VATICAN (CWN) -- Bishop Marko Sopi, the head of the only Catholic diocese in the troubled region of Kosovo, has charged that the violence in that region is being caused by heavy-handed Serbian intervention.

      Kosovo, a province of Serbia, has a population of 2 million people, most of them ethnic Albanians. Unlike the majority of Serbs, who are Orthodox, these natives of Kosovo are mostly Muslim or Catholic. Bishop Sopi noted that the recent clashes have been most intense in Muslim neighborhoods. However, he noted that one recent burst of violence involved a police assault on women and children leaving a mid-day Mass at a local Catholic church.

      For months Kosovo has been the site of heated disputes because the Serbian government has refused to allow traditional schools to continue educating children in Albanian. Bishop Sopi said that the only peaceful solution to the latest violence would come if and when the Serbian government honors the ethnic culture of the people in Kosovo, and allows the re-opening of the Albanian schools.

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March 12, 1998 volume 9, no. 51         DAILY CATHOLIC