Consecration of Bishop Teodosije (Sibalic) of Lipljan at Visoki Decani Monastery

Today, more than ever before, Decani is important for the survival of the Serbs both in this region and for those who living abroad all across God's Earth. St. Stefan built part of himself into Decani and breathed some of heaven into the monastery, said Bishop Teodosije after the consecration, emphasizing that "all the sublimity and greatness of episcopal dignity lies in service, in sharing in love the suffering of one's flock and in zeal for the salvation of the souls of God's people entrusted to him".


Bishop Teodosije amidst the bishops and priests in the sanctuary

ERP KIM Info Service
Gracanica, June 22, 2004

In the presence of several hundred faithful from throughout Serbia and Montenegro, Serbian Patriarch Pavle with 17 hierarchs of the Serbian and Greek Orthodox Churches served Holy Hierarchal Liturgy at Visoki Decani Monastery on June 20 (Sunday), consecrating as the new Bishop of Lipljan and auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of Raska and Prizren, Teodosije (Sibalic), Abbot of Decani Monastery.

"I give You this scepter to graze the flock of Christ entrusted to you. May it serve to support and give strength to the obedient; teach the disobedient and unruly, tame them by reprimand and educate them in Jesus Our Lord Christ," Patriarch Pavle exhorted the new Bishop of Lipljan.

In his first sermon after consecration Bishop Teodosije emphasized that "it is the highest honor that the Holy Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church has invoked him to assist his spiritual father in the much-suffering Diocese of Raska-Prizren and Kosovo-Metohija as bishop."

"My entire being is connected to this region, to this people and to its holy shrines. In Kosovo and Metohija all are persecuted, both the people and its centuries-old shrines. In this region there is more sorrow and tears than joy and children's smiles. But at the same time this people, passing through Christ's Golgotha, has been resurrected in Christ. We hope that this time will be no different," said Bishop Teodosije.


First Hierarchal blessing

He called on all his "cohabitants, the honest and honorable people of Metohija and Kosovo" "not to readily depart from their centuries-old homes and renounce the patrimony of their fathers entrusted to them for safekeeping". Bishop Teodosije expressed his special thanks to Italian KFOR, "the good Samaritan" keeping watch over Visoki Decani Monastery around the clock.

"We also wish to thank our neighbors (Kosovo Albanians) with whom we share this piece of land under heaven. This holy shrine and its inhabitants have always served them well. Some returned the favor in kind; others did not. May God grant that some of them exist even today. I believe that there are those who do not condone this evil perpetrated against our holy shrines and people. May God be merciful toward all but, at the same time, may He be just. Yet again I regret with a human heart and especially now with the heart of a Bishop every human tear, every human victim, every drop of blood that has been spilled; every human being who perished, despite being created to live.

"My message to all is this: let us not stop with the evil that tragically transpired and still remains a part of human history. Let us look forward, first at God who is more powerful than every evil for 'God is love.' He calls us to an eternal assembly of togetherness, not to isolation, separatism or autism. Let us all be what this holy shrine has always been - open to all, bearing no hatred toward others, persecuting no one," emphasized Bishop Teodosije.

"Today, more than ever before, Decani Monastery is important for the survival of the Serbs both in this region and for those who living abroad all across God's Earth. St. Stefan built part of himself into Decani and breathed some of heaven into the monastery," said Bishop Teodosije after the consecration, emphasizing that "all the sublimity and greatness of episcopal dignity lies in service, in sharing in love the suffering of one's flock and in zeal for the salvation of the souls of God's people entrusted to him".

Thanks to strong and well organized KFOR escorts Serbs from all parts of Kosovo and Metohija arrived in Visoki Decani, claiming that the atmosphere at the monastery yesterday was especially festive. The buses with the guests from Serbia and Montenegro were additionally escorted by helicopters. In addition to a large number of the faithful, Serbian minister of education and sports Ljiljana Colic, Serbian minister for the emigrant community Vojislav Vukcevic, Return Coalition deputies and members of the Serbian National Council of Kosovo and Metohija Rada Trajkovic and Randjel Nojkic, representatives of KFOR and the international community in Kosovo and Metohija, the monks and clergy of the Archbishopric of Belgrade and Karlovci, the Metropolitanate of Montenegro and the Littoral and the Dioceses of Raska and Prizren, Zahumlje and Herzegovina, and Zica all attended.

Representatives of the U.S., British, French and Italian offices in Pristina also attended Holy Liturgy and the luncheon, as did the commander of Italian and German military forces, general Danilo Errico and his officers. Representing the UNMIK chief was Johannes Regenbrecht, the deputy chief of the UNMIK police section, who with carefully chosen words congratulated the Bishop of Lipljan on his consecration on behalf of the UN Mission. Regional and local UNMIK representatives also attended the ceremony.

