By Mario Lozano
Briefing to our Donors
Twenty years after the death of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, thousands of Christians and Muslims came together to celebrate the consecration of the Roman Catholic Co-cathedral in Pristina, capital of Kosovo, in honor of the newly minted saint.
St. Teresa Cathedral is the first house of worship dedicated to the Albanian saint. The consecration took place on Sept. 5, 2017, the first anniversary of St. Teresa’s canonization.
The cathedral’s cornerstone was laid in August 2005 by the late first president of Kosovo, Ibrahim Rugova. The construction itself began in 2007. Our organization has contributed a total of $1.7M. Bishop Dode Gjergji of Pristina told us: “We embarked upon this project trusting in God’s providence, the strength of our nation and the contributions of our people. We thought the construction would take decades. Aid to the Church in Need has been the greatest support in this project. Thank you for the good cooperation.”
Speaking on behalf of our International President, Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, our International Spiritual Assistant Father Martin Barta said in his speech on the occasion: “I am deeply pleased that the Pontifical Foundation Aid to the Church in Need has actively contributed to building this Co-cathedral. St. Teresa of Calcutta, please pray for us all, children of God; pray so that in this land—too long bathed by blood and tears, wounded by violence—this church bearing your name may be a space of pure prayer, encounter, dialogue, and respect.”
Although the Holy See still does not recognize Kosovo’s independence from Serbia—declared in 2008—Pope Francis appointed 88-year-old Cardinal Ernest Simoni as his special envoy to lead the ceremony. Simoni, an Albanian priest, survived nearly 30 years in labor camps and was twice sentenced to death under the Albanian communist dictatorship of Enver Hoxha
Bishops of the Albanian and Serbian Orthodox Churches, as well as the leadership of various Islamic communities, attended the ceremony; even if the Catholic community is a minority in this predominantly Muslim country, it enjoys significant respect and authority. Albanian Muslims view Catholics and their priests as the safeguards of Albanian identity and history. The Kosovan political leadership gave the Catholic Church in Kosovo special recognition when they approved the building of the Cathedral of Mother Teresa in Pristina.
A few years ago, the former acting Chairman of the Assembly of Kosovo, Jakup Krasniqi, said that the reason behind the political support for the project was the unique role that the Church plays in Albanian culture and national identity. The earliest written documents in the Albanian language—for example, the Baptismal formula and the Scriptures—come from the Catholic Church. This, according to Kraniqi, is the reason why Islam and Christianity have lived in Kosovo side-by-side in harmony, a relationship that is virtually unique in the Balkans.