Information Service of
the Serbian Orthodox Church

Avgust 18, 2004


On the occasion of this year’s Olympic Games in Athens an International Religious Conference on the theme of Religion, Peace and the Olympian Ideal was held in the elite Amarusion quarter of Athens on August 10-11 under the high patronage of His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople and President Konstantin Stefanopoulos of Greece and organized by the Brussels representative office of the Constantinople Patriarchate and the municipality of Amarusion.

The conference included representatives of the Christian (Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Protestant), Muslim, Jewish and Buddhist religious communities. It is noteworthy that His All-Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew took part in the conference not only by welcoming the participants but also as a presenter.

The conference began on August 10, 2004 at 6:30 p.m. with the welcoming remarks of His All-Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew and Amarusion mayor Panaiotis Gianikos. The same evening there were several other welcoming and introductory speeches and a formal reception for all participants and guests.

On August 11 an all-day session of the conference took place, addressing three basic topics: religion and the appeal for peace, the Olympian ideal and peaceful coexistence of nations, and religion and the Olympian ideal. At the end of the conference participants unanimously adopted the Olympian peace charter, i.e. the declaration of this important interfaith conference.

On behalf of the Serbian Orthodox Church and in the capacity of envoy of His Holiness Serbian Patriarch Pavle taking part in the conference was His Grace Bishop Irinej of Backa. Bishop Irinej conveyed a personal message from the Serbian Patriarch and was also one of the presenters on the topic of the Olympian ideal and peaceful coexistence of nations.

More information about the conference will be appearing in the next issue of Pravoslavlje (Orthodoxy – the official publication of the Serbian Patriarchate) and on this Web site.


The Serbian People’s Party has organized a scientific and expert conference on the theme The Serbian People in Montenegro: Affirmation of the national issue and defense of human rights to be held in Podgorica on August 21-22, 2004. Serbian People’s Party president Andrija Mandic will open the conference and speakers will include Princess Jelisaveta Karadjordjevic. Among the participants will be leading scientists, spiritual leaders, artists and experts from both Montenegro and Serbia concerned with these topics: Bishop Joanikije of Budimlje and Niksic, Professor Dr. Bogoljub Sijakovic, Professor Dr. Radmilo Marojevic, Professor Dr. Savo Lausevic, Dr. Slavenko Terzic, Dr. Momcilo Vuksanovic, Dr. Vladimir Jovicevic, Fr. Velibor Dzomic, Budimir Aleksic, Vukic Ilincic, Zarko Lekovic, Zelidrag Nikcevic, Milutin Micovic, Novak Radulovic, Goran Danilovic, Predrag Vukic, Aleksandar Rakovic, Novica Djuric and others.

Serbs in Montenegro are presently in the worst position they have been in since World War II and are exposed to ethnic discrimination. Consequently the conference will formulate and adopt a platform of its basic national interests to be presented to the Government of Montenegro, Serbia, the European Union, the United States and Russia. In the interest of preserving the Serbian national identity in Montenegro the Serbian people will request the establishment and institutionalization of political, linguistic, religious, educational, cultural and every other form of autonomy of the Serbian people throughout Montenegro.


His Holiness Serbian Patriarch Pavle served Holy Hierarchal Liturgy with the concelebration of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church in the monastery of Banjska near Zvecan in northern Kosovo. In front of several thousand citizens from throughout the land and abroad, the ceremony was also attended by guests from Greece, the abbot of the Mt. Athos monastery of Xiropotam and his monks, the Serbian minister for relgions Milan Radulovic and representatives of the Coordinating Center for Kosovo and Metohija. Also present were members of the royal house of Karadjordjevic, who contributed to the renewal of the monastery of Banjska.

In this endowment of King Milutin built at the beginning of the 14th century there have been no monks and Holy Liturgy has not been served for the past 520 years; only the people visited the old walls. The monastery now has a brotherhood of four monks, headed by Protosindjel Simeon as the monastery elder. They first renewed the dormitory and moved into it; then the renewal of the monastery began, which has now been consecrated by the Patriarch.

In his sermon His Holiness Patriarch Pavle emphasized that this church, like all churches, reminds the Serbian people of its past history. “We need to become a match for these times we live in and do what we can, following the model of our ancestors, who survived five hundred years of enslavement,” said the Patriarch, blessing the monks and the Serban people.

