Row over Macedonia Church
07 February 2008 Skopje _ The main Albanian opposition party in
Macedonia has urged the Pope to help stop the building of an Orthodox
Christian church at the location of the house where Mother Teresa was born.
In a letter addressed to the Vatican, the Democratic Union for
Integration, DUI, notes that constructing an Orthodox church at the
exact location in Skopje's centre where the Catholic nun's house used
to stand, would "desecrate the Catholic tradition in the country" and
"cause religious tensions".
The DUI's letter, dated Wednesday, asked Pope Benedict XVI for his support.
Also on Wednesday, DUI legislators called for a no-confidence vote in
the Minister of Culture, Arifikmet Xhemaili, for approving the
"This place is intended for a memorial centre for Mother Teresa. We
are not against the building of an Orthodox church, but not there",
DUI deputy, Safet Neziri, said in parliament.
In January the government decided to finance the building of a church
on Skopje's main square near the foundations of an older church, as
well as a mosque in the north-western town of Tetovo which has a
large population of predominantly-Muslim ethnic Albanians.
The promise of government funding has stirred a public debate with
legal experts claiming that it would violate the separation of state
and religion stipulated in Macedonia's constitution.
Macedonia's Orthodox Church and the country's Islamic Community have
approved the government plans.
Skopje citizens, backed by some architects, have launched a petition
against the initiative, warning of an architectural fiasco since the
planned church in the city centre would be surrounded by modern glass
The Mayor of Skopje, Trifun Kostovski, has proposed another location
for the building.
Mother Teresa was born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu in Skopje in 1910.
She founded the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta, India.
Her work, dedicated to helping the sick, the poor and the terminally
ill, attracted worldwide acknowledgement.
Following her death in 1997 she was beatified by Pope John Paul II in
the first step to her being declared a saint.
Macedonia is mostly populated by Orthodox Macedonians, with around a
quarter of its population comprised of mainly-Muslim Albanians.
A small Catholic community also exists in the country.
Copyright BalkanInsight.com 2008