Vatican calls for moderation in Kosovo and Serbia

|PIC1|The Vatican called for "prudence and moderation" in Kosovo and Serbia after the breakaway province declared independence on Sunday.

The Holy See urged politicians in the region to show "a decisive and concrete commitment to ward off extremist reactions and violence", Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said in a statement.

The respect of all ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities in Kosovo must be ensured, he said, and he called for its Christian artistic and cultural heritage to be safeguarded. Albanians make up 90 percent of Kosovo's population.

"The Holy Father continues to look with affection at the people of Kosovo and Serbia, is close to them and is praying at this crucial moment of their history," the statement said.

Earlier on Sunday Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia, which vowed to resist it.

The head of the Serb Orthodox Church in Kosovo, meanwhile, was quoted on Sunday as saying that Serbia should rally its armed forces, declare Kosovo 'occupied territory' and buy weapons from Russia to reclaim it.

"The statement by the chief of staff, General Zdravko Ponos, that Kosovo will not be defended by the army, is a disgrace," Bishop Artemije told the daily Glas Javnosti.

"Serbia should buy state of the art weapons from Russia and other countries and call on Russia to send the volunteers and establish a military presence in Serbia," he said.

"Kosovo was and always will be Serbian," the bishop said. The declaration of independence made by Kosovo's Albanian leaders on Sunday means "a temporary state of occupation", the 73-year-old added.

"Everything will pass, and so will the occupation of Kosovo."