Public communique of the Holy Hierarchical Assembly of the Serbian Orthodox Church

Communique from the second regular session of the Holy Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church, held in Belgrade November 11-15, 2008.

With the blessings of His Holiness Patriarch Pavle of Serbia and under the presidency of His Eminence Metropolitan Amphilohije of Montenegro and the Coastlands who, in accordance with Article 62 of the Constitution of the Serbian Orthodox Church took the place of His Holiness, who was absent for health reasons, the second regular Assembly of the Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church took place November 11 through 15, 2008 at the Patriarchate in Belgrade.

Participating in the work of the Assembly were all the diocesan hierarchs of the Serbian Orthodox Church in the homeland and from abroad, as well as His Beatitude Archbishop of Ochrid and Metropolitan of Skopje Jovan with the hierarchs of the Autonomous Archdiocese of Ochrid.

Confronted with the great spiritual challenges of our time, the Assembly dealt with vital questions of the life, organization and mission of the Serbian Orthodox Church.

In addition to a number of current issues, the Assembly gave particular attention to his Holiness Serbian Patriarch Pavle's request of October 8, 2008, to be relieved of active service for reasons of health and physical infirmity. Despite the reasons stated in his request, the Assembly beseeched His Holiness to remain at the helm of the Serbian Orthodox Church.

Very serious attention was given to church and school education, and to school and parochial catechism classes for children and adults, both in the country and the Diaspora.

The Assembly, responsibly and analytically, considered the difficult situation in Kosovo and Metohija, as well as the accumulated problems in the Diocesan life of Ras and Prizren, showing concern for the church's faithful people and the holy sites in Kosovo and Metohija.

The Assembly fathers with great care and supervision resolved all disagreements regarding the reconstruction of all holy sites in Kosovo and Metohija. They asked Bishop Artemije of Ras and Prizren to receive them as soon as possible and return them to use. At the same time, the fathers of the Holy Assembly of Bishops confirmed the earlier decisions of Holy Synod related to the administration and brotherhood Visoki Decani Monastery, respecting the canonical jurisdiction of Bishop Artemije.

Special attention was given to the situation and serious problems occurring in the Archdiocese of Ohrid, as well as all of our dioceses in the countries on the territory of the former Yugoslavia. The Assembly appeals once again to the ruling government of the Republic of Macedonia that they cease the persecution of His Beatitude Archbishop of Ohrid and Metropolitan of Skoplje Jovan, and to abolish restrictions and other unlawful measures against the autonomous Ohrid Archdiocese.

Amending the 2002 Nis Agreement, the Holy Assembly of Bishops decided: To accept, in principle, the proposal on the manner of participation of the Hierarchs from the Autonomous Archdiocese of Ohrid in the work of the Holy Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church.

The Assembly fathers discussed questions regarding church life in Montenegro, Croatia, and Bosnia and Hercegovina, once again appealing to the respective governments that the basic religious and property rights of members of the Serbian Orthodox Church not be endangered.

Relations and cooperation with the local Orthodox Churches were the subject of further attention and care by the Assembly, as well as relations and dialog with other churches and religious communities. The Assembly respectfully listened to the report and message from the recent gathering of Primates from all Orthodox Churches, held in the Phanar from October 10 through 12, 2008.

The Holy Assembly of Bishops was astonished by the behavior of certain media sources, electronic and written, with respect to the aforementioned petition of His Holiness Patriarch Pavle of Serbia.

The Assembly thanks those media sources that have objectively informed the public of their work.

To the fullness of the Serbian Orthodox Church and to all people of good will, the Holy Assembly sends a message of peace and love.