2018 General Assembly of the Conference of European Churches opens in Novi Sad

2018 General Assembly of the Conference of European Churches opens in Novi Sad
2018 General Assembly of the Conference of European Churches opens in Novi Sad
2018 General Assembly of the Conference of European Churches opens in Novi Sad
2018 General Assembly of the Conference of European Churches opens in Novi Sad

At the Master Center in Novi Sad, on 31 May 2018, the General Assembly of the Conference of European Churches (CEC) was opened. His Holiness Irinej, Serbian Patriarch, reminded the present of sufferings of the Serbian people and the Serbian Church in Kosovo and Metohija and asked them to raise their voice in the fight against unjust and  violent takeover of Kosovo and Metohija – the territory of the Republic of Serbia. His Grace Bishop Irinej of Backa pointed out that Serbia and Novi Sad throughout centuries of their existence were and have remained a place of meetings, dialogue and cooperation between Churches, religions, peoples and cultures. – Christian culture is the basis of mutual respect and harmonious common life in Vojvodina, President of the Provincial government Mr. Igor Mirovic said.

Social imbalance in Europe, challenges for the Church, persecution of Christians in Syria and Iraq, freedom of religion and justice for minority and majority communities, evidence of climate change, just share in God's land and its wealth, migration in Europe - topics about which more than 500 participants of the General Assembly of the Conference of European Churches talk in Novi Sad, from May 31 to June 6, 2018 (the official website - www.assembly2018.ceceurope.org ).

After the meeting of the Steering Board of the Conference of European Churches (CEC) and the conclusions of the Pre-Assembly Youth event,  a press conference was held at the Master Center in Novi Sad on 31 May 2018, during which the program of the General Assembly was announced and a message was sent on the significance of the role of Christians while developing positive future for Europe.

Father Heiki Huttunen, Secretary General of the CEC, Bishop Christopher Hill, President of the CEC; Beate Fagerli from the Church of Norway, and on behalf of the host the Serbian Orthodox Church, theologian Danilo Mihajlovic addressed the present at the Congress hall of the Master Center, and mutually expressed the mission of the Church in today’s economical, migration and political circumstances in Europe. Also, they praised the commitment, effort and hospitality of the local team that provided significant support to the organization of this important event.

After the press conference in the Master center, a solemn opening of the General Assembly was held. His Holiness Irinej, Serbian Patriarch Irinej, Metropolitan Porfirije of Zagreb-Ljubljana, Bishop Irinej of Backa, President of the Provincial government Mr. Igor Mirovic, director of the Office for Cooperation with Churches and Religious Communities Mr. Mileta Radojevic and many other personalities from the ecclesial, public and political life of our country and the world attended this event.

Patriarch Irinej in his address expressed his joy because the Assembly takes place within our Church, in the Diocese of Backa, which, as he said, had always given its contribution to and sincerely cooperates in that religious organization. – It is a great honour for our Church, which is a member of the European community of Churches. In the time we live, in which there is much injustice, the Church has a great and distinguished place. This religious body is important for the contemporary world, since the world needs to hear the united voice of the Church and the voice of the God, Patriarch Irinej said.

His Holiness reminded the public of the sufferings of the Serbian people, destruction and demolition of our Orthodox churches, monasteries and cemeteries in Kosovo and Metohija, and called upon the Church dignitaries to raise their voice in the struggle against unjust and violent takeover of the territory of the Republic of Serbia – Kosovo and Metohija.

Welcome address of Bishop Dr. Irinej of Novi Sad and Bačka 

at the opening of the General Assembly of the Conference of European Churches, Novi Sad, May 31, 2018

Your Holiness,

Your Eminence,

Your Excellency,

Your Graces Metropolitans, Archbishops and Bishops,

Fathers, brothers and sisters,

Distinguished participants and guests of the General Assembly of the Conference of European Churches,


I warmly welcome you on behalf of the clergy, monastics and faithful of the Orthodox Diocese of Bachka as well as in my own name.

For the Orthodox Diocese of Bachka, and with it, to the same extent, for the local Churches of Reformation, it is an exceptional honour and pleasure that we have the opportunity to be - to the best of our possibilities, but honestly and brotherly - hosts to all of you who have come from different parts of the ”Old Continent” to discuss various themes relating to the Christian mission in  contemporary Europe. These themes are contained in the message that the Lord Jesus Christ Himself addressed to His Apostles: "You shall be my witnesses" (Acts 1: 8).

