May 05th 2010 10:33:19 AM
ANY PRETEXT WILL DO: Totalitarianism in Service to the West: Serbia Betrays God, Helps Evict Last of Kosovo ChristianityPosted by Julia Gorin
In mid January 2010 at a regional security meeting in Pec in the western part of Kosovo, a KFOR officer informed the grouping that it was likely that Bishop Artemije of Raska and Prizren would be replaced and a new Bishop of the Serbian Orthodox Church would be installed in his place, one who was open to cooperation with the West and more open to dialogue.
One wonders how or why NATO was in a position to know such a thing, but we do know that what the West wants, Serbia bends over backwards to deliver. And so less than a month later a new administrator of the diocese was appointed, escorted to his new duties by several NATO contingents in their armored personnel carriers and jeeps, who were then seen to be positioned at the entrance gates of the monastery. The Kosovo Police Service were also in attendance. Bishop Artemije was then suspended, ostensibly because of financial irregularities carried out by his assistant, Father Simeon. It was for all intents and purposes a coup d’etat backed and protected by NATO.
In reporting on the replacement of Kosovo’s ruling bishop this week, Western media reports will apply to Artemije all the standard descriptions for Serbs while “explaining” the situation in under 400 words, as the AP did this week, ‘reporting’ that “Artemije is known for his ultranationalist and anti-Western views.” Referring to the bishop’s diplomatically sound shunning of the illegitimate government of career criminals and terrorists we installed in Kosovo — after years of spurned diplomatic efforts by the bishop to find a negotiated solution — the report demonstrates his “nationalism” with the supporting sentence that “He had ordered his clergy to cease contact with Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian authorities and the EU mission there after Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008.”
But here is the proverbial rest of the story. Artemije’s downfall came soon after a threat from the synod of bishops to Artemije about the reconstruction of churches destroyed in the March 2004 Pogrom. Bishop Artemije had resisted giving his assent to the reconstruction process, since only 11 or 12 churches and monasteries would be rebuilt — out of the 150 destroyed since NATO and the UN took control — and rebuilt by the very extremists who had destroyed them. None of the churches selected for reconstruction were in any way linked to the return and repatriation of the communities that used to worship in the churches, and the communities belonging to the churches that were not selected still would have no church to worship in. In other words, this reconstruction was a smokescreen: the EU and UN wanted to be seen as doing something while doing nothing to address the long-term needs of Serbs in Kosovo. Which makes sense when one considers that the Western powers don’t actually want Serbs to return, regardless of any contradictory but futile token gestures that KFOR soldiers have been enlisted in.
Bishop Artemije reluctantly signed off on the limited reconstruction process, but sensed that a bigger battle was ahead and that the powers seeking to remove him were trying to use this as a pretext.
Thus in February 2010 the Synod acted, suspending Bishop Artemije on the grounds of financial irregularity, although they stressed that he himself was not under suspicion. The ‘Father Simeon’ accusation was a message that no opposition to the new reality in Kosovo would be tolerated, and so one of the last voices crying in the wilderness was squashed. The Synod decision of February 13 stated that the final status of Bishop Artemije would be dealt with by the Holy Assembly of Bishops, which is currently in session.
Bishop Atanasije is the new acting bishop of Kosovo, although — strictly speaking — acting temporarily as administrator and not as the Bishop of Raska and Prizren (the official title of the bishop of Kosovo). But he is neither temporary nor is his administration confined to administrative matters of the Diocese.
The acceptance of rehabilitated churches under the Memorandum is not an administrative matter. And imposing punishments whose lengths exceed the duration of one’s mandate brings into doubt the temporary nature of Atanasije’s administration. This refers to the fact that several monasteries and convents have been placed under severe strictures designed to break their will to resist the new ‘Order’. Others, including nine nuns and novices have been removed or been forced by circumstances to take their leave of Gracanica monastery (where the ruling bishop has been headquartered since being burned out of his Prizren Palace by Albanians in 2004). Monks and nuns in particular monasteries such as Archangels, Crna Reka, Koncul and Zociste have been placed under restrictions, including a removal of their right to serve Liturgy.