The newly consecrated Bishop of Lipljan will perform the duties of an auxiliary (vicar) bishop of the Diocese of Raska-Prizren and Kosovo-Metohija and will be seated in Visoki Decani Monastery where, in addition to his episcopal duties, he will continue serving as Abbot of Decani Monastery.


Patriarch presents a new bishop to the congregation

BISHOP TEODOSIJE'S BIOGRAPHY

The newly consecrated Bishop Teodosije (Theodosios) of Lipljan, was born Zivko Sibalic (1963) in Cacak. Upon completing his elementary and secondary school studies in Gorjani and Uzice, he studied theology at the Theological Faculty in Belgrade, graduating while at Decani Monastery. He began his monastic life in Crna Reka Monastery under the spiritual guidance of then Abbot Artemije (Radosavljevic), now Bishop of Raska-Prizren and Kosovo-Metohija. He took his monastic vows in 1989 and appointed Abbot of Decani three years later upon the restoration of monastic communal life (coenobitism) in the endowment shrine of the Holy King, St. Stefan of Decani. He was elected Bishop of Lipljan and Vicar of the Diocese of Raska and Prizren at this year's May session of the Holy Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church. Bishop Teodosije's see will be at Visoki Decani, currently the largest male monastery of the Serbian Orthodox Church, number 30 monks and novices today.


Election of the Bishop in the church narthex a day before the consecration

LIST OF BISHOP – PARTICIPANTS ON THE CONSACRATION OF BISHOP THEODOSIUS (names in English transcription)

+Archbishop of Pech, Metropolitan of Belgrade and Patriarch of Serbia, Paul
Bishop of Rashka–Prizren and Kosovo–Metochya, Artemius
Bishop of Liplyan, Theodosius
Bishop of Kozani, Ambrosios (Greek Orthodox Church)
Metropolitan of Montenegro and Littoral, Amphilochius
Metropolitan of Veles and exarch of Ochrid, John
Bishop of Nis, Irinaeus
Bishop of Zvornik and Tuzla, Basil
Bishop of Budapest, Lucian
Bishop of Canada, George
Bishop of Bachka, Irinaeus
Bishop of Central Europe, Constantine
Bishop of Vranye, Pachomius
Bishop of Shumadya, John
Bishop of Budimlye and Polimlye, Joanichius
Bishop of Zahumlye and Hercegovina, Gregory
Bishop of Jegar, Porphyrius
Bishop of Velichka, Joachim
Bishop Athanasius, retired of Hercegovina

Archimandrite John bishop–elect of Dioclea
Archimandrite Maximus bishop–elect of Chum


Bishops with the Patriarch solemnly elected Archimandrite Teodosije a Bishop

The Rite of Consecration

By the laying on of their hands on those chosen from among the faithful, the Apostles consecrated bishops, priests and deacons. It is evident from this that the Christian faith is not merely dogma but spiritual power.

Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich

The consecration of a bishop is comprised of three separate rites: the rite of election, of confession and the actual consecration.

Election: Before the Vigil on the eve of the consecration, the hierarchs who are to perform the rite take their places at a table in the middle of the church. From the altar two senior priests lead the candidate to the table. All stand as the protodeacon reads the nomination, to which the candidate responds: "I return thanks, and accept, and say nothing contrary thereto." The hierarchs chant some brief prayers, invoking the Holy Spirit Who was sent down upon the Apostles and empowered them to "catch the universe" with the preaching of the Gospel. After a short litany, the nominee delivers his acceptance speech. He then retires to the altar and the Vigil begins.

Confession: The next morning, after the reading of the Hours, the hierarchs again take their places behind the table, in front of which is a large eagle rug. The senior priest and protodeacon lead the bishop-elect onto the tail of the eagle. He is asked, "How believest thou?" and responds by reciting the Creed. Advancing to the middle of the rug, he expounds on the Creed by reciting a second "confession of faith". Finally, at the top of the rug, he is asked to explain his attitude towards the canons and traditions of the Church. The candidate promises to observe these and likewise "to preserve the peace of the Church and firmly to hold and zealously to teach the people entrusted to me, and not to devise any thing whatsoever which is contrary to the Orthodox Catholic Christian faith of the East all the days of my life....I promise also to do nothing through constraint, whether coerced by powerful persons, or by a multitude of the people....I promise to visit and watch over the flock now confided to me, after the manner of the Apostles...and to inspect with diligence, and to exhort and inhibit, that there be no schisms, superstitions and impious veneration, and that no customs contrary to Christian piety and good morals may injure Christian conduct....And may our God, Who seeth the heart, be the witness to my vow." The bishop-elect then bows down before the assembled hierarchs and kisses their hands as a sign that he is entering their ranks and as a pledge of love and peace with them in Christ. The choir sings "Manyyears", and the bishop-elect goes into the altar, where he stands at the side on an eagle rug, waiting like a bride-to-be, as the Liturgy begins.

