CEOL - Guerrillas, peacekeepers at Kosovo midnight mass

PRISTINA, Serbia, Dec 27, 1999 -- (Reuters) Hundreds of Kosovans packed Pristina's sole Roman Catholic church along with guerrilla leaders, peacekeeping troops and U.N. staff from around the globe to hear calls for lasting peace at Christmas midnight mass.

In one of the few churches in the world where midnight mass traditionally attracts many Moslems, Father Nosh Gjolaj of Pristina's small Albanian Catholic community welcomed Hashim Thaqi and Agim Ceku, who led the Kosovo Liberation Army in its war against Serbian forces.

Thaqi and Ceku are both are of Moslem origin, like most Kosovo Albanians.

As NATO helicopters clattered overhead on night patrols to control Kosovo's postwar crime wave, Pristina children performed a nativity play in which African and East Asian members of the U.N. mission administering Kosovo played Wise Men.

British army chaplain Father Nick Goswell took part in the mass along with Father Nosh. Both said Kosovo prayed for peace after the war which ended with the withdrawal of Serbian forces and occupation by NATO-led troops six months ago.

"We pray for the peace of Kosovo, for the peace of the world," Goswell told the congregation to applause. "From the bottom of our hearts we thank you for welcoming us."

He urged worshippers to establish "the kingdom Jesus wanted; the kingdom of hope".

Midnight mass in past years in Pristina often led to confrontations with Serb police and arrests, as a focus of purely Albanian feeling.

Tens of thousands of Serbs have fled Kosovo since this year's war, more than 100 have been killed and dozens of Serbian Orthodox churches damaged by Albanians in revenge attacks. The Serbian Orthodox church celebrates Christmas in early January.

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