His Grace Bishop Artemije of Raska and Prizren said that this is “a great day, the day of the resurrection of the endowment of King Milutin, adding that the monastery is “a witness to Orthodox faith and a road sign for the Serbian people to eternal life”. “Kosovo is the land of every Serb and the land of every person,” said Bishop Artemije.

Minister Radulovic said that “faith and memory cannot be desecrated and monasteries that have been destroyed can be renewed”. He expressed the conviction that all monasteries destroyed in Kosovo will be renewed “monasteries have a special energy. They are not just buildings but seem to have been put on Earth from the heavens.”

Exactly at noon a formal academy was held in the monastery courtyard with the choir and monks of the monastery of Decani, poets Slobodan Rakitic and Milan Mihajlovic, theatrical artists Vesna Pavlovic and Momir Bradic, and the White Linen traditional folk music group among the participants. KFOR, UNMIK and the Kosovo Police Service reinforced all roads to Banjska, and a special security checkpoint was set up on the Kosovska Mitrovica-Raska road near the monastery. There were no incidents during the ceremony.

The monstery of Banjska, from which church bells can be heard again after 520 years, is located near the village of Banjska in the municipality of Zvecan, north of Kosovska Mitrovica. This pearl of medieval culture is the endowment of King Milutin, who built the monastery during the period from 1312-16. After the king’s death his holy relics were placed in the church of the monastery of Banjska; as the intended site of the king’s tomb, this church was far more richly decorated than any of Milutin’s other 40-odd endowments. The monastery itself was built on the site of a much older church and during the rule of Milutin’s father, King Uros I, in the 13th century a Diocese of Banjska existed seated in Banjska. After the Battle of Kosovo in 1389 the monks transferred the relics of King Milutin to Trepca and later they were transferred to Sophia, Bulgaria, where they still rest today in the church of the Holy Alexander Nevsky. In the 17th century the Turks turned the monastery of Banjska into a mosque. The monastery suffered terrible destruction in 1689 and the first serious efforts to research it did not occur until the liberation of Kosovo and Metohija from the Turks in 1912. In 1938, following completion of reserach and excavation of the foundations of dormitories nearby, the church was partially renewed and a temporary roof placed on it. The restoration of this holy shrine began in the last three years with the mediation of the Serbian Government, and especially of the Coordinating Center for Kosovo and Metohija.


On Sunday, August 15, 2004 the marble statue of the Mother of God of Sokolica from the monastery of Sokolica near Kosovska Mitrovica has been exhibited in the National Museum in Belgrade, where it will be on display until August 24. The statue of the Most Holy Mother of God with the Christ child was one of the exponents representing Serbian medieval art at the monumental exhibition Byzantium: Faith and Glory (1261-1557) held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City from mid-April to the beginning of July 2004. After the exhibition the sculpture was returned to the monastery of Sokolica, where it was brought, according to tradition, as a holy relic more than 500 years ago by monks fleeing before the Turks.


A few months ago preparations began for the restoration of the masterpiece Seoba Srbalja (The Migration of the Serbs) by famous Serbian painter Paja Jovanovic. The painting was commissioned at the end of the 19th century (1896) by the Serbian Church, i.e. then Patriarch Georgije Brankovic. This large (5.8 meters x 3.8 meters) composition was kept in the Metropolitanate-Patriarchate in Sremski Karlovci, which was the seat of the Serbian Church (and Metropolitanate of Karlovci) during the Turkish occupation of Kosovo and Metohija. At the beginning of World War II the Ustashe (Croatian Nazi Fascists) cut the painting out of its frame, rolled it up, folded it twice vertically and took it to Zagreb. After the war, thanks to Professor Dr. Radoslav Grujic, then director of the Museum of the Serbian Orthodox Church, at the request of the Serbian Church some of the looted treasures were returned from the territory of the Ustashe Independent State of Croatia and returned to the Serbian Orthodox Church. Among the precious objects retrieved was the painting Seoba Srbalja. This important historical work was then displayed in the National Museum in Belgrade and ultimately to the Patriarch’s residence, i.e. to the conference room where meetings of the Holy Assembly of Bishops are held which is located in the on-site church of St. Simeon the Myrrh-gusher.