Consecration: After the Small Entrance (which represents the coming to earth of the Lord incarnate) and the singing of the Trisagion, the senior priest and protodeacon lead the bishop-elect through the south door onto the ambo to the Royal Doors where he is received by two hierarchs. While the candidate kneels with his head touching the altar table, an open Gospel is placed face down upon his head, as a sign that although he is given authority over all, he himself is under the law and his head is Christ. Holding the Gospel in this way, the bishops pray: " O Lord our God...do Thou make this man...to be an imitator of Thee, the true Shepherd, Who didst lay down Thy life for Thy sheep; to be a leader of the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, a eprover of the unwise, a teacher of the young, a lamp to the world..."

The new bishop is then vested as a hierarch, and when the omophorion-an article unique to the episcopal office- is placed upon his shoulders, the clergy followed by the people shout thrice, "Axios!" ("worthy"), indicating their assent to the implied question: "Is he, in truth, worthy of this ministry?"

At the end of the Liturgy, the Chief Bishop gives a word of instruction to the new bishop and hands him his pastoral staff. The new bishop blesses the congregation with both hands as the choir sings, "Eis pollá éti Déspota" (Many years, O Master).


Bishop Teodosije during his inaugurational sermon

SERMON OF BISHOP TEODOSIJE

Your Holiness, Your Eminences, brother Hierarchs, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters,

May the Lord celebrated in Three Persons be blessed: the pre-eternal Father, His consubstantial Son and the consoling Holy Spirit. May His name be blessed, may His providence be blessed, may His love be blessed.

I begin these words of my address by blessing the living and true Lord because the most important thing of all is precisely this: that we always call upon the Lord in our prayers, that we always thank the Lord for all He gives us and that we begin all we do in this life with the Lord.

I thank the Lord, first of all, for creating me and giving me being in His pre-eternal providence; for giving me life and especially, for initiating me in a new life - in His Church - Holy, Apostolic and Orthodox.

Today I have even more reason to bless and thank the Lord that Your Holiness and the Fathers of the Church, who are Christ's desciples and the heirs of the Apostles, have initiated me in the blessing and service of the bishop's office.

This is the blessing and service of Christ the Lord Himself who is, in the words of the holy Apostle, "the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls" (1 Peter 2:25). He is the Pastor and Archpastor of His Holy Church; consequently, through the Holy Assembly of Bishops and your divinely blessed hands, brother Hierarchs, He has also initiated me into office, initiated me into the blessing and service of the protopastors of His Church.

To be a bishop of the Church of Christ means first and foremost to be a servant - "even as the Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28); to serve God Almighty and those close by in whom Christ himself lives and resides, especially in "the least of these my brethren" (Matthew 25:40) to whom He promised His Heavenly Kingdom.
 
In this transient, earthly life, we have nothing higher than pastoral service for it is dedicated to the greatest and highest act, which is the salvation of human souls. A true pastor, a true bishop of God's Church must take care of the flock entrusted him by "the great shepherd" (Hebrews 13:20) Jesus Our Lord Christ and do so for every soul individually.

The Lord speaks to us and calls on us through his prophet Ezekiel: I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will make them lie down... I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the crippled, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will watch over; I will feed them in justice. (Ezekiel 34:15-16).

All the sublimity and greatness of episcopal dignity lies precisely in service. A true bishop must share daily in love the suffering of one's flock and to burn continuously with holy zeal for the salvation of the souls of God's people entrusted to him; to strive continuously toward their spiritual renewal so that all may achieve spiritual perfection – "to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:13).


Bishop Ambrose of Kozani (Greece) offers a gift in the name of the Archbishop
of Athens and the Greek Orthodox Church

Thus I am well aware, Your Holiness and brother Hierarchs, that the Lord has also called me, as He once called his His Patriarchs, His Prophets, His Apostles and His Bishops to the cross, that he has invited me on the path to Golgotha. But I also know that this is the only path that leads to resurrection, and that only by the Cross can we triumph over all that obstructs our eternal life. Hence I now need more than ever before your prayers and your paternal advice without which I would not be able to carry this burden and all the responsibilities you have entrusted to me. I do not rely so much on my own strength as on the help of the Lord and your holy prayers.

