Communiqué From the regular Holy Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church held in Belgrade May 2007

The regular Assembly of the Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church was held from May 14 through May 25 at the Patriarchate in Belgrade, under the presidency of His Holiness Serbian Patriarch Pavle. All the hierarchs of the Serbian Orthodox Church participated in the work of the Assembly.

Particular joy came to the Assembly with the renewal of liturgical unity between the Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian Church Outside of Russia, realized on the feast of the Ascension of our Lord in Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow, after nearly ninety years of separation. During that entire time it was only the Serbian Orthodox Church out of all the local Orthodox Churches that did not sever liturgical communion with the Russian hierarchs in diaspora throughout the world after the Bolshevik Revolution, and thereby contributed to this event, which is significant not only for the unity of the Russian Orthodox Church and people but for all of Orthodoxy.

His Beatitude Archbishop of Ohrid and Metropolitan of Skoplje Jovan took part in the work of the Assembly, together with the hierarchs of the autonomous Archdiocese of Ohrid. The release from prison and freeing of Archbishop Jovan gave hope to the Hierarchical Assembly as an end to the violence and the improving of the conditions for the life and work of the canonical Church in the Republic of Macedonia, and as creating the preconditions for establishing a healthy dialogue with the hierarchs there who still find themselves in a schism with the Orthodox Church.

Among the various current questions, the Assembly dedicated special attention this year to the liturgical and worship life of the Church, with the goal of preserving its time honored tradition of prayer and its living witness to the contemporary world.

The Assembly tasked the Committee for research of liturgical questions to continue the work already begun, and to submit the results of their work to the Holy Hierarchical Assembly for a final decision, consulting the practices and spiritual experiences of the other local Orthodox Churches, bearing in mind the spiritual state of our people and the readiness of the priesthood to bring this into practice. In the meantime, until the results of the Committee are accepted, the established, time honored order of our Church is to be kept in all the dioceses of the Serbian Orthodox Church in view of serving the Divine Liturgy and other services.

In confirming the joint Ustav (Constitution) for our dioceses in North and South America, and in dedicating particular concern for our Church in Australia, the Assembly thereby encourages the ultimate overcoming of the obstacles to attaining administrative unity in our Church on these two continents, which was violated by the past schism.

The Holy Hierarchical Assembly praises the joint work of Their Graces, Bishop for America and Canada of the New Gracanica Metropolitanate Longin and Bishop of Western America Maxim, who in the spirit of brotherly love share pastoral care over the Serbian Orthodox parishes on the west coast of America, leading them to administrative unity.

With the aim of advancing the mission of the Church's educational system, the Assembly notably authorized the founding of the Orthodox Theological Faculty in conjunction with the University of Nis, in spirit of the preparations for the celebration of the 1,700 anniversary of the Edict of Milan (313 - 2013), in the city where emperor Constantine the Great was born. Besides this, the Assembly dedicated much serious attention to the church's educational system and to education in general and to the progress of Christian education, as well as to the spiritual-moral state of our society, the need of increasing the birth rate, suppressing drugs among our youth, and other moral issues of the contemporary world.

As in the previous, tragic years since the NATO bombing of our country (1999), the Assembly especially cocerned itself with the question of Kosovo and Metohija. The fruit of that is the extraordinary Appeal of the Assembly addressed to the domestic and international media, demanding the safeguarding of Kosovo and Metohija as an essential autonomous part of the Republic of Serbia. In that Appeal the Assembly reminds both the European Community and the United States of America as well as the United Nations that the independence of Kosovo and Metohija would signify a trampling of divine and human justice, the abrogation of the age old internationally recognized and confirmed rights of one of Europe's Christian nations, and would create a precedent with unjust consequences, not only for the Balkans and Europe but for the entire world.

The Assembly decided to reactivate the Committee of the Holy Synod for the final translation of the Holy Bible into Serbian.

For practical reasons, the Assembly decided that the Holy Synod, as the executive body of the Holy Hierarchical Assembly, will once again consist of five members, with His Holiness the Patriarch as president, as it had been in previous years.

Members of the Holy Hierarchical Synod are: His Eminence Metropolitan Amphilohije of Montenegro and the Coastlands, His Grace Bishop Chrysostom of Zicha, His Grace Bishop Chrysostom of Bihac and Petrovac and His Grace Bishop Philaret of Milesevo.

V. Rev. Stavrophor Savo B. Jovic was appointed as head secretary of the Holy Hierarchical Synod.