Enthronement Homily of His Holiness Serbian Patriarch, Kyr Irinej - The Patriarchate of Pech, 3 October 2010
By the Providence of God and as graciously deigned by the Holy Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church, I have been elected and today presented in the Sacred Throne of the Serbian Patriarchs. Having been led into the Throne which was established by the first autocephalous Serbian Archbishop and Enlightener Saint Sava, I am fully cognisant of my weaknesses and unworthiness for such an exalted calling.
The administrative enthronement of my humility was effected immediately following the election, on 23 January of this same year in the Cathedral Church of Belgrade. Today follows the conclusive, official and traditional enthronement in this ancient See of the Serbian Archbishops and Patriarchs, in the Church of the Holy Apostles in this Holy Laura of Pech.
For seven and a half centuries, this all-Serbian and pan-Orthodox sanctuary continuously protects under its shelter the Throne into which are ushered and from which the successors of Saint Sava guide the ark of Christ's Church within the borders of their canonical jurisdiction. They guide the ark to which the Serbian people have tied their history, their being and their fate. On the tempestuous sea of life, this ark and its passengers, have been ensued by winds and storms, thunder and lightning, have sailed by many Scylla and Charybdis, guided by Him, who „has built His Church against which not even the gates of Hades will prevail" (Matt 16:18). Our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the same yesterday, today and unto the ages, the Lord of my glorious predecessors on this Throne, by Whose Divine might and wisdom they have guided His Church and His faithful people, will not, I trust and believe, as their successor, lacking in much and unworthy of this enormous honour, strip of His Grace in the steering of His Church.
Today, I have been solemnly ushered into and elevated onto the most exalted Throne of the Serbian Patriarchs, to a height upon which it is impossible to survive without the help and support of God. I know that this service requires great sacrifice and superhuman efforts, however I also know and confess that the mighty and all-mighty Grace of God which as a gift of God is gifted to us in our human weakness. By it we are summoned from non-existance into being, by it we live, move and are. By it we are summoned to this exceptionally responsible degree of apostolic service to God, the Church and the people of God.
In addition to being elevated unto the undeserved Grace of God, which heals every infirmity and completes that which is lacking, I anticipate the heavenly assistance of even our Holy Serbian Archbishops and Patriarchs who glorified God and whom God glorified with unfading glory in His Heavenly Kingdom, especially those whose relics repose in this glorious Sanctuary.
Their pilgrimage and prayers before the Face of God are a powerful spiritual might and mighty fortitude in undertaking this joyful cross-bearing service in the mystery of salvation.
Spiritual and moral assistance and support of every kind I anticipate from Our Christ-loving brother hierarchs, as well as the prayers of the plentitude of the Church - the clergy, monastics and faithful people - that in prayerful communion and conciliarity, with our God-given powers, Christ's Bride, the Ark of our Salvation, the Holy Church, we may adorn with the bright virtues of the Gospel and a life in Christ.
Today, I am ushered into the Throne of the Serbian Patriarchs which had, and today has, a great role in the history of our Church and our people. On it were seated holy persons, shining with virtuous lives, and by word and deed witnessing and heralding the salvific truth of the Gospel. They were and forever remain Christ's servants and the apostolic servants of their people.
The Throne of the Patriarchate of Pech was and remains the soul of the Serbian people. It has spiritually unified the Serbian people, as well as its regions which have been brought into existence through numerous exoduses, of which the most famous are those in the years 1690 and in 1737. In the titles of the first hierarchs and hierarchs of newly-incepted Serbian regional Churches following the closing of the Patriarchate of Pech in 1766, there is visible and impressionable acknowledgement that they belong to the Throne of Pech. In such the Church in Montenegro for the entire time of its existence remained faithful to the Throne of Pech, considering themselves guardians, and their Metropolitans as "Exarchs of the Throne of Pech".
