Information Service of
the Serbian Orthodox Church

June 12, 2004


On June 12, 2004 His Holiness Serbian Patriarch Pavle, together with His Grace Bishop Irinej of Backa, His Grace Bishop Grigorije of Zahumlje and Herzegovina and their closest associates, received the secretaries general of the Bishops’ Conferences of Europe who are holding their 32nd annual in Belgrade from June 10-13: Most Rev. Josip Cardinal Bozanic, Archbishop of Zagreb; Msgr. Stanislav Hocevar, Archbishop of Belgrade; Msgr. Aldo Giordano, the secretary general of the Council of Bishops’ Conferences of Europe; and their host, Msgr. Stanislav Hocevar, Archbishop of Belgrade and president of the Bishops’ Conference of Serbia and Montenegro, in the Patriarchal residence in Belgrade.

Welcoming the guests to the home of the Serbian Orthodox Church, His Holiness the Patriarch emphasized the necessity for cooperation between the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches in bearing witness to Christ’s Gospel in the modern world. In order for this cooperation to be fruitful, it is necessary to go along the narrow path of the gospels, each bearing our own cross, aware that the trials before us can be overcome only if, in the words of Christ, we are “wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16). At the same time, we must be aware of the responsibility we bear and aware that we will all find ourselves before the face of God.

Cardinal Bozanic greeted His Holiness and the bishops in attendance on behalf of the bishops, clergy and faithful, the secretaries general of the Bishops’ Conferences of Europe, saying that his greetings extend to the entire Serbian Orthodox Church of which the Patriarch is the embodiment. The common base from which we start out is our faith in Christ which tasks us with cooperation for the purpose of better establishment of Christian values on the European continent. Continuing his address, the Most Reverend Cardinal Bozanic informed His Holiness regarding the theme of this year’s meeting of the secretaries general of the Bishops’ Conferences of Europe (Christianity and Churches in Europe Today) and advised that the secretaries general of 29 European bishops’ conferences out of the 34 members of the Council of Bishops’ Conferences of Europe are presently in Belgrade to deliberate this current theme.

The Serbian Patriarch and Bishops Irinej and Grigorije then spoke with Cardinal Bozanic and the other senior guests regarding the challenges faced by the mission of the Church in today’s world. The Serbian Patriarch emphasized that we must be aware that we will be known by the fruits of our labors for we should also confirm in our actions what we say and write about spiritual life. If we remain solely at the level of speaking and writing, we will be like a tree with beautiful leaves but without fruit. We must always, therefore, adhere to Christ’s words: “You will know them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7:16)

Bishop Irinej of Backa informed those present regarding concrete cooperation between the Serbian Orthodox Church and the Bishops’ Conference of Serbia and Montenegro, which is manifested through the permanently standing Commission for Dialogue and even more so through joint resolution of all problems which emerge, as was the case upon the return of catechal instruction to the public schools in Serbia when the joint testimony of the Orthodox and (Roman) Catholic Churches disproved the position of atheist circles that Churches are a divisive factor in society. Another example of joint action concerns issues of radio broadcasting and cooperation in the media. This is being done toward the goal of the real spiritual unification of Europe, not only its political and economic unification, first and foremost, with respect to serving Christ’s Gospel.

Bishop Grigorije of Zahumlje and Herzegovina spoke briefly regarding the suffering of the Church in Kosovo and Metohija and informed guests regarding the new edition of the Memorandum of the Holy Assembly of Bishops on Kosovo and Metohija, emphasizing that holy shrines of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Kosovo and Metohija are the joint spiritual and cultural treasures of all Christians and people of good will. His Holiness the Serbian Patriarch presented each guest with a copy of the book. Expressing gratitude for the gift, Cardinal Bozanic said that it is the responsibility of all of us to protect Christian holy shrines for these are meeting places of God and man.

In conclusion, His Holiness again pointed out that we are all aware of the need for unity, especially in the modern mission of the Church and that must bear in mind the words of the protopriestly prayer of Our Lord Jesus Christ to His Father in Heaven: “that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.” (John 17:21)

[Serbian Translation Services]

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