Christianity in Kosovo

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Christianity in Kosovo has a long-standing tradition dating to the Roman Empire. Before the Battle of Kosovo in 1389, the entire Balkan region had been Christianized by both the Roman and Byzantine Empires. From 1389 until 1912, Kosovo was officially governed by the Muslim Ottoman Empire and a high level of Islamization occurred. During the time period after World War II, Kosovo was ruled by secular socialist authorities in the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY). During that period, Kosovars became increasingly secularized. Today, over 90% of Kosovo's population are from Muslim family backgrounds, most of whom are ethnic Albanians.,[1] but also including Slavic speakers (who mostly identify themselves as Gorani or Bosniaks) and Turks.

About three percent of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo remain Roman Catholic despite centuries of Ottoman rule. During the period in which the conversion of Catholics to Islam was fastest (the second half of the sixteenth century to the end of the eighteenth century) many converts continued to accept Catholic rites in private, although the Catholic Church banned this from 1703,[2] and as late as 1845 significant numbers of people who had passed as Muslims declared themselves to be Catholics, to avoid conscription.[3] There are still reported cases of families "returning" to their Catholic faith (There are an estimated 65,000 Catholics in Kosovo and another 60,000 Kosovar born Catholics outside of Kosovo.[4] Mother Teresa, whose parents were possibly from Kosovo, saw the vision which decided her upon her religious vocation at the Church of the Black Madonna at Letnica in Kosovo.[5] The central boulevard in Pristina is named after her. A Catholic Cathedral was consecrated in Pristina in 2011, having been built on land donated by the municipality. There were widespread, though unconfirmed, rumours that President Ibrahim Rugova had been baptised a Catholic before his death in 2006: it seems likely that his family originated in the village of Rugovo (Alb: Rugovë) where in 1817 a number of men who had Muslim names but openly professed Catholicism were executed by the Ottoman authorities.[6]

The Serb population, estimated at 100,000 to 120,000 persons, is largely Serbian Orthodox. Kosovo has 26 monasteries and many churches, Serb Orthodox churches and monasteries.[7][8][9] of which three are world Heritage Sites: the Monastery of the Patriarchate of Peć (although the Patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church has for centuries been resident elsewhere), Visoki Decani, and Gračanica. Dozens of churches were destroyed, and others damaged, after the end of Serbian governance in 1999, and a further 35 were damaged in the week of the violence in March 2004.[10]

There is also a small number of evangelical Protestants, whose tradition dates back to the Methodist missionaries' work centered in Bitola in the late 19th century. They are represented by the Kosovo Protestant Evangelical Church (KPEC).[11]


Christianity arrived early in the southern Balkans, at least on the Adriatic coast. First to have preached the gospel in the region may have been Saint Paul himself, who stated: So from Jerusalem all the way around Illiricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ (Romans 15:19). In the 5th century Christianity had already begun to penetrate the interior regions such as Kosovo. Among the Church dignitaries who attended the first ecumenical Council of Nicaea in 325 AD, called by the Emperor Constantine I to deal with the problems of Arianism, were a number of bishops from Dardania and Macedonia Salutare, which correspond to modern-day Kosovo and eastern Albania.[12]

See also[edit]

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  1. ^ "Muslims in Europe: Country guide". BBC News. 2005-12-23. 
  2. ^ Malcolm, Noel, Kosovo: A Short History, pp. 173-175
  3. ^ Maslcolm, Noel, Kosovo: A Short History pp 186-187
  4. ^ "In Kosovo, whole families return to Catholic faith" 9 February 2009 Link accessed 21 March 2010
  5. ^ Greene,Meg: Mother Teresa: A Biography, Greenwood Press, 2004, page 11
  6. ^ Malcolm, Noel:Kosovo: A Short History, p. 186
  7. ^ International Crisis Group (2001-01-31). "Religion in Kosovo". Archived from the original on July 8, 2008. Retrieved 2009-07-24. 
  8. ^ "International Religious Freedom Report 2007 (U.S. Department of States) - Serbia (includes Kosovo)". Retrieved 2010-04-28. 
  9. ^ "International Religious Freedom Report 2006 (U.S. Department of States) - Serbia and Montenegro (includes Kosovo)". Retrieved 2010-04-28. 
  10. ^ United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (2004-05-06). "Refworld | Kosovo: Nobody charged for destruction of Orthodox churches and monasteries". UNHCR. Retrieved 2009-07-20. 
  11. ^ Protestant Church of Kosovo web page. "Mirësevini në faqen zyrtare të Kishës Protestante Ungjillore të Kosovës". Retrieved 12 November 2010. 
  12. ^