Authorities in Kosovo decided Sunday to ban Serbian Patriarch Porfirije from entering the country ahead of Orthodox Christmas.
The Serbian Orthodox Church celebrates Christmas on Jan. 7 under the Gregorian calendar, with the celebration lasting three days.
According to a statement from the Serbian Orthodox Church, authorities in Pristina banned Patriarch Porfirije from entering the Patriarchate of Pec Monastery and the decision was received with sadness.
It added that the Patriarch would not give up serving and the decision meant "discrimination" against Serbs living in the region.
Porfirije called on the authorities to reverse the discriminatory decision and stop the trampling of human rights.
''Porfirije expects that this extremely discriminatory decision will be repealed” and called on the authorities in Pristina to stop with “the trampling of human rights and religious freedoms of Orthodox Serbs living in the province, on the land of their ancestors, where the Serbian people have lived continuously for at least 1,500 years,'' said the statement.
Tensions between Serbia and Kosovo
Kosovo, predominantly inhabited by Albanians, broke away from Serbia in 1999 and declared independence in 2008. But Serbia has not recognized the move and sees its former province as part of its territory.
Tensions between Kosovo and Serbia have escalated since the detention of former Serbian police officer Dejan Pantic.
Reacting to Pantic's detention, Kosovo Serbs have been standing guard at the barricades they set up at the Jarinje and Bernjak border crossings since Dec. 10.
The European Union, NATO and the US have called for a de-escalation and the removal of barricades in northern Kosovo, while Serbia has requested to deploy its army and police based on a UN resolution.