I am immeasurably grateful to the Lord that I belong to the people in which I was born, in which I was baptized and in which I was consecrated today. The Serbian people, like every other people, is a people of God; a people that has followed and is following Christ's path. I am happy that the Lord has given me the opportunity of serving him in this high office as our holy forefathers served Him; our Holy Fathers, from Sts. Cyril and Methodius to St. Sava and the other saints to the Holy King and patron of this holy family in whose holy shrine I, unworthy and the least among the servants of Christ, accepted this pledge to the Holy Spirit.

This is yet another important reason for my giving thanks to God; that it is in this very holy monastery, the endowment of a king and martyr, Visoki Decani, that I experienced this greatest of blessings. Today, more than ever before, Decani is important for the survival of the Serbs both in this region and for those who living abroad all across God's Earth. St. Stefan built part of himself into Decani and breathed some of heaven into the monastery. For that reason it still stands today, firmly resolute and resistant to every earthly catastrophe and leading us to the heavens and prototype Christ, making us blessedly unsusceptible to all dangers that surround us.

I am aware of the sort of time in which I have become a bishop; I am also aware under what circumstances; I am aware of all the difficulties and dangers that await me. But I am not alone and we are not alone. "Lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age" (Matthew 28:20) said Christ the Lord and sent the Holy Spirit to console us and that act continues to the present day. The Lord's is the presence, the Lord's is the act, from the Lord comes every success. And in this all we are but associates of the Lord, as our Holy Patriarch, who is present here with us, frequently says.

Thank you, Your Holiness; thank you, Hierarchal Fathers. Thank you for once again confirming that your heart and your soul is right here in Kosovo and Metohija. By your arrival, your sacrifice, your endless love you have confirmed your choice and given us an example so that we today may serve in this place to death and blood; that we may survive together with our much-suffering and much-persecuted people in this region.


Bishop Teodosije

Thanks to my honorable and modest parents, my father Milan and mother Biljana - now Sister Marta, a nun - for bearing me and educating me in modesty and honest. I thank God for my mother, who not only physically gave birth to me but spiritually directed me to strive and to serve the Living Lord with all my being; who is today made happiest of all by this distinct honor. She is here with us today as nun, having offered to the Lord all that she had and ultimately herself, seeing only the Lord who promised that "to such belongs the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 19:14).

Thanks also to all my teachers who taught me to fear God and led me toward this path; first and foremost, Father Dmitar, the parish priest of the church in Pozega, who was my first religious instructor, receiving me and teaching me the alphabet of spiritual and church life. I am endlessly grateful to the Lord for directing me to the Theological Faculty at the right time, where I met the greatest theologians and teachers of our Church among my fathers and professors, who are also present here today. They breathed the spirit of theology into me in the best possible fashion and taught me that the Church of God is a Living Church and that only through it and in it can we gain salvation; that only through the Divine Liturgy is the ultimate purpose of life revealed, both here on earth and in eternity; that only with faith can one truly leave and reaffirm one's faith by action.

I also thank His Holiness, Our Patriarch Pavle, then Bishop of Raska and Prizren, for his fatherly understanding of my decision to dedicate myself to the monastic calling and to be a monk in his diocese; who tonsured me in the small but for me very important Crna Reka Monastery, which later became a monastic center for this entire Diocese; who ordained me to the first level of the priesthood, elevating me the office of deacon in the Cathedral of St. George the Great-martyr in Prizren, which today lies in ruins at the hands of the enemy and where services are no longer held.

And the greatest thanks of all I give to my spiritual father and bishop, Artemije, who has been everything in my life: my parent, my teacher, my spiritual leader on the narrow and hard path of Christ (cit. Matthew 7:14); who carefully and patiently led me through the states of spiritual life - from novice to monk to the office of abbot to the present day when I received the greatest blessing here on earth - the blessing of the bishop's service. In addition to all the great and sublime things in which he has instructed me above all I stress that he has taught and built me on the foundation of the paternal blessing of the holy elder Avva Justin of Celije; that he has taught me how to truly serve the Lord with all my being, calmly and completely submitting to His Holy Will.

With full confidence he initiated me, then young and inexperienced in all things, to the abbot's office of this holy family at the same time never leaving me alone without his help and protection. His blessing always accompanied and protected me, especially during these most recent and most difficult times through which we all passed and still are passing on the way to Christ's Golgotha, suffering and confronted with dangers every day. He entrusted me with the brotherhood with whom I began my endeavors and life in this holy family, which through his prayers has increased into a richly bearing fruit whose branches today are visited by many who feed on its sweet spiritual fruits.

