May 28, 2005

ERP KiM Newsletter 28-05-05

From the annual Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church


Serbian Orthodox Church

COMMUNIQUE
FROM THE REGULAR SESSION OF THE HOLY ASSEMBLY OF BISHOPS OF
THE SERBIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH HELD IN BELGRADE FROM 15-26 MAY 2005

The regular session of the Holy Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church with His Holiness Serbian Patriarch Pavle presiding was held from May 15 to May 26, 2005 in the restored Zitomislic Monastery in Herzegovina and in Belgrade. All bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church took part in the work of the Assembly.


Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church

This regular session of the Holy Assembly of Bishops began on May 15 in Zitomislic Monastery (Diocese of Zahumlje and Herzegovina), which was completely destroyed during the war in the last decade of the 20th century and has now been completely restored. On the first day of the work of the Assembly, His Holiness Serbian Patriarch Pavle served Holy Hierarchal Liturgy with the concelebration of the bishops in attendance, which included the formal consecration of this restored age old holy shrine in the Neretva River Valley, as well as the formal proclamation (canonization) of the following newly celebrated holy religious martyrs: priest-monks Mihailo, Nestor, Serafim and Jovan; priests Momcilo, Dobroslav, Milan, Jovan, Bozidar, Bogdan, Trifun, Velimir, Bozidar, Marko, Dimitrije, Budimir, Relja, Lazar, Savo, Savo, Milorad, Ratomir, Mihailo, Dusan, Dobrosav, Andrija and Slobodan, who perished for the Orthodox faith during the time of the Second World War; and holy confessor Varnava, Bishop of Hvosno. Their names were added to the diptychs of the saints of the Orthodox Church for the glory of the Name of God and to the joy of the fullness of the Orthodox Church.

From May 16 to May 26 the Assembly convened in Belgrade. The Assembly ascertained with satisfaction that external work on the Memorial Cathedral of St. Sava in Vracar has been successfully completed and called on all philanthropists and donors, old and new, to contribute toward work on its internal arrangement with the same great love demonstrated thus far.

By the same token, the Assembly is grateful to all the faithful of the Serbian Orthodox Church for their devoted response to the appeal of their Mother Church to contribute by their donations to the restoration of Chilandar Monastery on Holy Mt. Athos, which was damaged by fire, as well as toward the survival of the endangered Serbian people in Kosovo and Metohija.

As in earlier years, the Assembly dedicated careful attention to the establishment of unity and the centuries-old canonical order of the Orthodox Church, and the overcoming of all challenges and trials that threaten it. On the same note, the Assembly expressed its deep regret because of the difficulties that have befallen the Mother of all Churches, the holy Patriarchate of Jerusalem, as well as the firm faith that the blessing of the Lord’s Tomb and the power of the Resurrection will result in its resolution in the near future. The Assembly is also prayerfully certain that the wounds of various schisms in the Orthodox world will be healed.

Deeply regretting that the apostatic church hierarchy in the Republic of Macedonia has not been sufficiently responsible and sincere in dialogue to date on the overcoming of schism, and that it has not responded to the multiple invitations of His Holiness the Patriarch to return to the blessed and salvation-bearing unity of the Church, the Assembly was informed of the Patriarch’s confirmation of the election of Metropolitan Jovan of Veles and Povardarje as Archbishop of Ochrid and Metropolitan of Skoplje, the president of the Holy Synod of the autonomous Archdiocese of Ochrid and its Head, followed by the approval of the final text of the Patriarch’s and Assembly’s Tomos on autonomy of the Archdiocese of Ochrid, which will soon be submitted to the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople, as well as to all local Orthodox Churches in the world.

So that the faithful people in Macedonia may understand the full destructiveness of schism and the need for church unity, the Assembly advises that its decision of the Serbian Orthodox Church from 1967 interrupting liturgical and canonical community with the episcopate and clergy in schism will in future also apply to all faithful who, after so many decades of leniency and so many appeals by the Mother Church, remain persistent in schism. At the same time, the Assembly hopes that the most recent letter of His Holiness Serbian Patriarch Pavle to the head of the Church in schism, Archbishop Stefan, written during the period of the Assembly’s session, will bear spiritual fruit.

