Albanian Orthodox Priests Charged in Kosovo over Church Break-In

Two Albanian Orthodox priests claimed jurisdiction over the disused church in northeastern Kosovo, to the anger of the Serbian Orthodox Church.

Kosovo’s Special Prosecution announced an indictment on Tuesday against two Albanian Orthodox priests – Niko Bllazhde, better known as Nikolla Xhufka, and Lejdi Zagalli – on charges of inciting national, religious and ethnic hatred stemming from a break-in at a disused Serbian Orthodox church in November last year.

Bllazhde and Zagalli are alleged to have held a liturgy in the church in northeastern Kosovo and warned the Serbian Orthodox Church it risked “the fires of hell” if it tried to intervene.

After the event, Bllazhde took on Facebook to announce that “the 500-year-old church is now named ‘Fan Noli’ and is placed under the jurisdiction of the Albanian National Orthodox Church ‘Saint Kozmai’ of Elbasan”. Bllazhde was born in Elbasan, central Albania.

The Raska-Prizren Diocese of the Serbian Orthodox Church denounced their actions, saying the break-in was a “criminal act” and “yet another in a series aimed at usurping the spiritual and cultural heritage of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Kosovo”.

“The Raska-Prizren Diocese has been highlighting the process of cultural appropriation of our heritage for years,” it said. “This latest incident confirms our claims, this time in an undeniable and extremely worrying manner.”

In a statement to Kosovo Online three days after the liturgy, the Albanian Orthodox Church distanced itself from Bllazhde, calling him “a fraudster and a person who is not a priest”.

According to prosecutors, both men have denied the charges.

Source @Prishtina Insight: Read more : Kosovo Kosovo News