“Albanians and Serbs should accept the new situation”. The small State of Kosovo, that declared its independence in 2008, is often given international news coverage, especially lately, owing to the quest for a Brussels-brokered mutual agreement. “No tensions were recorded in the past two years”, said Msgr. Lush Gjergji, vicar general of the diocese of Prizren-Pristine. But in his opinion the proposal “to modify the borders would trigger a never-ending chain reaction in the Balkans.” Msgr. Gjergji, who prefers being called “Don Lush”, has been engaged for many years in the promotion of dialogue and peace in the area. But his stature extends beyond the borders of the small State of Kosovo. In fact he authored 15 books in Italian, Albanian and Croatian on Mother Teresa, with whom he enjoyed 29 years of friendship. To spread her memory don Lush is a guest-speaker in events devoted to the Saint of Calcutta held in countries worldwide.
At the beginning of September Catholics in Kosovo received a long-awaited message: the elevation of Prizren-Pristina to the dignity of diocese. Why was it considered so important?
The Holy Father fulfilled the long-standing wish of Kosovo’s Catholic community. The Apostolic delegate in Kosovo Msgr. Juliusz Janusz, informed us on September 5, marking the feast day of Mother Teresa. After the breakup of Yugoslavia the diocese of Skopje-Prizren no longer made sense, as its territory extended across different States. Thus in the year 2000 Prizren was erected as an Apostolic Administration. Now the new ecclesiastical territory, diocese of Pritzren-Pristina, reflects both antiquity and modernity, Prizen as the ancient, spiritual capital of Kosovo and Pristina as the new administrative centre that hosts major authorities’ headquarters. The diocese’s offices are located in Pristina, comprising a community of approximately 50 thousand faithful, amounting to 4% of the population, led by bishop Mons. Dode Gjergji.
A year ago you consecrated the new Cathedral of Pristina devoted to Mother Teresa…
It was a beautiful, joyful event celebrated with Albanian Cardinal Ernest Trosani, Papal envoy, and with the bishops of the Balkan region. Unfortunately many Catholics are leaving the Country as a result of low employment opportunities. It’s a serious problem for all realities of the Catholic Church in the Balkans.
Catholics in Kosovo work in the sectors of retail and agriculture but sadly there are no job opportunities for them in the new big companies that are being born.
These are mainly family-run businesses run by Muslims that prefer to hire Muslim workers, while working in the public administration requires the support of a political party.
The city of Kosovska Mitrovica in Kosovo is divided in two. You are also the director of Radio Maria Kosovo and that is where Holy Mass was broadcast during the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross. How is the situation in that area?
I know the place very well because I used to go there often to celebrate Mass before the incardination of a parish priest. There are Catholics living both in the Albanian and in the Serbian areas. No episodes of friction were recorded for the past two years, but tensions linger on beneath the surface.
All of us – Serbians and Albanians alike – need to accept the new reality shaped by the NATO intervention during the war.
The only way to live together is to seek unity in diversity regardless of ethnic, religious or national origins. As a Catholic Church in Kosovo we want to act as bridges, bringers of peace amidst the various realities in the Country.
What do you think of the proposal put forward by some political leaders to change Kosovo’s borders?
The borders of all Balkan countries are the result of negotiated compromise solutions. Yet I firmly believe that the borders must not be modified, for such a decision would trigger a never-ending chain reaction. Nation-States with no other nations or religions no longer exist. Indeed, the Serbian people must be given the opportunity of enjoying greater autonomy, and the Albanian minority in Serbia must enjoy the same rights and duties as the rest of the population. Before uniting territories it is necessary to unite people’s hearts and minds. Only then will borders become symbolic.
This summer marked the celebrations for the 90th anniversary of the vocation of Mother Teresa, a daughter of Kosovo. Is there a message of Mother Teresa that the people could draw inspiration from?
On August 14 1928 in the shrine of Letnica, Kosovo, young Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu decided to undertake the path as missionary nun. That’s why Kosovo has a special bond with the Saint from Calcutta, our great Patron Saint. Moreover,
The popularity and the topical relevance of Mother Teresa are increasing day after day, especially in the Balkans.
On September 22 a statue of the Saint will be blessed in Rijeka (Fiume) with a solemn celebration officiated by Msgr. Zef Gashi, Archbishop Emeritus of Bar, while I am invited to take part in the blessing of a monument dedicated to the Saint in the Italian city of Treviso, on September 29, a beautiful model of fraternity and peace. Mother Teresa followed three fundamental principles with great topical relevance: “Only love can save the world”; “Without sacrifice and love life has no meaning”, “The works of love are works of peace.” In fact, peace requires a radical change of heart, it does not repose on rights alone. We must yearn for an ever more humane and righteous world, and rediscover the beauty of otherness.