THE PROBLEM OF KOSOVO AND METOHIJA IN THE INTERNATIONAL CONTEXT
THE ATHONITE MODEL: NOT APPLICABLE IN KOSOVO AND METOHIJA
Mount Athos is a part of Greece from 1912 after Greeks liberated it from Turkish rule. According to the Constitutional Charter of the Holy Mountain of Athos (1924), the Legislative Decree оn the Ratification of the Constitutional Charter of Mount Athos (1926) and the Constitution of Greece (1927) – Mount Athos is a self-governed part of the Greek State under the direct canonical jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople (Istanbul). Thus, While Mount Athos is in Greece, the Ecumenical Patriarchate has a seat in today’s Republic of Turkey.
Mount Athos is governed by its twenty Holy, Sovereign, Royal, Patriarchal, and Stavropegial Monasteries – arranged according to ancient regime – administratively represented by the Holy Community in Karyes. All Athonite monks acquire Greek citizenship. The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Greece appoints a Governor to Mount Athos for communication with the Athonite bodies as well as for maintenance of public order and safety at the Mount Athos.
Immediately after administration of Albanian separatists in Priština unilaterally proclaimed independence from the Republic of Serbia (2008), a prominent member of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts Dobrica Ćosić proposed that Serbian medieval monasteries and churches in Kosovo and Metohija should have status as Mount Athos in Greece. The same proposal was repeated by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Serbia Ivica Dačić in 2017.
However, nothing from the Athonite model can be applied to the Serbian monasteries and churches in Kosovo and Metohija. It would be rushing from one mistake to another. It is impossible, even mechanically, to create an order of Serbian monasteries in Kosovo and Metohija such as the one on Mount Athos. If someone tried, it would be grotesque. It is utterly impossible to create in Kosovo and Metohija anything similar to the Athonite bodies similar to government and assembly.
Furthermore, a hypothetical solution in which the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Belgrade would appoint a diplomat (maybe even governor) in charge of communicating with an ecclesiastical autonomy in Kosovo and Metohija such as the one on Mount Athos would imply the existence of bilateral foreign relations, a very dangerous proposition in the context of resolving the Serbian issue in Serbia’s southern province. Equally dangerous would be regulating bilateral foreign relations and the suggested ecclesiastical autonomy in Kosovo and Metohija with the Albanian separatist authorities in Priština, which would confirm the internal sovereignty of “Kosovo”, granting “Kosovo citizenship” to Serb monks and the explicit competence of the “Kosovo” police for safeguarding the proposed autonomy.
Another characteristic of the Athonite model is the frequent passing of monasteries from Greek into Slavic hands, and vice versa. But this is not only about conflicts between these two churches. The Monastery of Iviron, which was founded by Georgian monks in the 10th century, was taken over by the Greeks in the mid-20th century without any intention of returning it. The Albanian Roman Catholic clergy are using lies in their campaign to create a framework for Roman Catholic Albanians to lay claim to Serbian medieval shrines in Kosovo and Metohija and ultimately seize them. They would be quite happy to invoke the Athonite model of taking over monasteries, which would then be overseen by the “Kosovo” police forces.
Therefore, the organization of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Kosovo and Metohija should remain as it is. In Serbia’s southern province, canonical authority is in the hands of two Serbian bishops, and one more bishop has a historical basis for that. In charge of the Kosovo-Metohija issue, which is essential for Serbian Orthodox identity, is the Serbian Patriarch, the Holy Synod of Bishops, and the Holy Council of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church. Any statement formulated in such a way as to suggest that the center of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Belgrade and the Serbian churches and monasteries in Kosovo and Metohija are not in the same state, would be unacceptable.
Taking everything into consideration, the proposals of Dobrica Ćosić and Ivica Dačić were voiced just like that, without any special consideration. Any attempt to implement the Athonite model in Kosovo and Metohija would be wrong and definitely fatal to Serbian national interests. Resolving the Kosovo-Metohija issue needs to wait for more favorable circumstances, when the conditions are right for a just solution that would satisfy the interests of the Serbian people.