Let us keep in mind that while in full possession of his mental faculties Bishop Atanasije renounced his post as a diocesan bishop 11 years ago because of his proven physical incapacity to discharge any of his diocesan duties, as confirmed by the Holy Assembly of Bishops. But he is now considered by the same Assembly unquestionably capable to govern a diocese which has been living under the most difficult circumstances for a full 11 years. Is this really an affair regarding the administration of the Serbian Orthodox Church or does it run much deeper than that?
In May 2005 current Serbian Orthodox Bishop of Australia, Bishop Irinej (originally from the US), told a number of people — who are prepared to testify to the fact — that the West, or to be more specific, the US State Department would only deal with certain people in Serbia: himself, Boris Tadic and Vuk Draskovic, leader of the “Serbian Renewal Movement.” Mimicking State Dept. language, he went on to explain that independence for Kosovo was “the only solution,” and that he had managed to persuade Bishop Teodosije and Father Sava of Decani to accept the “inevitability” of the independence of Kosovo.
A deal was struck. Decani Monastery would be allowed to continue to exist, as long as all other monasteries on the holy land of Kosovo and Metohija could be brought into line and made to fall under its leadership, obeying Teodosije and Sava’s orders, holy or not.
No surprise then that Decani monks led by Teodosije and Sava took over Gracanica Monastery in February 2010 to oversee the removal of Artemije and the installment of the temporary administrator, Atanasije.
Although the doors were locked and the admittance of people to the Monastery was monitored, religious and lay people still faithful to their bishop Artemije gained entrance despite NATO reinforcements, and managed to meet him — although it must be said after an unseemly squabble among fellow Christians, clergy and lay people alike, which turned into a monk-on-monk brawl.
But this is far more sinister than a squabble between factions of the Serbian Orthodox Church. This is the end game to remove the last pillar of resistance to the independence of Kosovo. It is clear certain interests have identified the Church as one last impediment in the way of what they have striven to bring about since 1999, the creation of a statelet with little or no legitimacy except in the minds of its creators, outside interests mostly paid off by the Albanian narco-mafia.
What happens when people of good faith leave the monasteries and convents voluntarily or otherwise? The Serbian Orthodox Church is already near extinction in Kosovo. It is not possible that Bishop Atanasije and the authorities in Decani Monastery fail to see that empty monasteries and empty churches will spell the end of what’s left of the Christian communities in Kosovo, and that the plotters of the Church’s downfall will have won at last.
Indeed, there is a darker and messier explanation, with origins in surprisingly high places, known of course for the lows they’re capable of. The explanation comes to us by way of an 86-year-old woman who in the midst of the aforementioned brawl was pushed to the floor by a Decani monk, who then called her a “f–king c**t.”
Kosara Gavrilovic is a retired professor of Russian literature, who grew up in a Serbian emigre family in America. She has spent the last few years as Artemije’s secretary and translator and was with Artemije during his house arrest at Gracanica Monastery. Last September she gave a speech at St. John the Baptist Russian Orthodox Church in Washington, D.C., where she revealed that some of the bishops operating in Kosovo have been compromised by threats to their liberty. Here is the relevant portion of her speech:
I know personally of two bishops whom the State Department has blackmailed into submission, maintaining that they are war criminals, that the US government has incontrovertible evidence of this and that at any moment they could find themselves in The Hague being charged with war crimes. However, the US government considered it more useful for America, or so the State Department maintained, if they remained at their posts and collaborated with America. And they were frightened and behaved like cowards. They remained at their posts and meekly started doing America’s bidding.
Towards the end of the Bosnian war…I interpreted for one of them. I was with him in the Congress when he was accused of ethnic cleansing. It was Bishop Atanasije whom I knew well and respected and loved deeply. I knew at the time that he was not guilty of what they were accusing him…Nor do I know what charges America thinks could be brought against Metropolitan Amfilohije [of Montenegro]…I don’t know and it does not matter. What matters is that they are both guilty of something else: they were frightened and they behaved like cowards.