Similarly, the Bishops of Dalmatia have titled themselves as „Metropolitans of Kosovo and Exarchs of the Throne of Pech". In so doing they expressed and confirmed the bond of Krajina-Dalmatian Serbs to their Kosovo cradle and canonical bond to the Patriarchate of Pech.
This awareness has most certainly dominated the life and entire history of the Serbian Patriarchs in Srem's Karlovac.
Joseph Rajachich, elected Patriarch at the Karlovac May Assembly of 1848 and his successors, never severed the spiritual tie to the Throne of Pech, considering themselves to be successors to the Patriarchs of Pech.
With the restoration of the Patriachate of Pech in 1920 and the election of Metropolitan Dimitrije of Serbia as the first Patriarch of the restored Patriachate, the view was held that the Patriarch-elect must continue the history of the Patriarchate of Pech there where it was forcibly severed. As a sign and confirmation of the restoration of the Patriarchate of Pech the new Patriarch was enthroned in Pech in 1924 and from then to this present day, Serbian Patriarchs are enthroned in the Patriarchate of Pech. Thereby, we are convinced, the same will hold true in the times which are to come.
From the very beginning of the existence of the Patriarchate of Pech, its Primates as the Holy Apostles before them sowed the seeds of Christ's knowledge on the field of the souls of the people and shared alike with their people both good and evil and were truly spiritual leaders of the people. In times of peace and properity of the people, they built churches and monasteries and embelished the same with holy images; wrote and transcribed books, taught and enlightened the people in the spirit and truth of the Gospel, inspiring in them the love of Christ and the love of the people to which they belong, glorifying the Name of God, as in monastic habitations, so also in villages and cities and in the home of the people.
In the days of the suffering of the people, they strengthened the faith and poured forth hope in the mercy of God, hope that the Lord will not abandon them and that the day of liberation will soon be at hand.
When difficult circumstances ensued in which the people were left without their leaders, princes and elders, they placed themselves at the head of their people, wisely leading them, endeavouring that the people save their faith, language and rich spiritual inheritance.
With gratefulness to their Church and its wise Christ-loving and patriotic spiritual leaders, our people survived five centuries of Ottoman enslavement, preserved their soul, their faith, religious and moral values, as well as the awareness of their national identity.
The time and circumstances of my being led into the Throne of the Serbian Patriarchs is, in so many ways, similar to the time and circumstances in which the Serbian Church with its people had experienced and survived difficult and fateful days in its history. Let us remind ourselves of the recent time of general suffering, practically in all territories where our people live. The consequences of that suffering are still visible and present: destroyed churches and monasteries, burned homes of the people, persons expelled from their centuries-old hearths, and in great part, dispersed throughout the world.
All that has been said is, sadly, still visible on the territory of Kosovo and Metohija. We cannot, but mention the gaping wound on the body of the Serbian Orthodox Church and the Serbian people, here in Kosovo and Metohija, in this truly "dread place of judgment". Today we are visiting and bowing before this sanctuary in our most sacred Serbian land, the cradle of our history, spirituality, Christian, Orthodox culture of the Serbian people. A land drenched in the martyred blood of the Kosovo martyrs and new-martyrs. Here in the territory of our greatest sanctuaries, among which is the sanctuary in which we find ourselves, in which are preserved the holy relics of our Archbishops and Patriarchs and the graves of prayerful intercessors and those who spiritually laboured, and before the sacred and miraculous icon of the Most Holy Mother of God.
In close proximity is the resplendent Dechani Monastery, the epitome of our architectural and iconographic art of the 14th century, with the incorruptible relics of its Holy Benefactor, King Stephen of Dechani. And slightly further is the Ljevish Theotokos in Prizren, the Imperial City, with its ten preserved medieval churches, the Monastery of the Holy Archangels, the greatest foundation of the Emperor Dushan, and the glorious Prizren Seminary. We cannot omit the most beautiful Grachanica, the glorious Banjska, foundations of King Milutin. We cannot, omit to mention the great sanctuary of Devich and the one thousand and three hundred remaining churches and monasteries in this blessed Serbian land. In the most recent past, many of the churches and monasteries were burned, destroyed, and vandalised, as well as the homes of our Serbian people who have abided here for centuries and left the indelible mark of their existence and creativity.
