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!