In a subsequent email exchange, Ms. Gavrilovic described the scene, circa 1995, in which Atanasije learned of his “war crimes”:
Soon after the Bosnian War, Bishop Atanasije was visiting Washington and among the meetings he had was in, I believe, a Congressman’s Office with members of Amnesty International who accused him of ethnic cleansing. There was no mention of The Hague at that meeting. He was simply accused of committing a war crime, namely that of ethnic cleansing…
Bishop Atanasije was informed (I believe by international forces — perhaps the Blue Helmets) of the following situation: A Muslim town, the name of which I do not remember, somewhere in Herzegovina, was surrounded by [Yugoslav] forces. Armed Muslims were dug in the center of the town. The two opposing forces were separated by a shield of women, children and old people who were in danger of being killed in the crossfire. The bishop was asked to help.
The Bishop’s one concern was to save the women, children and old people. He arrived at the place with some empty buses, managed to negotiate a ceasefire, put the old, the women and the children into the buses and told the drivers to take them straight to Montenegro, then left the Serbs and the Muslims to each other’s tender mercies.
This scenario was put to the Bishop. When asked whether that was the way it happened, he said yes, exactly…There followed a bitter discussion, which went roughly like this:
Atanasije: I was called upon to help innocent people who were in mortal danger and I did.
Amnesty International: But still, it was ethnic cleansing, wasn’t it?
Amnesty International: You took one ethnic group out of its ethnic environment and took it out to another region.
Atanasije: I took a group of people in mortal danger and sent them to safety.
No matter what Atanasije said or how faithfully and forcefully I translated it, they were stuck on this one point: the group was ethnically homogenous and it was taken out of its environment. To Atanasije’s assertion that that group of people would have died had he left them there, they responded that he could not be certain of that. To the question whether, knowing what he knew now, he would still do the same thing, Atanasije responded: “What? Would I save a group of people from certain death just because sometime in the future a group of people in America might accuse me of committing a war crime if I did? I hope to God I would.”
Surreal, bizarre, insane, unbelievable though it sounds, believe me that was how it was.
What I cannot even begin to describe is the subsequent explosion of revolt, disgust, profound pain, unbearable grief and, the worst of all, a glimmer of self-doubt and then despair. Then he just gave up. And then we quarreled, standing there on the sidewalk in front of one of the congressional buildings. I said that he must continue to fight; he said he could not. He would continue the fight back home, but he would never, not ever again set foot on American soil or speak to a Westerner again. Then a few years later, he was back in America, in California to be precise, and is now a great friend of the West.
And how did Amfilohije, from being a complete persona non grata in Western Europe, barred from entering any Western European country, suddenly become the favorite Orthodox cleric of the EU bureaucracy?
And there you have it.
In her September speech, Ms. Gavrilovic gave some additional background about what is behind the upheaval in the Serbian Church, and the long planning that went into the removal of Artemije from his Kosovo Diocese:
The Synod has been trying for a long time now to remove Bishop Artemije. He was repeatedly accused of financial malfeasance, for instance, but the charges could never be substantiated. In the fall of 2004 they tried to declare him insane…The then hieromonk and today’s Bishop of Australia and New Zealand, Irinej Dobrijević, and Suffragan Bishop Teodosije Lipljanski called me by phone and asked to meet with me to explain more fully Bishop Artemije’s mental condition. That meeting never took place. I was not convinced and I don’t believe that many were.
What form did Bishop Artemije’s insanity take? One of the symptoms of insanity was said to be his staunch refusal to allow the churches and other church buildings, including the Bishop’s Palace in Prizren, destroyed or heavily damaged on March 17, 2004, to be rehabilitated by the same Albanians who had wrecked them in the first place. One might say that his refusal, under the circumstances, was eminently reasonable. However, the European Council, which wished to be involved in the financing of the rehabilitation project, insisted that contracts be given to Albanian contractors. Since the Bishop refused to do so, the European Council turned to the Synod, and the Synod ordered Bishop Artemije to sign the Memorandum on rehabilitation of churches and other structures. Bishop Artemije signed and immediately withdrew his signature.
