Papal Envoy to Consecrate New Cathedral Named for Mother Teresa
It is expected that after the September 5 consecration, the headquarters of the Apostolic Administration will move from Prizren to Pristina to serve the needs of Catholic minority in Kosovo.
On July 15, 2017, the Press Office of the Holy See announced that Pope Francis has appointed His Eminence Albanian Cardinal Monsignor Ernest Simoni as his special envoy to consecrate the new St. Teresa of Calcutta Cathedral in Pristina, Apostolic Administration of Prizren. Cardinal Simoni is the last still-living priest to have endured the Communist persecution and who spent almost three decades in Albanian labor camps. The consecration of the cathedral will take place on September 5, 2017.
Honoring the special consecration event and celebrating the one year anniversary of the canonization of Mother Teresa, the motto of the diocese is “Last Year in Rome — this Year in Pristina.” Bishop Dodë Gjergji, Apostolic Administrator of Prizren, explained that the city of Pristina will be at the forefront of this year’s celebration of the life of St. Teresa of Calcutta, Albania’s most famous daughter.
On August 26, 2003, the cornerstone of St. Teresa of Calcutta Cathedral was laid by the late leader of the Democratic League of Kosovo and President Dr. Ibrahim Rugova, of Muslim origin, and the late Msgr. Mark Sopi, Apostolic Administrator of Prizren, in the presence of the then Archbishop of Washington, His Eminence Cardinal Theodore Edgar McCarrick; national and international political and religious figures; and local Catholic and Muslim faithful. Four years later, on September 5, 2007, the construction work began. The construction of the cathedral has continued for ten years. Currently, the façade, to be covered in white Italian marble, is under construction. Although the cathedral is “under construction,” due to the needs of the Catholic faithful of Pristina, the doors of the cathedral were opened on August 26, 2010, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of St. Teresa of Calcutta. It is expected that after the official consecration on September 5, 2017, the headquarters of the Apostolic Administration will move from Prizren to Pristina to serve the needs of Catholic minority in Kosovo. Muslims make up 95.6%, Catholic 2.2%, and Orthodox 1.5% of the total 1,883,018 Kosovo’s population
The funding for the new St. Teresa of Calcutta Cathedral was provided for the most part by private donations from Catholic faithful in Kosovo and abroad. However, non-Catholic individuals and groups have also contributed generously to the project. The Albanian community of New York, people of different religions including Catholics, Orthodox, and Muslims from Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia, Preševo and Arbëreshes (Italo-Albanians) from Southern Italy have joined forces. Special funding and support was also provided by the Catholic dioceses and Albanians in Germany, Italy, and other countries.
When the construction work for the new cathedral started, there was some controversy within the Albanian Muslim community of Pristina. The location destined for the new cathedral caused controversy, as the cathedral was to be built in a location previously planned to host a high school. Additionally, local Muslims were not happy to hear that the approval for the new cathedral came after they were denied permission to build an Islamic center in Pristina. Currently, most Kosovars, Muslims and Christians, view the St. Teresa of Calcutta Cathedral as a symbol of peace, unity, and dialogue between people of different religions and ethnicities. As she was in life, St. Teresa will continue to bridge differences and build bonds between Albanians and Serbs, Muslims and Christians.
Kosovo is the youngest county in Europe, self-declared independent in 2008. Although the United States and most members of the European Union recognize Kosovo’s independence, Russia, Serbia, and other EU counties do not. The Holy See is also withholding its recognition of Kosovo as an independent state.
An interesting fact:
According to the Vatican Radio Albanian Program, while the builders were looking for water on the building site, they came across a sparkling natural mineral water source. After laboratory tests were concluded the water was deemed drinkable. The source was blessed and recommended to the faithful by the local Catholic church. St. Teresa of Calcutta Cathedral in Pristina will be among very few cathedrals known to have a natural water source within the church’s walls. The cathedral and its inbuilt water source symbolize hope and rebirth for the severely tried people of the Balkans.