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Kosovo Catholics plan cathedral to honour Mother Teresa

The government of Kosovo has approved plans for a Roman Catholic cathedral in the territory’s provincial capital, dedicated to the ethnic Albanian charity worker, Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

"Mother Teresa is like a family member to us – she’s a very good symbol for everyone living here," said Catholic Bishop Dode Gjergji of Prizren in southern Kosovo. "Her parents were Albanians from Kosovo, so the building of a cathedral dedicated to her is the desire of our whole nation, Muslims included."

Mother Teresa was born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu at Skopje in 1910 in what is now the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. She travelled to India as a missionary after joining the Irish Loretan order, aged 18, and founded the Missionaries of Charity in 1950 to care for sick and dying in the Calcutta slums. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 and beatified, or declared blessed, by Pope John Paul II in October 1993. She died in 1997.

Roman Catholics make up 3.1 per cent of the 2.1 million inhabitants of Kosovo, whose population is largely Albanian Muslim.

Bishop Gjergji told Ecumenical News International that an architectural design had been agreed for the cathedral on a 32-acre site in Kosovo’s capital Pristina. This would include a Catholic cultural and educational centre and work would begin on the cathedral during 2007.

He said donations for the cathedral, whose cost is not yet finalised, were being collected throughout Kosovo, once ruled by predominately Orthodox Serbia, but which has been under UN
control since a 1999 NATO military intervention.

"Although most funding will come from local people, we’ll also be appealing to Catholics worldwide," noted Gjergji. "We’re working closely with the local government, which is encouraging the project, and we have support from people of all faiths and backgrounds in Kosovo."

The Serbian Orthodox minority in Kosovo, which also has a cathedral in Pristina, has frequently accused local Muslims and Catholics in Kosovo of having anti-Orthodox attitudes. Around 150 Orthodox churches and monasteries have been destroyed or damaged since inter-communal violence erupted in Kosovo during the 1990s.

(c) Ecumenical News International