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DIOCESE OF EASTERN AMERICA AND NEW YORK: October 17, 2006
The Rector of St John the Baptist Cathedral Participates in a Kosovo Delegation to Moscow

From October 9-14, 2006, Bishop Artemje of Rasko-Prizren, the spiritual leader of the Kosovo Serbs, traveled to Russia. The delegation accompanying His Grace consisted of seven persons, including Protopriest Victor Potapov, Rector of St John the Baptist Cathedral in Washington, DC.

The aim of the visit was to appeal to the people and to the government representatives of Russia with an account of present-day Kosovo. At a press conference hosted by Interfax News Agency, Bishop Artemje gave an account of current events in Kosovo and Metochija. He reported that over the last seven years, 250,000 Serbs have been driven out of Kosovo, and 1,300 killed. Approximately the same number have gone missing. Tens of thousands of homes were destroyed, hundreds of villages razed to the ground, more than 150 churches and monasteries bulldozed. Meanwhile, some 400 mosques have been built on the sites of the destroyed churches with funds provided by the countries of the Near East and the Persian Gulf. Among the Kosovo Albanians "more and more Wahhabists and proponents of the the Jihad are appearing," stated the hierarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church, who thinks that their aim is "the expulsion of the Serbian Christian population and the destruction of all signs of Orthodoxy, and the creation of a second Albanian Muslim state."

An independent Kosovo threatens not only the Balkans, but all of Europe. "Over the past seven years, under international control, Kosovo has become a European 'black hole,'" with the trade of narcotics, arms and slaves. The independent Kosovo has become a base for extremists and a "white Al-Qaeda throughout Europe," explained the leader of the Kosovan Serbs.

Bishop Artemje made this trip to Russia after visiting the USA, where His Grace defended the interests of the Serb minority in Kosovo. He achieved a decision by the Security Council of the United Nations to delay the resolution on the status of Kosovo until the end of next year, originally scheduled to be determined at the end of 2006.

During each of his presentations in Moscow, Bishop Artemje expressed the position of the Serbian people on the impossibility of separating Kosovo from Serbia: "Kosovo is the spiritual heartland of Serbia, of her spiritual culture, of her state. Serbia cannot exist without Kosovo, just as a person cannot live without a heart."

"We cannot limit ourselves to prayer alone. We must do everything in our power, for without our efforts, the Lord will give us nothing. We are called upon to be servants and helpers of God," said Bishop Artemje.

The delegation's trip to Moscow became possible to a great degree through the help of the Department of External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, whose members helped draft the program for the delegates and drew the attention of the mass media in Russia to the plight of the Orthodox Serbs of Kosovo.

During the Interfax press conference, Fr Victor expressed satisfaction that the Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia were able to cooperate in the area of common support for Orthodox Serbs in Kosovo.

"Our mission today (the defense of Serbian Orthodox communities in Kosovo), is the joint task of the two branches of the Russian Orthodox Church," said Fr Victor at the Moscow press conference held on October 12.

The clergyman said that it was easy to make arrangements for the visit of the delegation of the Serbian Orthodox Church to Russia in part thanks to the fact that the process of reconciliation between the Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian Church Abroad "is successfully approaching its conclusion."

"The Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia established itself in Serbia, a country that showed hospitality to the many Russian emigres of the 1920's And the Russian Orthodox Church always had friendly relations with the Serbian Church," noted Fr Victor.

In addition to participating in the press conference, Fr Victor spoke with other press agencies and gave interviews to Golos Rossii ["Voice of Russia"] and Grad Petrov ["City of Peter"] radio, and spoke live on Radonezh.