
still in existence right across the whole of the Western Balkans when the
Ottoman Empire collapsed.
on the attack
began to move against Serbian Orthodoxy long before the arrival of the Turks.
Pope Gregory VII ‑ the Pope before whom the Holy Roman Emperor had
grovelled ‑ granted Grand Zupan Michael (1050‑80) of Serbia a papal
kingship and later King Stephen I Nemanja and his family converted to Rome.
King Stephen’s Orthodox brother, Rastko, acted
immediately. He became the revered Saint Sava. Rastko created the Serbian
Church as a separate entity and in doing so created the Serbian state and
culture. The term Saint‑Savaism, often used contemptuously, sums this
up. As one writer puts it, “Saint Savaism regards the nation as holy because of
its identification with the only true faith ... With all their heart the people
want a holy church, holy school, holy culture, holy dynasty, holy authorities,
holy state and ‑ holy army”
King Stephen Dushan, Serbia came to stretch almost to Athens. But Dushan was
very hostile to the Roman Catholic Church. Article 6 of his code punished with
death any Serbian who adhered to the “Latin heresy”, or any Latin ecclesiastic
who sought to make proselytes.
the collapse of the Ottoman empire, Rome determined to counter ‘Saint
Savaism’. The campaign continues to this day. Thus in 1913, Roman Catholic
Europe prevented Serbia from absorbing some of the Serbian Orthodox areas of
Albania which might have yielded Serbia access to the sea. After World War II,
President Tito persistently blocked Serbian expansion within Yugoslavia.
the Serbs ate likely to lose Montenegro. It is scheduled to hold a referendum
on independence on 21st May. Montenegrins number 43% and Serbs 32%. A leaked
secret video reveals vote rigging. Serb politician Budimir Aleksic lamented
that deputies of the ruling party are paying hooligans to beat up eminent
intellectuals only because they belong to a different nation and have differing
scotched in Kosovo
still for the Serbs, the Serbian President Vojislav Kostunica has recently
capitulated over Kosovo.
Serbian attempts in the 1990s to reassert power there, NATO and the US made it
a UN protectorate. Since then half of the Serbs have fled from Albanian Moslem
persecution. Those remaining live in fear. President Kostunica, a former
communist, believes that Serbia’s best option is to reject her Orthodox past
and embrace Europe. Talks for joining the EU in 2012 are well advanced. But
the Financial Times of 7th April, in a leader headed “Some Balkan states may
find EU’s door closed,” spelled out how France and Germany, fearing Turkey’s EU
bid, are resisting further expansion.
Rehn, the European Union enlargement commissioner, says Croatia’s bid is
assured but that he has a fight on his hands keeping Europe’s doors open to the
remaining Balkan states.
Serbia wants admission to the EU, it will have to Europeanise fast and not
quibble over Kosovo. A papal visit from Benedict XVI to Belgrade would do much
to advance Serbia’s cause. Boris Tadic, President of Serbia, visited the pope
in the Vatican in 2005 to extend just such an invitation.
fact is that Kosovo is the cradle of Serbian Orthodoxy. It is thick with
ancient Orthodox churches, monasteries and shrines and tradition. During
Ottoman rule many Moslem Albanians settled in Kosovo. Tito granted Kosovo
autonomy in 1974 and after his death Kosovo sought full independence. But
Milosevic rescinded this autonomy. So in 1991 the Kosovo Albanians declared
unilateral independence. Milosevic’s determination to secure Kosovo was
obstructed by the Moslem Albanian Kosovan Liberation Army (KLA). Serbian
Orthodox churches and monasteries were their particular target. Milosevic’s
attempts to recapture Kosovo were finally halted by the Nato bombing of Kosovo
and Serbia including Belgrade in march 1999.
The Vatican's influence
Vatican has Permanent Observer Status at the UN with untold opportunities for
secret lobbying and it is continually making political interventions.
reports that were used to demonise Serbia in the 90’s are now surfacing. Thus
one such report blames, “the Bosnian Moslems for the February 1994 massacre of
Moslems at a Sarajevo market”. Yet this incident was always labelled a Serb
aggression at the time, thus giving the US a pretext for bombing the Bosnian
Serbs. In fact the UN knew all along that Moslems had fired “on their own
people in order to create international sympathy and get the West to fight on
their side against the Serbs”.
this modern day crusade hundreds of Orthodox churches monasteries, and shrines,
far more than in 500 years of Ottoman rule, have been destroyed. Numerous
pictures exist on the Internet, yet few reports have reached the west.