For the next four years he publicly and vigorously denounced the project. In the beginning it was a matter of principle: the Bishop simply found it grotesque that the destroyers could suddenly become rebuilders of what they had destroyed. Later there appeared another reason for his refusal — a reason of purely technical nature. What was rehabilitated by Albanian contractors began to fall apart after a year or so of their rehabilitation. Regardless of this fact, the Synod, now headed by the Metropolitan Amfilohije, who was by now a most compliant collaborator of the European Council and America, signed the Memorandum on the acceptance of “rehabilitated” structures without the approval of Bishop Artemije. According to the canons of the Church, the Metropolitan had no right to meddle in the affairs of another diocese.
A few months ago, in April or May of 2009 the Synod sent an ultimatum to Bishop Artemije: by July 1, the bishop will either accept rehabilitated churches and other structures owned by the Diocese, or the bishop will be brought before the Ecclesiastic Court for disobedience to the Synod and other activities likely to lead to a schism within the Church.
Numerous articles appeared in the press on this most recent confrontation between Metropolitan Amfilohije and Bishop Artemije. Among these articles were those written by specialists in Canon Law — both clerics and lay writers, both on our side and the side of the Synod — all of which asserted that the Synod had no canonical leg to stand on and that the Ecclesiastic Court would clear the Bishop of all charges. Everyone was absolutely certain that Bishop Artemije would reject the ultimatum.
However, no one told the people of one crucial fact. No one mentioned that the very moment the charges are brought before the Ecclesiastic Court, the Court would be canon-bound to relieve the Bishop of all his episcopal duties and appoint in his place an administrator…No matter how long the trial would last, by the time it was concluded the struggle for Kosovo and Metohija, for the integrity of Orthodoxy, for everything which Bishop Artemije had fought for, would be over…Bishop Artemije signed the Memorandum on the acceptance of rehabilitated churches and other structures.
Make no mistake, the rehabilitation of the churches by the Albanian government in Kosovo in tandem with the international community is key in the Kosovo end game — in two ways. First, it will enable the Dr. Frankensteins of Kosovo, principally its American godfather, to point to this “accomplishment” as evidence of Kosovo’s maturation, accountability, and respect for minorities and minority religions. Secondly, and even more deviously, these monasteries and churches will slowly but surely start to be presented as “Kosovo heritage,” and “Kosovo landmarks” to tourists, as the emptied-out, no longer living monasteries will be employed in the pursuit of much needed tourism dollars for the economically demented “newborn,” whose current economy consists of criminal enterprises and international aid.
That is, what’s left of Serbian Jerusalem’s churches and monasteries is now to be presented as Albanian-Muslim Kosova’s heritage. By Albanian tour guides whose clans terrorized and expelled the inhabitants. It will be achieved with the help of a Serbian government still desperately determined to show its pro-Western orientation and get into the Muslim-servile Euro-Atlantic clique.
The EU has already drawn up a document outlining how best to exploit “Kosovo’s cultural heritage.” Remarkably, in the 20-page “Terms of reference - Development of a Regional Cultural Heritage Facility in Kosovo” — which is mostly about churches — nowhere do the words “Serb,” “Serbian,” “Serbian Orthodox Church,” or “Serbian heritage” appear.
The so-called international community is trying to promote Kosovo as the regional cultural center of the Balkans, with Turkey having a major role in the operation of this facility. (The Turkish International Cooperation and Development Agency figures prominently in the Terms of Reference.) So what we have is a fast-Islamisizing region, the Balkans, with a Muslim country as lord and master over its regional cultural center. Further, the facility will be established in Prizren, where 90 percent of the “Kosovo cultural heritage” is Serbian. Yet no Serbs are involved — just Albanians and their historical sponsors, the Ottomans. Ironically, the center is to cultivate, through scholarship programs, a cadre of promising young Albanians trained in the field of cultural preservation, as opposed to destruction.
Imagine a day when the Wailing Wall is part of Palestinian history and cultural heritage.
Western governments want to see the Albanians making money on the cultural heritiage of the province. According to a source with access, all EU documents state this as an expected outcome. To carry out this goal, they need empty monasteries and churches, and have apparently figured out that the best way to accomplish this is to get the Serbs fighting among themselves, this time using the church to turn on itself. Divide and conquer. The Serbian government and head of the Serbian Orthodox Church, seeing the internationally-facilitated Albanian attempt to usurp Serbian heritage and history, are allowing this theft to take place — openly and without resistance.