To my Decani brothers who are closest and dearest to me, thanks for everything for I feel that without them I would not exist either today in this holy place. I beseech their forgiveness at this time if I have ever harmed them or failed to understand or accept them in the proper fashion and I pray to the Lord and to the Holy King that protect us all in unity, harmony and steadfastness to the end of our earthly endeavor.


O Lord come and see from the heavens and visit Thy vineyard....

And to the Holy King, the founder of this Holy Family, I give the greatest thanks in my own name and the name of all the brotherhood; first and foremost, for selecting and calling upon us to serve him, for protecting and preserving us through days of hardship and difficulty, for giving us hope and joy, and leading us toward the eternal heavenly goal - the Kingdom of Heaven.

I have been called upon by the Holy Assembly of the Serbian Orthodox Church to help my spiritual father as bishop in the region of the much-suffering Diocese of Raska-Prizren and Kosovo-Metohija. This is the highest honor I could have received  for my entire being is connected to this region, to this people and to its holy shrines. In Kosovo and Metohija all are persecuted, both the people and its centuries-old shrines. In this region there is more sorrow and tears than joy and children's smiles. But at the same time this people, passing through Christ's Golgotha, has been resurrected in Christ. We hope that this time will be no different.

That is why this is a holy land; this is the Serbian Jerusalem consecrated by God's name, following the path of God, living for the sake of God and service to God to the point of sacrifice and suffering for Him. At this time and from this place I call on all my cohabitants, the honest and honorable people of Metohija and Kosovo not to yield nor to wander from their path toward the eternal goal, toward eternal life. The Lord who called on us to take this path will protect us and save us when it is necessary but we must always remain near Him, believe in Him and place our hope in Him. Therefore, let us not readily depart from our centuries-old homes and renounce the patrimony of our fathers entrusted to us for safekeeping.

At this sublime moment, I think not only of those who live upon the earth but also those who dwell in the heavens, who have left this earthly life; those who passed quietly from this life and those who were forcibly sent from it - victims of murder, slaughter, torture. I think of Father Gavrilo (Gabriel) - archdeacon, our brother; I think of Monk Hariton (Chariton), also our brother; and also of Hieromonk Stefan; and the slain children from Gorazdevac near Pec; and the recently slain Dimitrije (Popovic) from Gracanica. All of them were tortured and killed for Christ and for their Serbian name. By their innocent blood the Lord redeems the Serbian nation from all its misconceptions, wanderings and mistakes throughout history to the present day.

I would feel very insincere if I did not mention here before you "the good Samaritan" embodied in Italian KFOR, who keeps watch over us around the clock and care for us and without whose protection and assistance we could not survive here today. We have nothing with which to repay this great debt except our prayers to the Holy King that all the kindnesses they have brought to his holy shrine be returned in kind.

We also wish to thank our neighbors [Kosovo Albanians] with whom we share this piece of land under heaven. This holy shrine and its inhabitants have always served them well. Some returned the favor in kind; others did not. May God grant that some of them exist even today. I believe that there are those who do not condone this evil perpetrated against our holy shrines and people. May God be merciful toward all but, at the same time, may He be just.

Yet again I regret with a human heart and especially now with the heart of a bishop every human tear, every human victim, every drop of blood that has been spilled; every human being who perished, despite being created to live. That is why my message to all is this: let us not stop with the evil that tragically transpired and still remains a part of human history. Let us look forward, first at God who is more powerful than every evil "for God is love" (1 John 4:8). He calls us to an eternal assembly of togetherness, not to isolation, separatism or autism. He has given us an open heart, bigger than the universe, broader than the cosmos. And thus let us all be what this holy shrine has always been - open to all, bearing no hatred toward others, persecuting no one.

To your love, to all the present bishops, brothers and sisters, especially those who have come from afar; representatives of the state and administration to whom these doors have always remained open in the hope that their hearts would also remain open to this much-suffering people; begging from all your forgiveness and prayers, I wish every blessing from the Lord, the blessing of the Holy Spirit - and glory, honor and adoration to Our Lord, together with His Father and the Holy Spirit, now and forever, and unto ages of ages. Amen!

(Translation by Snezana De Berthet)

MONASTERIES OF OUR DIOCESE
full frameset

/ Decani / Gracanica / Sopocani / Pecka Patrijarsija /
/ Crna Reka / Devic / Sv. Vraci / Sv. Arhangeli /
/ Sv. Trojica / Sokolica / Gorioc / Binac /
/Draganac / Djurdjevi StupoviDuboki Potok / Koncul

Banjska / Dolac / Budisavci / St. Mark / Korisa
Hvostanska / Ubozac
/ Kmetovci / St. Uros


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