The Holy Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church approved the restoration and conservation of this exceptionally valuable work of art in 1996, on the occasion of the 100 year anniversary of its creation. However, priority was given to the protection of church artifacts dislocated as a result of wartime activities. The conservation and restoration of Paja Jovanovic’s Seoba Srbalja was entrusted to Mr. Jovan Pantic, painter and consultant to the National Museum. Mr. Panic has recently done extensive work on the paintings of Paja Jovanovic, especially on the restoration of 12 works that had been stolen from the Museum in Arandjelovac. Considerable time was dedicated to chemical analysis and reproduction in order to preserve the work in its existing state while at the same time better establishing the extent of damage. Every detail, every figure and instance of damage was photographed with over 800 photos taken. All details were documented with a digital camera and then with ultraviolet and infrared photography. The picture was then taken from its location, the mounting (frame) was reinforced, and the canvas stretched and affixed. Upon completion of these preparatory tasks the actual conservation and restoration of the painting began. The work is being conducted under the supervision of the custodian of the Museum of the Serbian Orthodox Church and a committee of the Holy Assembly of Bishops. According to the plan of work the preservation of Seoba Srbalja is expected to be complete by October 2004. Funds for restoration and conservation of the painting have been provided by the Ministry of Culture and Media of the Republic of Serbia.

Slobodan Mileusnic,
Director of the Museum of the Serbian Orthodox Church

The great Serbian realist painter Paja Jovanovic was born in 1859 in Vrsac and died in 1957 in Vienna. He studied in Munich and Vienna, where his professors suggested that he seek inspiration for his paintings in the life of the Balkan peoples. Consequently, he traveled not only throughout the Balkans but also in Italy, Constantinople, Egypt and the Caucus, collecting motifs for group scenes which later resulted in perhaps the best paintings of the Serbian realist school (e.g., Igra sa macevima ( The Fencing Lesson), Guslar( The Pirate), Arnautski dvoboj ( The Albanian Duel), Pricanje o boju na Kosovu ( The Saga of the Battle of Kosovo), Boj petlova ( The Cock Fight) and others). Considered to be among Jovanovic’s greatest creations is the painting Seoba Srba pod Patrijarhom Arsenijem Carnojevic (The Migration of the Serbs under Patriarch Arsenije Carnojevic) commissioned by Serbian Patriarch Georgije Brankovic for the Millennium Exhibition in 1896 in Budapest. Patriarch Arsenije is depicted with a cross in his hand and Vice Duke Monasterlija with an armed company of men. This monumental composition represents “the climax of Serbian historical painting in the 19th century”. Similar in character is the famous Proglasenje Dusanovog carstva (The Coronation of the Emperor Dushan) painted in 1990 for which won first prize at the World’s Fair in Paris in 1900. The same year Paja Jovanovic was elected to the Serbian Academy of Sciences. Even after this recognition Jovanovic dedicated himself to historical themes, painting the masterpiece Sveti Sava miri bracu (St. Sava Reconciles the Brothers) and Sveti Sava krunise Prvovencanog (St. Sava Crowns the First-Crowned) for the Cathedral in Novi Sad (reproductions are in the Cathedral in Sremski Karlovci). In the same group is Spaljivanje mostiju Svetog Save (The Burning of the Relics of St. Sava) done for the Cathedral in Sremski Karlovci, Dusanova zenidba (The Marriage of Dushan) and Takovski ustanak (The Takovo Rebellion). Paja Jovanovic also painted many portraits of the European cultural and political aristocracy.


On Sunday, August 8, 2004 the memorial church dedicated to the Holy Great-martyr Panteleimon was consecrated in Babici in the Diocese of Bihac and Petrovac. Construction of the church began in 1993 with the intent of making it a memorial to the martyrs of Babici and Janje who were murdered by the Ustashe (Croatian Nazi Fascists) during World War II. The church was consecrated by His Grace Bishop Hrizostom of Bihac and Petrovac with the concelebration of the clergy and priest-monks of the Dioceses of Bihac and Petrovac, Osijek Polje and Baranja, and Sumadija. A great number of people attended the formal and historic ceremony of the consecration of the church; after Holy Hierarchal Liturgy was served in the newly consecrated church, Bishop Hrizostom presented acknowledgements (gramata) to those most deserving for the construction of the church, including the parishioners of the parish of Babici, the Church Parish of Babici, Babici parish priest Radoslav Stankovic, and priest Vlatko Golic, who began building the church.


On the feast of the Holy Great-martyr Panteleimon, on August 9, 2004, a requiem service was held in the village of Grmusa near Bihac for everyone killed in this region. The requiem service was held in the abandoned and destroyed church by the abbot of the monastery of Rmnja, Serafim Kuzic, and Protosindjel Sergije Karanovic, the administrator of the parish of Bihac. Some 150 displaced local residents of Grmusa, most of whom now live in Gradiska and Novi Grad, arrived in organized fashion to the service in order to pray for their loved ones in the location where they were killed and show their love for their native region which they have not forgotten.