We are at the logical conclusion of the de-churchifying of Kosovo. While destruction of Serbian churches is centuries old, its recent incarnation has its origins in a little noted semantics war surrounding the 1990s Kosovo war. The full, historical name of the province — “Kosovo and Metohija” — started to be labeled as the “nationalist” name for the province, anyone using it dismissed as a “nationalist.” Significantly, the part of the name that was dropped from general usage — Metohija — means “of the Churches,” as in “land of the churches.”
A February email from Ninoslav Randjelovic, the filmmaker who alone has been documenting the cultural and incrementally physical genocide of Serbs in Kosovo post-NATO, reads presciently:
I believe that the issue of the endangered Orthodox heritage in Kosovo will soon be in the world’s focus along with [a] request from the world’s political institutions that Serbia supports the process of the rebuilding of destroyed churches and monasteries by cooperating with Kosovo’s institutions that have been formed after the declaration of Kosovo’s independence two years ago.
It seems to me that [the] recent tragedy regarding Bishop Artemije is part of this plan. I am afraid that the Government of Serbia has accepted to comply with these new incentives from the West, so it has become necessary to remove Bishop Artemije from the Kosovo Diocese, as it is now being done in a most brutal way.
However, I think that the process of rebuilding the Orthodox monasteries in Kosovo will serve only to demonstrate “maturity” of Kosovo’s institutions and “serious” intentions of Kosovo’s Government to supposedly act in a “civilized” manner demonstrating its “ability” to finally solve this long-standing issue. At the same time, this process could also open another chapter of “Serbia’s loss of Kosovo.” Namely, if Orthodox monasteries and churches are going to be rebuilt solely by Kosovo’s institutions, they will most likely be seen as “Kosovo’s monasteries” in the near future. I am certain that such [a] possible turn of events would have grave consequences for the Serbian Orthodox Church in Kosovo.
Politicians in Serbia do not seem worried with this aspect of the problem and are mainly concerned with their own political future in Serbia, but I am deeply worried that the representatives of the Serbian Church have decided to support this plan.
Yours in Christ,
It was from the first DVD series “Days Made of Fear” by Randjelovic (on whom the Serbian Patriarchate recently reneged after promising distribution help and suggesting additional filming), that some first learned of how Albanians and Serbs sheltered together in the Serbian monasteries during the NATO bombing assault. Monks in that footage, which covered 1998 to 2005, showed some colored drawings that Albanian children made for them in gratitude upon recognizing some of the monks years later. How many of these monks are now being threatened with indictments for “war crimes” by the Hague?
Some courageous Serbs took a stand by circulating an appeal in February addressed to the Serbian Patriarch Irinej and to the Holy Synod, titled “Open Appeal for the Reinstatement of His Grace, Bishop Artemije of Ras and Prizren and Kosovo and Metohija.” Parts of the petition are worth quoting:
Vladika Artemije, with firmness and humility, has been tireless in his efforts to meet with friend and foe alike, travelling countless miles and knocking on innumerable doors, to bear true witness of the sufferings of the Christian Serbian people and Church in the Serbian province of Kosovo and Metohija…Many of his interlocutors have not agreed with his views, and many others have. But all have concurred in their great respect for his commitment to genuine peace and understanding, his love and care for his tormented flock, and his unshakeable defense of the Orthodox Christian faith.
It is incomprehensible, then, to see exhibited before the whole world the dismal spectacle of the unwarranted and inhumane treatment of Vladika Artemije, even stooping to the level of an invasion of his residence at the Gracanica Monastery under the “authority” of foreign troops in United Nations uniform — and even so-called “police” of the separatist, terrorist Albanian Muslim administration — and placing him under virtual house arrest. To take such actions against any human being, much less a Bishop and shepherd of a persecuted flock, shocks the civilized conscience in its callous and cynical contempt for due process of law and fundamental fairness.
