Communique from the Holy Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church
Communique from the Holy Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Belgrade April 26 - May 5, 2010
The regular Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church was held at the Patriarchate in Belgrade, under the presidency of His Holiness Patriarch Irinej of Serbia, from April 26 - May 5, 2010. All the diocesan hierarchs of the Serbian Orthodox Church participated in the work of the Assembly.
The Holy Assembly of Bishops began its work with the conciliar serving of the Holy Hierarchical Liturgy at the Cathedral Church of St. Archangel Michael in Belgrade, officiated by His Holiness Serbian Patriarch Irinej, at which the service of the Invocation of the Holy Spirit was served for the blessed and edifying work of the Assembly. Afterward, His Holiness the Patriarch, as the President of the Assembly, in his introductory remarks to the Assembly renewed the prayerful memory of our Church of the person and spiritual merits of his predecessor, Patriarch Pavle, and indicated the importance of responsibly resolving the existing issues in the spirit of the holy canons and the age old practice of the church.
The most important and most grace-filled act of the Assembly at this year's session was the canonization of the two archimandrites, Fr. Justin Popovic (1894-1979) from Monastery Celije near Valjevo, and Fr. Symeon Popovic (1854-1941) from Monastery Dajbabe near Podgorica, that is, the entrance of their names into the Diptychs of the saints of the holy Orthodox Church and their glorification (formal proclamation as being the chosen of God) at the conciliar Holy Hierarchical Liturgy at the St. Sava Temple on Vracar on Sunday, May 2, 2010. This confirms their already existing prayerful veneration among the faithful people of God not only within the boundaries of our Serbian Orthodox Church but also throughout ecumenical Orthodoxy. According to the decision of the Assembly, the liturgical commemoration of the Venerable Justin of Celije will be celebrated on 1/14 June, while the memory of the Venerable Symeon of Dajbabe will be 19March/1 April each year. It was decided, likewise, that in the future the memory of the New Martyrs of Jasenovac be celebrated on August 31/September 13.
The assembly decision from last year's regular session was confirmed to join in the building of a church and memorial center dedicated to the liturgical and historical commemoration of all Serbian casualties of the wars of the 20th century, as well as the casualties of the NATO aggression on Serbia and Montenegro in 1999 and those during the March pogrom against the Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija in 2004.
During the Sabor, on May 1, a meeting was held with the central committee for the completion of the St. Sava Memorial-temple on Vracar, during which, among other things, reports were heard and approved regarding completed and planned projects and the financial aspect of the building of this testimonial holy site of the entire Serbian people. After the meeting a parastos memorial service was served in the church for all its benefactors and donors, and also for Serbian Patriarch Gavrilo (Dozic) of blessed memory, on the occasion of the 60 year anniversary of his passing in the Lord. On the following day, May 2, in the great amphitheater of the Orthodox Theological Faculty, in the presence of His Holiness the Patriarch, members of the Assembly of Bishops, the dean, professors and students of the Faculty, as well as the interested public, a formal academia on the occasion of the 90th anniversary of the restoration of the Patriarchate of Pec, that is, the unification of the regional church into the unity of the Serbian Patriarchate and on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the passing away of Patriarch Gavrilo. Metropolitan Amphilohije of Montenegro and the Coastlands spoke on that occasion of the strong personality, painstaking life and spiritual merits of Patriarch Gavrilo.
The Assembly of Bishops heard and approved the following reports regarding the life of the Church over the past year period since last year's meeting: on the passing and funeral of Patriarch Pavle of blessed repose; on the election and enthronement of the current Patriarch; on the work of the Holy Synod, the Patriarchal administrative board, the Great ecclesiastical court, the funds of the Serbian Orthodox Church, the Informational-publication organizations, the Covekoljublje charitable organization, the pilgrimage agency Dobrocinstvo and other central church bodies and institutions; on the decisions of the Fourth pan-Orthodox Pre-conciliar conference in Chambesy near Geneva in June 2009 on the theme of a more efficient and organized mission, witness and cooperation of the local Orthodox Churches in the Diaspora and on the stand of the pan-Orthodox preparatory commission for the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church, held in December of last year also in Chambesy, on the manner of proclaiming church autocephaly and autonomy. In this context, the Assembly especially analyzed the status and problems of the life of the Serbian Orthodox Church in the Diaspora and made appropriate decisions. In this regard, last year's decision regarding the restructuring of the dioceses in the United States was confirmed.