This moment is solemn and joyful, among other things, because our country, Serbia, being since times immortal at the threshold between East and West, has been given an opportunity to realize during the work of the General Assembly what it has been her vocation throughout centuries. Serbia and our city, Novi Sad, throughout the centuries of their existence, have been a place of meeting, dialogue and cooperation among Churches, religions, peoples and cultures. Our joy is even greater for the reason that you, representatives of various Christian Churches of Europe, may introduce each other to what is today - as always, the most necessary and most important, and that is the question: how do we, contemporary Christians, witness to the Lord Jesus Christ, the Crucified and the Resurrected?

Dear friends, you who have already been in Serbia and whose faces we watch with joy and love, and you, our new friends, whom we get to know thanks to the words of the Lord who sent you for the first time to Novi Sad, - all of you will during the following days have plenty of opportunities to testify that in Novi Sad, the second largest city in our country, the Serbian Orthodox majority people lives in mutual understanding, respect and spiritual interaction with members of other religious and ethnic communities. There are twenty-five nationalities in this part of Serbia. Therefore, we see ourselves as Europe in the small. In Novi Sad, next to the churches of the Serbian Orthodox Church you will also see churches of the Roman Catholic Church and of the Churches Reformation as well as a great and beautiful synagogue, and our fellow citizens Muslims have a place of worship here too. And that is a part and way of our witnessing to the Lord Jesus. We always have in mind that "God made the world ... made of one blood all nations of man" (Acts 17: 24-26), as the Apostle Paul spoke at Areopagus. Having awareness of this, a true Christian recognizes in every person, regardless of his religion, ethnicity, skin color and social status, the living icon of God, and loves his brother or sister made according to His image.

Welcome to Serbia! Welcome to Novi Sad!

President of the Provincial Government Mr. Igor Mirovic said that it was a great honour that the Conference of European Churches brought the decision that the General Assembly should be held in our country, Vojvodina, Novi Sad, pointing out that Serbia gives significantly institutional support for the functioning Churches and Religious communities. – In our region the Christian culture is dominant, which has been conveyed for centuries, and that is one of the key bounds that connects members of different nations and confessions in Vojvodina and reminds of mutual respect and harmonious common life, the President of the Provincial government said.

Bishop Christopher Hill, president of the CEC, said that with this meeting the importance of holding interconfessional gathering of the European Churches and religious communities was underlined, affirming religious differences and positive social values.

Opening of the General Assembly was high-marked also in the open, in the Centre of Novi Sad, where hundreds of people gathered to hear spiritually strengthening and inspiring words of love and hope. The organizers decided that the bridge should be a symbol of the whole event; hence they put a wooden structure of the bridge on the stage that reminds and calls again and again for constructing new, more stable connections and relationships among the Christian peoples.

During the next three days, themes that will be considered and discussed upon at the General Assembly of the CEC are: Hospitality, Justice and Witness. On Friday, June 1st, 2018, at 10:45, at the Master Centre, the public will be addressed by His Holiness Patriarch Mor Ignatius Aphrem from the Syriac-Jacobite Church, who will explain a term of hospitality as a Christian virtue, and in the light of the current migrant crisis in Europe. On the next day, Lisa Schneider from the Evangelical Church in Baden will held a lecture on justice and how much it is present in Europe and in its institutions ( 2 June, 10:45), and on June 3 after the worship and attendance to liturgies in local churches, in the afternoon, participants of the General Assembly will held a prayerful walk towards the bridge Duga (Rainbow), to the new Zezelj Bridge, as a symbol of peace and building new connections between the Balkans and the rest of Europe.

The meeting of the General Assembly which will be held on 3 June from 14 -16 h, and will emphasize the role of the Church and religious communities in answering to the key challenges in contemporary Europe. The discussions will be aimed at the vision of the future and launching a dialogue between the main speakers and the leadership of the CEC with  an emphasis on inspiration for the future work of the CEC. The main speaker will be Bishop Petra Bose-Huber from the Evangelical Church of Germany.

Source: Diocese of Backa (translated by the Info Service of the SOC)