September 5 will be a special day in Pristine, the capital of Kosovo. Following a ten-year construction period the Cathedral-shrine devoted to Saint Mother Teresa will be finally consecrated. Obviously the choice of the date was intentional as it marks the first anniversary of the Canonization of the Saint by Pope Francis as well as the 20th year since the death of the nun of charity. The celebration will be officiated by Albanian Cardinal Ernest Simoni Troshani, special Papal Envoy.
The impressive building stands at the centre of Pristine, the architect of the Cathedral, Livio Sterlicchio, is from Rome, while the chosen style is Romanesque, recalling the Late Middle Ages, the period prior to 1389, the year of the battle of Kosovo polje, when the Turks conquered the Balkans and Christianity suffered various forms of repression.
The building plot was given by Pristine’s Town Council, with the support of the late historic president of Kosovo, Ibrahim Rugova, who deeply wished the Cathedral to be built. The first foundation stone was blessed on August 26 2005, while construction works began in 2007. It is estimated that Pristine’s Cathedral is the largest in the Balkans, 77.40 meters long from the apse to the arcade, 42.30 meters wide up to the transept, 32.50 meters high with two large steeples.
“The Divine Providence made this construction possible – said Msgr. Lush Gjergij, general vicar of the Apostolic Administration of Prizren, official biographer of Mother Teresa – and especially thanks to the donations of our faithful and of Albanians abroad – in Europe and in the United States.”
Many Muslims and non-believers, attracted by the figure of Mother Teresa, have offered to contribute to the construction.
For this reason, for Msgr. Gjergij the cathedral “has been built not with dollars or Euros but with the heart and the good will of the people.” Also the commitment and the zeal of the local bishop, Msgr. Dode Gjergij, who never stopped in the face of various difficulties, were determining in finalizing the construction of the Cathedral.
There are approximately 3 thousand Catholics in Pristina, as well as another Catholic church, dedicated to Saint Anthony. The overall number of faithful in Kosovo is very low, amounting to approximately 60 thousand people. “We are all the more grateful for such a beautiful, large cathedral, which is a source of joy also for the other inhabitants of the capital, most of whom are Muslims”, sais Msgr. Gjergij. In fact the shrine is already a touristic site and the bell tower offers a stunning view of the whole city.
After its consecration the Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi – ORP – will include the Cathedral in pilgrimage itineraries linked to the life of Mother Teresa – along with Skopje, the hometown of the Saint, capital of Macedonia, Prizren, where her parents were born, the shrine of Letnica, where she decided to become a saint, and Pristine, that Mother Teresa visited five times.
Also the seat of the Apostolic Administration – that houses the bishop – was moved from Prizren to Pristina, pending the Holy See’s authorization to change the name into “Apostolic Administration of Prizren-Pristina”. “It is a natural thing for the bishop to be seated in the capital, Pristina, which is where authorities, embassies and other institutions are located” Msgr. Gjergij told SIR.
Life in Kosovo is not easy, given the political instability and the economic difficulties in the country. That is also why the new cathedral is a sign of hope for the people, a positive event. “Many of our faithful –said the official biographer of Madre Teresa – have left in search of work abroad, especially the young. The unemployment rate is high.” Prices are high also because of many imported goods, while salaries are rather low – ranging from 300 to 500 Euros a month.” There are natural resources, and many people have gone back to farming”, said Msgr. Gjergij, who firmly believes that if the war hadn’t broken out, “the situation in Kosovo would have been much better.”
Amidst manifold difficulties the Kosovan people confide in the intercession of Saint Mother Teresa, a daughter of this land.
“Her life, her message, the values that she spread throughout the whole world, must continue living inside our hearts, and the cathedral, devoted to the young nun, will be a visible sign”, concluded Msgr. Gjergij.