Also considered, in the same framework, were the relations of the Serbian Orthodox Church with the sister Orthodox Churches, and with heterodox Christian churches and communities, as well as with inter-church and ecumenical organizations and other religions. It was stated with regret that the Romanian Orthodox Church continues in an uncanonical manner to violate the canonical territory of the Serbian Orthodox Church and it was decided, through renewed brotherly dialogue, to overcome this problem in the spirit of love and respect for the structure of the Orthodox Church.
As it does every year, the Assembly dedicated due attention to the state of Christian education and opportunities to better develop it. It was decided that the Theological Faculty of St. Basil of Ostrog for the time being remain in the town of Foca, and to again petition the Sarajevo government to finally return the building of the Sarajevo seminary located in the center of Sarajevo to the Serbian Orthodox Church, in the same was as the Islamic community and the Roman Catholic Church have had all of their buildings returned.
Also confirmed was the previous principal Assembly decision that the Holy Synod, in cooperation with the Theological Faculty in Belgrade, prepare the conditions for the opening of a Theological Faculty in Nis. More quality in teaching and pedagogical activity was recommended for the seminaries of the Serbian Orthodox Church, in order to achieve the highest standards of intellectual church youth.
The Assembly approved the Rules for the Patriarch Pavle Fund, the Statute of the Serbian Orthodox Church Archives, Rules for the Sanctity of Life Charity Fund and the Regulation on honorary orders and awards of the Serbian Orthodox Church. It was decided to address the construction at a suitable location of a building for the Serbian Patriarchate, since the current building, meant only to serve the needs of the Archbishopric of Belgrade-Karlovci, does not meet even present minimum requirements.
The Assembly gave due attention to hearing the reports of its members regarding their archpastoral work, as well as the current state and difficulties in their regional dioceses, especially in some of them. With great regret it was concluded that in the dioceses of Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina there are still provocations, and at times gross endangerment of the integrity of the clergy and monastics of the Serbian Orthodox Church, along with its churches, monasteries and property. The Assembly, therefore, expects and requires that the local authorities provide full freedom and security for the Serbian Orthodox Church, and that the authorities of the neighboring Republic of Hungary prevent any further thefts from the churches of the Diocese of Budapest. The Assembly, in a special appeal, reacted to the recent unacceptable actions of the self-proclaimed ethnic Albanian authorities in Kosovo and Metohija by which telephone connections in Serbian settlements were interrupted.
The Assembly fathers devoted the greatest attention and care to the Diocese of Raska-Prizren, hearing, following the reports of Bishop Artemije and Bishop-administrator Atanasije, a comprehensive and documented report by the Holy Synod regarding the serious state and massive anomalies in the life of this diocese, which for centuries has been the first in suffering and martyrdom in the history of the Church and people. Having considered the overall situation and the unfortunate occurances there, as well as the canonical responsibility of Bishop Artemije for them, and particularly for the extremely destructive, morally and canonically unacceptable actions of a number of his close associates, the Assembly, by a majority vote, permanently relieved him of his duties as diocesan bishop and placed him at the disposal of Church under the status of retired bishop. As administrator of the vacant Diocese of Raska and Prizren the Assembly appointed - actually left in place - the current administrator, the retired Bishop of Zahumlje-Herzegovina Atanasije. Bishop Artemije accepted the decision of the Assembly. This, however, does not influence his self-proclaimed 'defenders' to accept it.
In this regard, and especially in regard to the unprecedented defamatory campaign against His Holiness the Patriarch, the Holy Synod and the Assembly, and the incitement of uninformed believers against their own Church and their canonical bishops, as well as attempts to create a sectarian and parasynagogal mentality completely foreign to Orthodoxy, whose ringleaders are prodigal and irresponsible individuals acting through anti-church, schismatic-oriented sites, the Holy Assembly of Bishops calls upon the faithful people of St. Sava to not believe and to stay away from their insidious insinuations, all the while believing in the all-powerful transfiguring love of Christ and awaiting the repentance of at least some of them.
Finally, The Assembly decided that the solemn enthronement of the Serbian Patriarch at the Patriarchate in Pec will take place on October 3 of this year.
The make-up of the Holy Synod remains the same.