There can be little doubt as to why this action has been taken now. Indications have been growing for some time that the western powers, notably Washington, having been frustrated in their desire to “finish the job” in the Balkans, notably in Kosovo and Metohija, have decided to remove the person who, more [than] anyone else, has been the insurmountable obstacle to that goal…In large part due to Vladika Artemije’s hard work, the strong majority of the world community…has supported Serbia’s legal and moral case in preservation of its sovereignty and territorial integrity…Attempt[s] by the separatist administration in Pristina to shut down so-called “parallel institutions” in the province (in reality, the legitimate state bodies of the Republic of Serbia) have failed, even with Belgrade’s meager support for those same institutions…
[W]hat greater dismay can there be than seeing that as soon as His Holiness, Patriarch PAVLE, of blessed memory, was safely out of the way [he passed in November], that Vladika Artemije’s detractors in Serbia…saw the way clear to acting on behalf of their foreign masters. In particular, it must be known that Vladika Artemije has been delivered to what amounts to a lynch mob headed by certain bishops…who, based on personal ambition or doctrinal agendas, have long harbored resentments against Vladika Artemije and now believe they have an opportunity to destroy him. No one, especially in Serbia, should think it is possible to avert their eyes from what is being done to Vladika Artemije, and to the monks and nuns defending him, to act as if the intended result is not elimination of Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija, and to imagine those responsible will be rewarded for their treachery.
Indeed, when has Serbia ever been rewarded for its countless treasons in service to the West? Serbs removed Milosevic by means which international legal experts deemed an abduction, but a decade later Serbs are still treated as a “nationalist, genocidal, intransigent” lot; the post-Milosevic, pro-Western government of Vojislav Kostunica tortured and alternately bribed witnesses to testify against him — but soon Kostunica himself was deemed a “nationalist” when he wasn’t willing to deliver on the total rape of his country; Milosevic himself played ball with the West throughout the Bosnia and Croatia wars until he became the next target; Serbia signed UN Res. 1244 agreeing to get out of Kosovo and allowing a UN and NATO occupation of the province with promises, and printed language, that Kosovo was an inextricable part of Serbia, but we see what has become of that.
And now, like a dog whose spirit has been broken and is programmed to comply — whether for reward or punishment — Serbia is giving its best impression of a totalitarian state. People have been threatened with losing their jobs and in at least one case with deportation if they do not stay out of the church upheaval. Serbian-Kosovo advocate Jim Jatras in February made a public statement condemning the equally disturbing treatment of Bishop Artemije during his suspension (after which statement the bishop was allowed to travel):
Since the suspension of Vladika ARTEMIJE from administration of his Eparchy the claim has been advanced that His Grace retains his full dignity as Bishop Ras and Prizren and Kosovo and Metohija and that he is only barred from direct control over the affairs of his Diocese. Supposedly, he is otherwise a free man and can do all else appropriate to his status. He can go anywhere and talk to anyone, without restriction, supervision, or need for permission.
However, circumstances since Vladika Artemije’s suspension call that claim into serious question. Nothing in maintaining silence over matters for investigation requires Vladika Artemije to remain within his residence in Gracanica Monastery; to be unable to meet with his spiritual children within his Eparchy and elsewhere; to visit his doctor in Belgrade (His Grace is not a young man); or to be unable to speak with the media, at least about topics unrelated to the current controversy.
Yet we see him doing none of these things. In fact, we do not see him at all. It seems the only glimpse of Vladika Artemije has been a single photo posted on the website established on the purported “new” Eparchy website following the apparent seizure of His Grace’s site. (In the same vein, what justifies seizure and shutdown of Vladika Artemije’s site, if not to silence and isolate him?). That photo shows Vladika Artemije serving in church together with suffragan Bishop Teodosije, known to be aligned with those seeking to justify Vladika Artemije’s suspension. The evident purpose of the photo is to demonstrate that Vladika Artemije is well and apparently content with his current status. Viewing the photo one cannot escape the sense one has from a photo of a kidnap victim sent to his family by his captors to show that he is still in good health.