Thousands of Serbs from throughout Croatia gathered on July 26, 2004 in Gomirje to see His Holiness Serbian Patriarch Pavle, all the Serbian bishops and the ordination of the youngest among them, Gerasim, who at the age of 32 became a bishop in the church at Gomirje where he will be seated as the Bishop of Gornji Karlovac. “For the church this means younger people in its ranks and I will strive through my work to contribute to the dynamics. For me personally it means a lot even though I was also very young, 27 years of age, when I became the abbot of the monastery of Krka in Dalmatia,” says the young Bishop Gerasim.

“It is the first time that the Patriarch has consecrated a Bishop on the territory of Croatia; the tradition has been for the consecration to take place in Belgrade and for the bishop later to be enthroned in the diocese to which he has been elected. If everything had been as it should be, that would have been in Karlovac. But the church there has been destroyed and the Bishop’s residence has been destroyed; thus, my seat is temporarily here at Gomirje.”

What is the current status of the church in Karlovac? It was dynamited several times during the previous war (the Croatian war of secession from the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia). Will the state now begin its restoration?

Recently a meeting was held between the Minister of Culture of the Republic of Croatia, Mr. Biskupic, and our Bishops. They discussed the reconstruction of the church in Karlovac and the (Croatian) Government has set aside some funds so the renewal should begin in September 2004. Both the church and the residence were dynamited and consequently the integrity of the structure has been destroyed. The damage assessment is tremendous. Some of the treasures have been preserved and are currently in a museum in Zagreb so we expect to get those back.

When do you hope to return to Karlovac?

It’s hard to say! We’ll see in the autumn when reconstruction work begins. I believe it will be soon.

Today is the anniversary of Operation Storm, which Croatia is celebrating as “Homeland Thanksgiving Day”. You were in the monastery of Krka until Oluja and you returned to the monastery after it. Did anyone stay in the monastery during the attack?

No one stayed in Krka. Every left. They left with the Serbs to the Serbian part of Bosnia. I was the first to return here in 1998.

What did you find?

Chaos, of course. What else could have be expected. The roofs of the monastery and dormitories were whole and thus the hope remained of starting from the beginning. Everything else, of course, had been looted and destroyed.

Was anything later found?

Nothing! As far as the library is concerned, everything was scattered; we picked up the books and returned them to their shelves because books are valuable. The artifacts that were in the monastery were removed to Belgrade at the beginning of the war and they are in the museum of the Serbian Orthodox Church. We will return them when we can.

During the most recent war there were not a lot of clashes between Serbs and Croats in this area. That’s why there were no problems with the monastery.

Luckily, that’s true. There were provocations here, too, but there was no war and people stayed in their homes. That makes things easier.

Perhaps the mentality of the mountain dwellers and the Dalmatians is another reason?

I have observed a difference. There is certainly a difference in mentality! In Dalmatia people are a little fiercer, presumably because on the barren rocks they are “mad as snakes”. Here they are tamer, and wise people worked on preventing clashes. Someone realized that what was happening could not end well. No war ends well. Reason prevailed.

Are tensions decreasing and relations becoming more normal among the people?

There are still a lot of provocations. Especially when some sort of anniversaries is being celebrated, like today, for example, the Serbs are mostly in their homes. We try not to go out. There are still a lot of these provocations in Dalmatia, Lika and cities that were damaged during this war.

According to the press, recently relations between the Serbian Orthodox Church and the Croatian state have been on the up and up.

I believe that they will get even better. This is just the beginning. We have no other choice; we live together. We have also been living on this territory for centuries. I believe that these relations will continue to improve.

How much of the Serbian Orthodox Church’s property has been returned?

It has been returned in Rijeka and in Zagreb. In Karlovac it has not been returned; there are still a lot of buildings here that have not been returned. In Dalmatia – Krka, Sibenik, Zadar, Split – the Church has a lot of property but nothing has been returned! I believe that it will be and that the law that has already been passed on the restoration of church property will soon be implemented.

Serbs and Croats in the Dalmatian regions have more or less the same mentality.

I have a habit of saying of Dalmatia, which I know quite well and so I can say it, that they are one and the same people. Serbs and Croats in Dalmatia are neither Serbs nor Croats; they are Dalmatians.

Written by Nino Kopac

Source: Vecernje Novosti daily, Belgrade, August 16, 2004

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