Kosovo and Metohija are today without hundreds of thousands of expelled Serbian people. All traces of their spiritual historical roots are being eradicated.
There are still tens of thousands of refugees from this sacred land. They, remain turned toward their age-old bosom, and with tearful eyes and painful hearts, anticipate the day and possibility in which they can return to their, albeit destroyed and burned, homes. Only the few and most brave have succeeded to return to their hearths.
From this sacred place, in this joyous-yet painful moment, we forward our anguished cry to the powerful factors of this world in whose hands lie the fate of Kosovo and Metohija, praying to the Lord that they sin not against their souls by bringing forth decisions regarding the status of this Serbian southern territory by which the Serbian people will be stripped of their centuries-old right to their Homeland, their homes and properties, the graves of their ancestors and their sanctuaries.
The Serbian people do not have any other mediator state save Serbia of which Kosovo and Metohija have been for centuries an integral part. Here, there is ample living space and place for the cohabitation of Serbs, Albanians and other peoples. These two peoples have lived together for centuries. Why cannot they do the same today?
Therefore, appealing in this solemn moment with love and respect not only for the Serbian Orthodox people of Kosovo and Metohija but also for the honourable Albanian people and all local inhabitants, we invite them to peace and unity, always predicated upon Divine and human justice.
Let us pray to the Lord, to the God-pleasing of Pech, and the Holy Kosovo Martyrs, all the saints of our people and all those who are God-pleasing that in this land peace, unity and love among the peoples will prevail, and that the wounds of all inflicted by hatred and wickedness will be healed.
We appeal to the honourable episcopate, the clergy, the monastics and faithful people of our local Church of Saint Sava, praying to Christ our Lord that He will strengthen in all of us true faith and faithfulness to justice and Divine truth and the unity of the Church of God, directing us on the path of Salvation, to spiritual and every other form of regeneration.
With love and gratitude for this concelebration and prayerful participation I greet all of those here gathered from throughout the world, the Primates and representatives of the Orthodox Churches of God. Your presence, beloved Fathers and brothers, and participation in this solemn rite of our local Church, testify to the indivisible unity and fellowship of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church of Christ. As the First Hierarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church, I will endeavour with all my strength, together with my brother Hierarchs and faithful people, to confirm and advance the unity of the Church of God, as well as the evangelical mission of our Orthodox Church among all the peoples of the world.
We also rejoice and in gratitude, greet the brotherly presence of the high delegations of Christian Churches present in this Cathedral Church of the Holy Apostles - the Roman Catholic Church, the Churches of the Reformed Tradition and the Anglican Church. This apostolic temple and apostolic rite invite all of us who confess the Only-begotten Son of God, the God-Man Christ, to the renewal of the apostolic faith in us and the love among us, and toward the fulfilling of Christ's prayer to our Heavenly Father: "That they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they may be one in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me" (John 17:21).
With respect and gratitude for their presence and friendship I greet, also, the honourable heads and high representatives of the Islamic Community of Serbia, as well as the high representatives of the Jewish Community of Serbia.
We greet also those representatives of our State here present headed by the President of the Republic of Serbia Mr. Boris Tadic, the representatives of Orthodox and neighbouring states, as well as the representatives of the International Community and the Diplomatic Corps. I greet also His Royal Highness, the descendent of the great Leader Karageorge and King Peter I Karageorgevich, the liberator of Kosovo and unifier of the Serbian people.
Upon you, the people of God, gathered here in this great Church of the Archbishops and Patriarchs of Pech, all the people of God and Saint Sava in the Fatherland and throughout the Dispersion, as well as upon all people of God and Christians and to all persons and peoples of good will, I bestow our Patriarchal blessings: peace to you and the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father and the communion of the Holy Spirit unto ages of ages. Amen!