Bishop Atanasije serves memorial service for victims of NATO bombing and post-war suffering in Kosovo and Metohia

In Gračanica today the 11 year anniversary of the beginning of the bombing of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was marked with the consecration and placing of a cross brought from Herzegovina by monks from Tvrdoš Monastery, a memorial service for the victims and the lighting of candles in the spot where a monument is to be built to the victims of NATO bombing and the atrocities of the Albanian extremists in Kosovo and Metohija. Before the beginning of the memorial service, those present were reminded of the difficult days of bombing and suffering by air raid sirens.

Before some 1,000 people the memorial service about 1000 people served The Administrator of the Diocese of Raška-Prizren and Kosovo-Metohija, Bishop Atanasije, served the memorial service before some 1,000 people with the concelebration of Vicar Bishop Teodosije of Lipljan and the clergy of the Diocese of Raška and Prizren. Bishop Atanasije said that the Serbs had gone through the centuries with a cross on their hearts, none more so than the Serbs from Kosovo and Metohija. "That is why on this cross that has been placed here, sent by St. Sava's Herzegovina, it is written that the Serbs from Kosovo and Metohija lived and died for the Holy Cross and golden freedom, and today they are in heaven in bliss and for eternity - because God created man for eternity."

Bishop Atanasije said that Operation Merciful Angel represents a mockery of the angels, that innocent people were bombed innocent people and he called for testimony of the truth. "I ask that we write only the truth, that we do not to slander, that we do not call for revenge, for revenge is the Lord's and it is His final word. These martyrs, from (the battle of) Kosovo to this day, perished at the hands of criminals, especially these who on March 24, 1999, were killed in their cradles, in buses, in the fields, on the roads, in their homes, in hospitals and in trains."

Bishop Atanasije stressed that Milica Rakić from Batajnica is the paradigm of suffering during the bombing and he made mention of monk Hariton from Prizren, Fr. Stefan from Budisavci and the boys Panto and Ivan from Goraždevac, adding that kidnapped and missing persons must not be forgotten. "That is why we must bear these victims in our eternal memory and our eternal heart, as should bear Kosovo in our heart."

Representatives of the Municipal Assembly of Priština and the district of Kosovo lit candles and laid wreaths in memory of the victims on the anniversary of the NATO aggression. The suffering of the Serbs neither began nor ended with the NATO bombing because hundreds of Serbs were killed and kidnapped before and after the aggression, the mayor of Priština, Nebojša Nikolić, told those gathered. "We want to build an appropriate monument to all of them as a sign that we remember them and the days of our national suffering in general. At the same time, we wish to send a message that the Serbs desire and wish to remain upon their hearths and in their homes, that they want to build and to cultivate their identity, as well as their memories of their past and dramatic future," said Nikolić.

In addition to the representatives of the Municipal Assembly of Priština and the district of Kosovo, the rector of Priština University, Professor Dr. Zdravko Vitošević, and the director of the Clinical Hospital Center in Priština, Stojan Sekulić, attended the memorial service. At the end of the program, members of the Nikanor Literary Club from Gračanica and secondary school students from central Kosovo recited verses. After the conclusion of the memorial service those present visited an exhibition of drawings from elementary and secondary schools in central Kosovo in the Gračanica Cultural Center.