As part of its concern for the unity and canonical order of the Church, the Assembly also expressed its regret because of the uncanonical actions of certain representatives of our sister Romanian Orthodox Church on the canonical territory of the Serbian Orthodox church and calls on them to refrain from such actions in the future.

In connection with the established different assessments of steps that need to be taken in Kosovo and Metohija with respect to the restoration of destroyed Serbian Orthodox holy shrines, as well as the protection of the local Serbian people and all endangered ethnic communities, the Assembly has decided to withdraw the charges filed by Bishop Artemije of Raska and Prizren with the International Court for Human Rights in Strasbourg against four European countries, and to inform the Serbian public and relevant international factors of its decision. As well, the Assembly has verified the Memorandum of understanding on agreed upon general principles for the restoration of Serbian Orthodox Church sites in Kosovo and Metohija signed on behalf of the Holy Synod of Bishops by His Holiness Serbian Patriarch Pavle, and charged the Holy Synod of Bishops and its Council for Kosovo and Metohija to take care of the implementation of the Memorandum through His Grace Vicar Bishop Teodosije of Lipljan, a member of the Commission for the restoration of holy sites. The Assembly appeals to the Council of Europe, UNESCO, Serbian institutions and all other factors for restoration to begin as soon as possible.

The Assembly condemned the claims to Serbian Orthodox holy shrines in Kosovo and Metohija by Albanian extremists, and called on all those responsible in Serbia and in the world to protect the property of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Kosovo and Metohija. At the same time, it called on all refugees and displaced Serbs from Kosovo and Metohija to return to their homes, and on all responsible international factors to make this return possible. Without the return of refugees, all stories about achieved standards in Kosovo and Metohija represent a lie, cynical deception and extreme hypocrisy.

The Assembly also dedicated considerable attention to issues and prospects for education and schooling of the Serbian Orthodox Church, as well as catechal services in parishes and religious instruction in schools. Decisions were passed that will contribute to the enhancement of both.

The Assembly welcomed the founding of Logos, the first church television station, in the Diocese of Zhicha, and expressed its regret that certain members of the local government in Trstenik are attempting to obstruct its work. The Assembly also decided to entrust the verification of an independently done translation of the Holy Scripture published by the Glas Crkve Publishing House in Valjevo to an expert Commission of the Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church, and to stop its distribution until this is done.

The Assembly further decided to work intensively on improving the text of the Constitution of the Serbian Orthodox Church, and recommended that the autonomous Archdiocese of Ochrid begin drafting a Constitution for its own area of activity.

The Assembly expressed its deep concern because of the appearance of anti-Orthodox and anti-Serb violence in Croatia. It issued a special appeal to the Croatian state and the international community regarding this matter. The members of the Assembly are also concerned by certain extremist incidents in the district of Raska targeting the Serbian people; by its difficulties in Republika Srpska; and, finally, by the constant hysterical media campaign against the Metropolitanate of Montenegro and the Littoral, the Serbian people and the state union of Serbia and Montenegro being carried out in Montenegro.

The Assembly expressed satisfaction with the understanding demonstrated by the state of Serbia for the rights and needs of the Serbian Orthodox Church, and expects the adoption of the Law on restitution on unjustly seized church property, legal regulation of the presence of traditional Churches and religious communities in state media, and other evidence of commitment to the status of the Church n society according to the standards of the democratic countries of Europe as soon as possible. The Assembly furthermore called on the Serbian Government to protect the nature of Mokra Gora, Zlatibor and Tara from ecological threats and dangers to which this uniquely beautiful part of Serbia is exposed.

Finally, the Assembly has decided, due to the growth in spiritual needs and much increased spiritual-educational mission of the Church, to increase the number of members of the Holy Synod of Bishops by two new members. Accordingly, the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church henceforth shall have seven members. In its new composition the Synod is comprised of Serbian Patriarch Pavle, acting as president, and the following bishops: Metropolitan Jovan of Zagreb and Ljubljana, Bishop Vasilije of Zvornik and Tuzla, Bishop Irinej of Backa, Bishop Justin of Timok, Bishop Jovan of Sumadija, and Bishop Joanikije of Budimlje and Niksic.

Serbian text of the Communique:

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