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Easter Celebrated Worldwide

April 23, 2000

PRISTINA, Yugoslavia (AP) _ Among the world’s Christians singing hymns and praying for peace Sunday were several hundred in the only Catholic church in Kosovo’s capital, a building that was nearly empty amid NATO air raids last Easter.

``Last year everything was empty and we felt the weight of the cross,″ said Greta Krachinari, a 52-year-old principal and one of 15 people who attended services last year at Pristina’s St. Antonio Church. ``This year we can really feel the resurrection.″

Elsewhere, the day was marked in a large green army tent in Bosnia, where U.S. troops had services at sunrise. In Jerusalem’s ancient Church of the Holy Sepulcher, where Latin prayers competed with Orthodox ones. In England’s Canterbury Cathedral, where worshippers were urged to avoid the values associated with the ``dot.com society.″

The holiday also passed in some less-then-pious ways _ even in the Pope’s Italy, where Premier-designate Giuliano Amato spent much of Sunday on the phone, trying to line up support for a new center-left Cabinet.

Violence interrupted the holiday weekend in northern Kosovo, where mortars slammed into Gorazdevac _ one of the last all-Serb villages in the Serb province. No one was injured in the attack, which the independent Beta news agency said was fired from the nearby village of Grabovac, which is populated mainly by ethnic Albanians.

The 75,000 Catholic Albanians who live in Kosovo today are an isolated community among the 2 million in the province _ neither Muslim as most ethnic Albanians are, nor part of the Eastern Orthodox church to which Serbs belong.

This year, 300 people came to services at St. Antonio, where a human-sized cross of thorns surrounded by white lilies and red tulips decorated the altar. Choir boys in white lace smocks, red robes and sneakers took the collection from the congregation.

Last year at Easter, most ethnic Albanians were too afraid to venture out of their homes during the 78-day NATO air campaign, fearing they would be caught by Serb forces loyal to Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. More than 10,000 ethnic Albanians are believed to have been killed during the 18-month crackdown by Serb forces loyal to Milosevic before the air war.

Trying to turn congregants away from past hurts, the Easter sermon addressed forgiveness, understanding and _ like all elements of life here _ politics.

``We as a nation have to forgive and to pray for the people who hurt us,″ said Rev. Nosh Gjolaj. ``It’s not a state that destroys us, but a man, ... a man who is destroying his own country,″ he said referring to Milosevic.

In Jerusalem, the predicted crush of thousands of pilgrims at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher did not materialize Sunday. Instead, two services competed _ the Latin one, celebrating Easter, and the Orthodox Christian one, marking Palm Sunday. The Orthodox calendar is a week behind the Latin calendar.

Father Patrick Hussey, 63, from St. John’s Jesuit High School in Toledo, Ohio, smiled as he talked about the competition between the Latin Mass, which was celebrated in front of the ornate, carved stone tomb of Jesus, and the Orthodox prayers, which were chanted behind the tomb.

There was ``a little bit of friction,″ he said, ``but it’s all joyful.″

The massive, block-like church was built in the fourth century to mark the final stations along the last journey of Jesus in Jerusalem. An open stepladder stood across from the only entrance, a sign of constant renovations in the old building.

Britain’s Christian leaders, meanwhile, urged their flocks to keep faith alive in an increasingly secular, world.

``Somehow, in the midst of the world in which all of you live _ with all its temptations and distractions _ you have to defend the citadel of your heart,″ the new Archbishop of Westminster, Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, said at Westminster Cathedral.

Dr. George Carey, the Archbishop of Canterbury, warned of the seduction of the ``dot.com society.″ He also cautioned against what he called ``Africa fatigue,″ in a society used to images of suffering.

``If it is not Mozambique and the floods, then it is Sudan and the forgotten war. If it is not Rwanda and the genocide, then it is Sierra Leone and the forced amputations of limbs from men, women and children,″ he said. ``All too easily, in the face of such overwhelming suffering, we can shrug our shoulders and turn away from the pain.″

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