The assembly of bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church took place May 9-18, 2019, at Žiča monastery, then in Belgrade. We publish here our translation of the official press release.

Communiqué of the Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church
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“This year, the Ordinary Session of the Holy Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church started on May 9 at Žiča Monastery. This monastery was the first headquarters of the Serbian autocephalous Church, and this year, we celebrate the 800th anniversary of this autocephaly, the full ecclesial independence, a great gift from God and a great work of St. Sava.

After the Divine Liturgy celebrated by the bishops of the Assembly, and the invocation of the Holy Spirit in the church of Žiča monastery, the first sessions of the Assembly took place at the monastery, on May 9-10. Then the Assembly continued its work at the Patriarchal Palace in Belgrade from May 11 until the closing of this year’s session. All the diocesan bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church took part in the work, with the exception of bishop Luka of Western Europe.

At the beginning of the first session of the Assembly, His Beatitude the Patriarch addressed the Bishops present, according to established practice. In this opening address, he highlighted the essential elements of the life and mission of the Serbian Orthodox Church in the contemporary world, a world full of great spiritual challenges and tests, but also of open opportunities for the spiritual renewal of our people.

From the beginning of its work, the Assembly devoted special attention to the liturgical celebration and the commemoration of a great jubilee, namely the eight hundredth anniversary of obtaining the autocephalous status of our Church (1219-2019) , both in the whole Church at Žiča Monastery and in Belgrade in October, as well as in all its dioceses. It is worth mentioning that the commemoration will be continued throughout the year 2020. It is also decided, that same year, to liturgically and solemnly commemorate another important jubilee, the centennial of the unification of the churches of the region in a single Serbian Orthodox Church, and the reestablishment of its autocephalous patriarchate status.

At the invitation of the Assembly, the Patriarchate received the visit of Aleksandar Vučić, the President of the Republic of Serbia and Milorad Dodik, the President of Bosnia and Herzegovina. After the meeting, in the solemn hall of the Patriarchate, the Assembly listened with due attention to the presentations by the two Serb leaders on the situation and problems of our people in Serbia and in the Serbian Republic of Bosnia, and more broadly, on the efforts and unequal struggle with the potentates for the preservation of Kosovo and Metohija within Serbia, and on the support ad the overall assistance of the Serbian State to our people, so that they can survive on the holiest Serb land, Kosovo and Metohija. At the same time, there has been talk of fraternal cooperation between State bodies, educational and cultural institutions, and all other holders of public responsibility in Serbia and in the Republic of Serbia, for the good of our people on both sides of the Drina, and for their prosperity in general, wherever they live.

During the Assembly was also held the session of the central institution in charge of the completion of the Saint Sava Memorial Church in Belgrade. The group presented a report on all the work accomplished so far, with the important help of the State and the gifts of pious people, including the laying of mosaics by Russian artists, and the announcement of the great solemn consecration of the church next year.

As is the case every year, the Assembly focused on ecclesiastical education, as well as on the creation of good conditions for the normal functioning of the Patriarchal Library, the Museum, and the Archives of the Serbian Orthodox Church. Archpriest Jovan Milanović is elected as the new rector ad interim of the Saint Arsenius Seminary in Sremski Karlovci. The cooperation of the Church with the competent bodies in Serbia was also discussed, in view of the revitalization of Sremski Karlovci and the creation of conditions conducive to its new role (actually ancient) as an important spiritual, cultural, and educational “hive” for the Serbian people.

The date of the feast of St. Paisius, the Patriarch of Peć is changed: instead of October 2/15, his commemoration is set for October 3/16, on the basis of the annotation recently found on his holy relics.

The activity of various schismatics and cult members was sadly noted.

The reports on the work of the Holy Synod and of the diocesan bishops were heard and analyzed, as well as on the Čovekoljublje charitable foundation, and other foundations for the service of the Serbian Orthodox Church.

A change in the boundaries of some dioceses has been made. Thus, a number of parishes in the diocese of Banja Luka are now part of the diocese of Bihać-Petrovac, and parishes in the diocese of Zvornik-Tuzla are now in the diocese of Dabar-Bosna.

