Communique of the Holy Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church held in Belgrade May 14-25, 2016
The regular meeting of the Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church began at the Patriarchate of Pec monastery with the joint serving of the holy hierarchical Divine Liturgy and the invocation of the Holy Spirit and continued in Prizren with the rite of consecration of the renovated Prizren Seminary. Afterward, all regular meetings, under the presidency of His Holiness Serbian Patriarch Irinej, were held in Belgrade. Participating in the Assembly were all diocesan hierarchs of the Serbian Orthodox Church with the exception of Bishop Lavrentije of Sabac who, out of justifiable reasons, was not able to attend.
The most important theme of this year’s Assembly was preparation of the Serbian Orthodox Church to take part in the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church, to meet this June in Crete. Regarding this forthcoming pan Orthodox Council, the Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church, adopted a document expressing their principle position on all major issues to be discussed and decided upon at the Great Council.
Also of importance was the decision of the Assembly that in good time – meaning soon – preparation begin for the celebration of the 800th anniversary of the independence of the Serbian Orthodox Church (1219-2019), in cooperation with the authorities of Serbia and Republika Srpska and all relative and cultural institutions of the Serbian people. At the same time, the Assembly was pleased to learn from Metropolitan Amphilohije of Montenegro and the Coastlands, of the successful preparations already in place for the 1,000th anniversary of the martyrdom of St. Jovan Vladimir, King of Serbia, which will take place in September of this year in the city of Bar and besides the Patriarch and hierarchs of the Serbian Orthodox Church invitations will be sent to high delegations of all Orthodox Churches. The Order of King Jovan Vladimir has been established , to be awarded to confessors of faith and sufferers in the faith.
As in previous years, the Assembly took into consideration church education, as well as the mission of the Church in general, both internal and external. Protopresbyter Gojko Perovic, the current acting rector of the St. Petar of Cetinje Seminary in Cetinje, was elected Rector of the aforementioned Seminary. The Library of the Serbian Orthodox Patriarchate in Belgrade was given status of the main library in the entire region of the Serbian Orthodox Church. With sadness it was noted that there are still, here and there, schools where religious education is unlawfully discriminated against, even though in general the situation is favorable.
It was noted that the relations between the Serbian Orthodox Church and the Sister Orthodox Churches are exceptionally good, fully in the spirit of the Church’s unity and conciliarity, with one unfortunate exception – the Romanian Patriarchate, whose bishops and clergy for years now – in a non-canonical manner and not in the spirit of brotherly love – enter in the jurisdiction of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Eastern Serbia, particularly in the Timok region. After many past addresses and appeals, unfortunately unsuccessful thus far, the Assembly has once more called upon the Romanian Church to immediately cease this practice which is destructive for the church; otherwise, the problem will be addressed at the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church, and in the event that this anti-canonical practice continue even after the Council – the Serbian Orthodox Church, with sincere pain but for the good of the Church – will be forced to cut all liturgical and canonical relations with the Romanian Orthodox Church.
Relations with other Christian churches and communities as well as the Jewish and Islamic communities of Serbia, are traditionally good, which, unfortunately, cannot be said of relations with the extreme circles in the Roman Catholic Church in Croatia and in Bosnia and Hercegovina, as well as relations with similar circles in the Islamic communities in Bosnia and Hercegovina and the Islamic communities in Serbia.
Relations between the Church and state is developing with signs of good will and cooperation in terms of the separation of Church and state. Of particular importance is the support from the Committee for cooperation between churches and religious institutions at the Ministry of Justice towards both the Serbian Orthodox Church and all other traditional churches and religious institutions. The Assembly awaits this body be returned the status of Ministry of religious affairs. It was noted that the religious service in the Serbian Army, as well as the armed forces in Bosnia and Hercegovina, is on the rise.