Inseparable from the issue of Vladika Artemije’s evidently forced isolation are highly disturbing reports that monastics and laypersons loyal to him are being pressured to abandon or disown him as the price for their daily subsistence. It must be kept in mind that since Vladika Artemije’s suspension all the financial resources of the Eparchy are in the hands of those responsible for his suspension. This means that monastics and laypersons, both at Gracanica and at other establishments in the Eparchy, who have their daily rations from the monastic refectories and other customary means of support, now find themselves entirely under the control of persons they have reason to believe are unfriendly towards their beloved Archpastor. There have been disturbing reports of individuals loyal to Vladika Artemije being told, in so many words, that they will be fed only if they consent to morally disown His Grace and take sides with the new order in the Eparchy. The only alternatives to submission are to rely on the meager private resources of a few individuals, which are rapidly being depleted; or to physically depart from the Eparchy.
Of course, nuns and monks departing from the monasteries is precisely the wider goal. And so it was that nine terrified nuns recently left their monasteries after being informed by both Teodosije and Atanasije that Bishop Artemije was no longer their spiritual father. It was Kosara Gavrilovic in whom the sisters confided, and she gave a press conference to this effect on April 23rd, trenchantly adding:
We, brothers and sisters, have not seen this before in Serbia — not under Milošević, not under Tito, not under the German occupation. And Serbia tolerates it all.
The sisters left Gračanica on Wednesday February 17, and as for the Abbess, she was so undone by the departure of her sisters, she cried so violently mourning their departure that she had to be transported to a hospital where she remained in a condition described as pre-cardiac arrest for more than a week.
We are witnessing totalitarianism in the name of “democratizing,” as the West would have us believe our activities in Serbia have been. We are witnessing holy men enlisted in this grand charade, now answering to foreign masters. After betraying themselves for decades, Serbs are finally being asked to betray God.
In his February statement on the supposed misappropriation of funds that Artemije is being accused of, Jim Jatras attempted to crystalize what was actually going on:
Even if there are legitimate questions to be asked about administrative matters in the Diocese, everyone can see the methods being used to obliterate Vladika Artemije’s public witness and to terrorize and intimidate his supporters…Vladika Artemije concluded that if no action was going to be taken by official Belgrade [to save Kosovo], he had no choice but to try to do something himself as the centerpiece of a professional effort to put the truth about Kosovo in front of the face of the American people and decision-makers. This is the same decisiveness and courage he displayed when I first met him, when I was working at the Senate, during the period 1997-1998, when he was, as far as I know, the only Bishop willing to speak against Milosevic and to come to Washington on a mission of peace.
How, then, to understand the sense of breathless discovery by those trying to discredit Vladika Artemije…If, on the other hand, we are talking about questions of judgment, that should be left to the Bishop’s discretion. For example, if Vladika Artemije decides that instead of spending a dollar to help restore a damaged church (so the Albanians can attack it again) it would be better to spend it to help ensure churches won’t be destroyed, who better than he to be the judge of it?
In any case, such questions can be asked in a reasonable and humane way. That is not, however, what we see before us today, which can only feed the sense that something else is at work.
In an interview with Serbia’s Weekly Telegraph newspaper the same week, Jatras added:
Kosovo and Metohija is the heart of Serbia, but…the other “heart,” which cannot be separated from Kosovo, is the Orthodox faith. It is not a coincidence that the attack is directed against Vladika Artemije, the living symbol of both “hearts.” I am just a layman, but I am completely convinced that not only Kosovo’s future is at issue in this attack but the canonical governance of the Church, hidden foreign influences within the Church, and the path the Church will take on doctrinal and liturgical questions.
Indeed. In her September speech at the Russian Orthodox Church in Washington, Gavrilovic related that the village grandmothers of Kosovo began to notice something strange in the liturgy being recited:
[I]n Serbia the first to notice it were our village grandmothers. They might not know how to read or write, but they know their liturgy by heart. And the liturgy suddenly started to change. First there were almost imperceptible changes in the order of the service; then there were omissions — or it only seemed so to the old dears? But when it came to the Great Entrance and when the choir was forbidden from the ambo to sing the Cherubic Hymn, it wasn’t just the old village grandmothers who noticed that something was not quite right. And when it became known that confession was no longer necessary, it became clear to everybody that things were pretty bad. Serious talks then began within the Church, which the Church tried to keep secret. But it failed. The people knew. Not everything, of course, not every detail, but some very important and very sad and frightening facts did reach the people. We learned for instance that when one of the bishops who did not share the views of Bishop Atanasije said to him “What you are doing is against the canons,” Atanasije replied, “In new reality canons are for the birds”
These are the words of a man who until recently was one of Serbia’s great canonists, respected not only as an expert in canon law, but even more as one of its zealous defenders.