UN administration of Kosovo was set up in autumn 1999. Yet atrocities against
the Serbian Orthodox church continued. Kosovan reluctance to pursue the guilty
is glaring. The BBC reported in October 2000 that the Organisation for
Security and Co‑operation in Europe (OSCE) had found, “that the United
Nations‑run judicial system displays clear evidence of bias against Kosovo
Serbs”. This became peculiarly public in 2001 when a coach from Nis carrying
250 Serbian Orthodox pilgrims was blown up by remote detonator. Ten Serbs were
killed, including a two‑year‑old boy, and 20 more injured, ‑
and that despite a Nato escort. The bus was taking Serbs who had already fled
Albanian persecution in Kosovo in 1999 back to a memorial service for their
dead and to visit family graves.
world of ‘peace keeping’
Loyd later reported in The Times on the “murky world of UN and Nato
peacekeeping in Kosovo” ‑ Enquiries had been “blocked at every turn” and
“the four suspects are now free”. The TMK (Kosovo Protection Corps) created in
1999 under the aegis of Nato and the UN after Serb withdrawal from Kosovo is
just the KLA made respectable. KFOR (The Nato‑led peacekeepers in
Kosovo) and the UNMIK (the UN temporary administration were being blatantly
obstructive. One suspect linked to the scene by DNA evidence was an Albanian
criminal. He escaped from a US high detention facility – ‘using a pair of wire
cutters hidden in a spinach pie’ ‑ with such ease that suspicions arose
that he was an American spy. The remaining suspects were high ranking TMK
Albanians. They were freed for lack of evidence to receive local heroes’
welcomes, two being immediately reinstated as a Captain and Colonel. It was
alleged they had been paid throughout their detention, as if still in post,
from UN funds. Loyd concluded, “Any remaining trust held by Kosovo’s Serbs in
UNMIK, KFOR or justice in the province disintegrated after the men were set
March 2004 a fresh wave of desecration occurred under the noses UN
peacekeepers. Damjan de Krnjevic‑Miskovic reported, “A pogrom started in
Europe this week, with one UN official being quoted as saying, ‘Kristallnacht
is under way in Kosovo’. Serbs are being murdered and their 800‑year‑old
churches are aflame. Much of the Christian heritage in Kosovo and Metohija is
on fire and could be lost forever”.
continued, “How did this week’s events begin? Just as in the 1930s ...
prearranged plans were put into action .. . Serbian children were accused of
chasing four Albanian children into a river and causing the death of three of
them. Hours later, the UN Mission ‑ which is what passes for authority
in Kosovo ‑ issued a statement that the accusation against the Serbs was
false, adding that the surviving Albanian child had told the UN that no Serbs,
had been involved in the drownings. Nevertheless, anti‑Serb violence did
not abate. And today Kosovo burns still . . . The wave of violence has been
too coordinated to be a spontaneous ... It is clear that some in the Kosovo
Albanian leadership believe that by cleansing all remaining Serbs from the area
... and destroying Serbian cultural sites, they can present the international
community with a fait accompli.” Even an internet link to 11 pictures of the
burning of St Sava Mitrovica on March 17th, showing UN armed soldiers standing
by chatting to an Albanian mob as they assemble a pile of wood, break into the
church and fire it, has disappeared when I came to compiling this article.
Little wonder the BBC’s Geraldine Coghlan, handling the Hague War Crimes
Tribunal, reported in 2005 on its “bias against Serbs and for not bringing more
ethnic Albanians to trial”.
Journalists not paid unless they lied
journalist Stella Jatras has noted a further link in the chain of bias. “The
outrage is that we [journalists] have handed over Serbia’s Jerusalem, the seat
of the Serbian Orthodox Church, to a bunch of KLA narcoterrorists (40% of
Europe’s heroin coming via Kosovo in 2001) who have been tuned into heroes”.
thinks that US press reliance on “stringers”, local roving reporters, is an
endemic cause of bias. These ‘stringers’ know that if they send in pro‑Serb
material they are not likely to be paid or thick reports published. They
therefore embellish anti ‑ Serb stories. Apparently one story of a mass
grave containing 567 Moslem Albanians slaughtered by Serbs was found to be entirely
fabricated. “It doesn’t pay to be impartial in the Balkans”.
clusters around Serbian Orthodox Churches in Kosovo still remain, hoping to
survive by mutual support. Now, in 2006, reports are emerging of anti Serbian
graffiti “Self‑determination” (Vetevendosje) appearing on Serb owned
houses. The implied threat ‘we know where you live’ ‑ is chilling.
National Catholic Reporter voiced Serbian Orthodoxy’s dilemma: ‑
The modern Serbian Orthodox church was founded in the province of Kosovo and
Metohija in the 11th century ... The big question is Patriarch Pavle. He
governs the Orthodox church as the first among equals .......Only Patriarch
Pavle (the 44th successor to St Sava) now 91 and in failing health, can make
the final decision [on Pope Benedict’s visit]”. And what a decision! Is
Kosovo, known to the Serbian Orthodox as ‘heavenly Serbia’, to be engulfed by
Rome or is it to become a European fundamentalist Islamic state?
many in the West see St Savaism as the curse of the Balkans. They feel the
European powers have been overindulgent to a belligerent Serbia and its myths
of former greatness with horrifying results. They see “demonisation of the
Croats” as a “demonisation of the Catholic Church” and they believe Rome to be
an unjustly maligned institution which has really been proved to be wise beyond
measure in being first to recognise Croatian independence in 1991, thus
inaugurating a new era of Balkan peace and tolerance. At last the Vatican has
the Serbian Orthodox Church manoeuvred into a corner.
of St Sava burning can be seen at: www.kosovo.net/news/archive/2004/ April