There are, unfortunately, problems and unresolved issues. Therefore, the Assembly expected that the process of restitution of unjustly confiscated church property in Serbia to be accelerated and fully completed. The Assembly once again calls on the competent authorities to return to the Church parish books of records confiscated in 1946, allegedly for the reason of copying them. Similarly, the Assembly, for the umpteenth time, reiterates its position that the remains of the Serbian and world giant, Nikola Tesla, you do not deserve to be a museum piece but that they be decently buried in a suitable place near the Temple of Saint Sava, as Vuk and Dositej are buried in front of the Cathedral church in Belgrade.
The Assembly fathers noted that the position of the Serbian Orthodox Church in the southern Serbian region is still very difficult even though there are signs of hope and reasons to be optimistic, such as the trouble-free work of the Prizren Seminary and recognition of the property rights of Dechani Monastery. The state in the region, unfortunately, is equally filled with difficulties and sufferings: in Croatia the ustasha-minded chauvinists rant against the Serbian Orthodox Church and Serbian people; in the Bosnia-Hercegovina Federation constant pressure is in place, to the level of open discrimination; Montenegro is preparing a law which not only does not recognize the status of the Church and identity but is threaten with open persecution, while its government proclaims the Serbian Orthodox Church as public enemy number one, seemingly in the spirit of their “democratic and Euro-Atlantic orientation”; in the Republic of Macedonia show trials against Archbishop Jovan and the Ohrid Archbishopric are still active.
The Assembly, naturally, expressed its solidarity with all Orthodox and heterodox Christians, as well as Muslims, who are suffering and being killed in the Middle East. Also, the Assembly prayerfully calls for a quick end to the mindless conflict between brothers of one faith and one blood in the Ukraine.
The Holy Assembly of Bishops held a joint meeting with the central board for the construction of the St. Sava Monument Church in Vracar and their report regarding their work completing the interior of the church was accepted.
Reports were heard and accepted from the Holy Synod, the Patriarchate executive board, the Great ecclesiastical court, the humanitarian organization “Covekoljublje”, the pilgrimage agency “Dobrocinstvo” and other bodies and organizations, as well as reports from the hierarchs regarding their work during the course of the previous year.
The scope of the work of the Jasenovac Committee was expanded: in the future it will deal with all victims of the Serbian Church and Serbian people during World War II.
It was regretfully discovered, based on the reports from all of the dioceses, that the “white plague”, as a sin and national suicide on delay, pillages the Serbian people all the more.
A detailed report regarding the fire at the St. Sava Church in New York was regretfully accepted.
Milivoje Novakovic, the defrocked hieromonk Maksim, Artemije’s false “chorepiskopos of Novobrdo and Pannonia”, is excommunicated from the church community.
The current Bishop of Eastern America, Bishop Mitrophan, is elected bishop of the vacant diocese of Canada, the current Bishop of Australia and New Zealand, Bishop Irinej, is elected as bishop of Eastern America and Protosindjel Siluan (Mrakic), of the Pustinje Monastery in the Diocese of Valjevo is elected Bishop of Australia.
Elected as vicar of the Diocese of Montenegro and the Coastlands, with the title, “Bishop of Diocletia”, is Archimandrite Kirilo (Bojovic), currently engaged in the Diocese of Buenos Aires and South America. The current Bishop of Nis, Bishop Jovan, has been relieved of his duties as diocesan bishop per his request. Bishop Teodosije of Ras and Prizren will serve as administrator of the Diocese of Nis while the Diocese of Dabrobosna will continue to be administered by Bishop Grigorije of Zahum and Hercegovina, Bishop Joanikije of Budim and Niksic will administer the Diocese of Milesevo.
Members of the Holy Synod in its new composition are: Bishop Irinej of Backa, Bishop Justin of Zica, Bishop Fotije of Dalmatia and Bishop Teodosije of Ras and Prizren, alternate members are Metropolitan Amphilohije of Montenegro and the Coastlands and Bishop Lavrentije of Sabac.
Submitted by Bishop Irinej of Backa,
Spokesman for the Serbian Orthodox Church