Finally, Gavrilovic exposed the mentality of the modern Serb:
The majority is furiously determined “to join Europe.” …If you were to ask people in the street why they are so eager to get into Europe, what they expect to find in Europe, you would get the impression that their only real desire is to get a visa and be able to travel. For the Serbs the Visa has become a new Golden Calf. If you were to ask them further what they would do in that promised land to which they so passionately desired a visa would take them and which is called the European Union, you would not get a straight answer…because there isn’t one. People don’t know why they want to travel. It doesn’t matter to them. They don’t care where they would go; they don’t care what they would do once they get there. It seems to me that they want to travel so as not to be alone anymore, so as not to feel lonely, abandoned and rejected by all. The Serbs are sick and tired of loneliness. But the tragedy lies in the fact that they don’t seem to understand that once they get to the European Union they will continue to be just as alone and rejected as they are today, because the European Union is a club for the chosen ones, a club so exclusive that even the membership in it would not guarantee their reception as equal members.
The Serbian government probably knows why it wants so badly to be part of the Europe Union. It is very articulate in its explanations as to why we must consider the European Union the Promised Land and it does not understand why that other part, that small, insignificant, barely noticeable part of Serbia which is against it, does not believe its government. We don’t believe our government for many reasons, the first of which being that we know perfectly well that the European Union will never accept us. We may fulfill all conditions set before us [and the] EU will present us with a new condition, never before mentioned, and demand of us to fulfill it. We know this and the government knows it, but the government does not care. It is not afraid of any new conditions that the European Union may dream up. Evidently it has its own interests. What are these interests? I don’t know, but I am sorely tempted to say that our government has been bought.
All those in the pro-European camp, all the Westerners — in the government and outside the government — think that the greatest obstacle on their way to Europe is the Province of Kosovo and Metohija. They are firmly convinced that if only [it] were to disappear off the face of the earth, we would be admitted to the European Union that very second, and together with Kosovo and Metohija would disappear all our problems — economic, political, social, spiritual and ecclesiastic problems.
We could expect also our government and our people individually and collectively as a nation to try to answer such questions as “What Europe are we so anxious to join? Is it the Europe which calls the NATO bombing of Serbia, in which over 3000 civilians, including children, died, a ‘humanitarian intervention’? Or is it the Europe which dares not protect the rights of its Christian citizens because that would not be politically correct, while at the same time diligently protecting religious rights of the Muslims?
The government, of course, is not obliged to take care of the spiritual life of its people, but the Church is… obliged to take care of the spiritual salvation of its faithful…What if the Serbian bishops lose that which should be their chief attribute, that which should define them? What if the Serbian bishops have decided to join the secular government in its pursuit…and together with the European Union embrace globalization? Do they even know what “globalization” means? Can they explain to us why they, our hierarchs, are so frantically anxious to join Europe?
As Gavrilovic states, in the end Serbs are still going to be considered, and dismissed, as Serbs. No matter how far or how hard they run from their Serbness, they will still find themselves defined by the world as Serbs, even after everything that the same world has gotten them to do to abandon their Serbness and indeed to extinguish that national, cultural and spiritual identity from the earth, equating identity with “nationalism.” Should the day come that this is made manifest to the modern, Euro-Atlantic facing, de-Serbified Serbs, after giving away the last thing that keeps them Serbs — the soul of their Church — they will find themselves even more alone than they started, for there won’t be an identity left to come back to.
With the sellout of the Serbian Church, we now have a measure of how little resistance, and how little assistance to the last of Kosovo Serbs, we can expect from Belgrade in the final hour. And if Serbia itself is ready to give up — even facilitate — its own destruction, half the incentive disappears for the two-thirds of UN members who have so far held out on recognizing an independent Kosovo. As Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov put it in 2007, “We cannot be more Serb than the Serbs.”