On Tuesday, May 28, 2024, during the Second Session of the 4th Archon International Conference on Religious Freedom in Athens, Greece, His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America revealed that authorities in Pristina recently prevented His Holiness Patriarch Porfirije of Serbia and seven accompanying bishops from entering Kosovo and Metohija. His Holiness had planned to attend a meeting of the Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church at the Patriarchate of Peć.

His Eminence stated: “We must not forget what is happening in Kosovo, where the authorities of Pristina banned the Patriarch of Serbia from entering and accessing monasteries and temples. The denial of access to worship cannot be ignored. The Ecumenical Patriarch is deeply concerned about this development in a place sacred to the Orthodox.”

Dr. Anthony J. Limberakis, National Commander of the Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, remarked: “It is bitterly ironic that news of this action would reach us during the Archons’ 4thInternational Conference on Religious Freedom. This unwarranted infringement upon basic rights by the authorities in Pristina underscores how urgent it is for all the governments of the world to work together to protect and defend religious freedom. Only this will ensure that governments that do not respect this fundamental right will be deterred from future actions of this kind.”

The Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate immediately adopted a unanimous resolution, based on recommendations from Dr. Despina Chatzivassiliou-Tsovilis, Secretary General of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. The resolution expressed grave concern over the ban of the Patriarch, and calling upon Kosovar authorities to allow the Patriarch to enter, attend the Holy Synod, and carry out all of his responsibilities as canonical head of the Serbian Orthodox Church.

The U.S. Embassy in Belgrade issued a statement as well, saying that “the Government’s decision is contrary to the provisions of the Ahtisaari Plan, which clearly prescribes rights, privileges, and immunities for the clergy of the Serbian Orthodox Church, and is not consistent with Kosovo’s obligations in the EU Dialogue.” The Embassy added: “We expect the Government of Kosovo to meet the highest human rights standards both in its legal framework and in its actions, act in the interests of all its citizens, and uphold its core values and responsibility towards regional stability.”

Patriarch Porfirije himself said: “All the doors of this world are open to me, just as our doors are open to everyone. Only the doors of my own house, the Patriarchate of Peć, are closed and I am prevented from entering. Those who closed the doors of a house of prayer first harm themselves, and only then others. They closed the door to goodness, blessing, and happiness. If the freedom of movement is denied to the Patriarch of Serbia, what about the Serbs living in the ghetto?”

The Serbian Orthodox Church said in a statement: “Patriarch Porfirije will not abandon his people in Kosovo and Metohija; he will do everything to reunite with them as soon as possible to pray to God together.”

The Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate join in this prayer.


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