The Assembly unanimously conferred the order of Saint Sava of the first degree on Dr. Demetrios (Trakatellis), until recently Archbishop of America in the jurisdiction of the Constantinople Patriarchate, for his charitable actions in favor of the dioceses of our Church in America.

The situation of our Church in the region was also examined, namely in the States that emerged from the dissolution of former Yugoslavia. It has been found that animosity and discrimination against our Church are present almost everywhere, to a greater or lesser extent: in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia, and particularly in Montenegro, where the anti-European and anti-civ aw bill on churches and religious communities was recently confirmed. By this bill, the dioceses of Montenegro and of the Littoral, and Budimlja-Nikšić are particularly and intentionally discriminated. They even intend to seize the holy churches and proclaim them as state property (!).

Such decisions suppress the inalienable right of citizens to religious freedom and freedom of conscience, and constitute a direct interference in the internal affairs of the Church.

There are violent attempts to seize holy places in favor of the “Montenegrin Orthodox Church” [a schismatic group], which is non-existent both in the canons and in reality. They also threaten to destroy some religious buildings (the church on Mount Rumija and the Baptistery of Prevlaka). Fortunately everywhere, in Montenegro, Croatia and elsewhere, there are individuals, communities, and organizations that fight for justice and freedom for all.

The situation of our autonomous Archdiocese of Ohrid in North Macedonia is difficult. If there is no direct persecution against Archbishop Jovan, the bishops, clerics, monks and faithful of this Church for now, they have the sword of Damocles for further legal proceedings permanently hanging over their heads. In spite of this, our Church has been going on encouraging the dialogue with the Church of this country which has been in schism for decades already, and the resolution of the problem on an authentically canonical basis.

Bishop Maxim of Western America expressed regret for his rash and inappropriate statements in an interview, that St Sava obtained autocephaly from the Serbian Church in an uncanonical way. These remarks scandalized many people. Bishop Maxim declared before the Assembly that he accepted that St Sava acted in an irreproachable way, according to the holy canons, on the occasion of obtaining the autocephaly. The bishop asked for and obtained forgiveness from the Assembly.

With regard to the attitude of the public concerning the compulsory vaccination of children, the Assembly considers that it is necessary to respect the scientific motives of medicine, but also the fears of the parents.

The biggest problem of the Orthodox Church today is the ecclesial schism in Ukraine, and the Constantinople Patriarchate’s failure in their attempt to resolve this problem hastily, in their own way, without dialogue with the canonical Church in Ukraine and with the Russian Orthodox Church as a whole, and without any pan-Orthodox consultation. Thus, the Assembly maintains its current position: our Church does not recognize the newly established para-ecclesial structure in Ukraine, led by the citizens Denisenko and Dumenko, but it is solely and exclusively in liturgical and canonical communion with the canonical Orthodox Church of Ukraine, headed by His Beatitude Metropolitan Onufriy, as well as with all other canonical Orthodox Churches.

Again and again, the Assembly expresses its consternation and bitterness about the anti-canonical intrusions of bishops and priests of the Romanian Orthodox Church in the dioceses of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Eastern Serbia.

The relationships with the Roman Catholic Church and with the Reform Churches in Serbia, as well as with the Islamic Community of Serbia, are traditionally good and correct, which unfortunately cannot be said of relationships with certain circles of the Roman Catholic Church in Croatia, and with the Islamic Community in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The Holy Synod, in its new composition, is made up of Metropolitan Hrizostom of Dabar-Bosna, and Bishops Irinej of Bačka, Jovan of Šumadija, and David of Kruševac.

Communiqué issued by the spokesperson of the Serbian Orthodox Church: Bishop Irinej of Bačka”.

Source in Serbian

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About the Author

Emma Cazabonne

Emma Cazabonne

Beside an anthology on Cistercian texts, Emma Cazabonne has translated and published articles on Cistercian spirituality, the Middle Ages, and Orthodoxy. She converted to Orthodoxy in 2008. Her husband is an Orthodox priest. If you are interested in having your book translated into French, she can be contacted here https://wordsandpeace.com/contact-me/

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