Information Service of
the Serbian Orthodox Church

September 6, 2004


His Holiness Serbian Patriarch Pavle and all the bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church addressed a letter today to His Holiness Patriarch Alexey II of Moscow and All-Russia stating the following:

We, the hierarchs of the Serbian Orthodox Church, gathered today for the regular session of the Holy Assembly of Bishops during the course of our first meeting conducted a pomen (requiem) service for the souls of the children and other innocent victims of the most recent crime by terrorists in Ossetia.

We wish to express our sincere and deep condolences to you, Your Holiness, and through you to the families of the victims, the entire holy Russian Orthodox Church, the brotherly Russian people with whom we share a common faith, and all peoples and citizens of Russia. We pray to the Lord that He may receive the victims in the Kingdom of Heaven and condemn with horror this unprecedented crime against children. Our Church and our people are themselves the victims of terror, especially in Kosovo and Metohija, and thus our own experience inspires us with empathetic understanding of the tragedy of your spiritual children and your compatriots.


This year’s regular autumn session of the Holy Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church began today in the Patriarch’s residence in Belgrade with the evocation of the Holy Spirit.

All hierarchs of the Serbian Orthodox Church will participate in the work of the session. Upon its conclusion a public communique will be issued.


A Theological Symposium sponsored by His Grace Bishop Ignjatije of Branicevo will take place from September 24-27, 2004 in Pozarevac in the Diocese of Branicevo on the occasion of the anniversary of ten years of service by Bishop Ignjatije.

Schedule of presentations:

Friday, September 24, 2004 at 7:00 p.m. in Belgrade, Faculty of Theology of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Mije Kovacevica Street number 11b;

Saturday, September 25, 2004 in Pozarevac Cathedral, Hajduk Veljkova Street number 2
11:00 a.m. – Protopresbyter-Stavrophor Dr. Radomir Milosevic from Smederevo and Professor Stavros Jagazoglu, Athens
5:30 p.m. – His Eminence Metropolitan Joannis (Zizioulas) of Pergamum;

Sunday, September 26, 2004 in Pozarevac Cathedral, Hajduk Veljkova Street number 2
9:00 a.m. – Holy Hierarchal Liturgy.

Dr. Ignjatije (Midic), Bishop of Branicevo and professor of dogmatics and ethnics at the Theological Faculty of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Belgrade, belongs among the most eminent Orthodox theologians and thinkers of the younger generation. His essays, articles, commentary, studies, participation in theological-scientific conferences, lectures, sermons and interviews in the press have attracted considerable attention for some time. In Bishop Ignjatije the Orthodox Church has a gained a true Father and Teacher, a learned and original Orthodox theologian whose words and thoughts have the power of enlightenment.

Bishop Ignatije (Christian name at birth Dobrivoje) was born on October 17, 1954 in Knez Selo near Nis. After completing elementary school in the village of his birth, he enrolled in St. Sava Seminary in Belgrade in 1969 and graduated in 1974 with excellent marks. He continued his theological studies in 1976 at the Faculty of Theology of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Belgrade and completed them in 1980. Already during the course of his studies he demonstrated an exceptional gift for theology, intellectual courage and curiosity, a critical spirit, sharpness of intellect, a gift for anticipating true and essential questions – all that is necessary for a good theologian and scholar. Even at that time he did not resign himself with ideocratic and dogmatic thinking or “scholastic” and “academic” theology and complacent thinking. In addition to theology he also studied philosophy, logic, history, literature, fine arts… With the blessing of Bishop Irinej of Nis and the recommendation of the Holy Assembly of Bishops in 1981 he commenced postgraduate and doctoral studies in systematic theology at the Theological Faculty in Athens. His meeting with Orthodox theology and the people of Greece, with the spiritual and existential experience of the Holy Mountain (Mt. Athos), which he visited frequently during his studies, changed his life in many respects. There, he experienced the totality of the ecumenical dimension of Orthodox theology, all the depth, breadth and beauty of Orthodoxy. This new environment served to strengthen even more his love toward Christ, which had begun to develop from his birth thanks to his parents, especially his mother; and his love toward monastic life and Orthodox theology.

In Greece his primary teachers became the Holy Fathers. During the course of his stay there he studied their works night and day. He became familiar with them, speaking with them and asking questions, following the “paths of the Fathers” and immersing himself in their way of thinking and life. His greatest love and attention were drawn to St. John the Theologian, the Apostle Paul, St. Ignatios the God-Bearer, whose name he took with his monastic vows, the Cappadocian Fathers, St. Athanasios the Great, St. Gregory Palamas and especially St. Maximos the Confessor. Among the contemporary theologians he studied especially the works of George Florovsky, Bishop Atanasije (Jevtic) of Zahumlje and Herzegovina, Metropolitan Joannis (Zizioulas) of Pergamum and others. Today all of them speak through him in an exceptionally beautiful way. Nevertheless, the theology of St. Maxim and the theology of Metropolitan Jovan (Ziziulas) left the deepest impressions upon him. He considers his meeting and friendship with Jovan Ziziulas in and of itself a gift of God.

In addition to theology, at the University of Athens he also studied Byzantine literature and classical philosophy, as well as the works of the modern existentialists (primarily Jean-Paul Sartre) and personalists. He was also attracted by modern physics, especially the works of Einstein and Heisenberg, as well as modern Roman Catholic, Protestant and Anglican theologians, especially Pannenberg and Torrance. He has always believed that theology cannot ignore other knowledge and sciences, and vice versa. Theology for him has always been and remains a catholic form of knowledge with meaning and validity for all. He understands it as a comprehensive vision of God, the world and life, and not as partial, “specialized” knowledge, or as one among many sciences.

During the course of doctoral studies in Greece and later to today he has especially concerned himself with the problem of ecclesiology, certainly within the context of triadology, Christology, pneumatology and eschatology. The issue of the Church for him is not a scientific or academic question but primarily an issue of life or death. The church manner of existence is a type of human existence by means of which death is transcended. That is why he always talks about Church and Liturgy, which for him are almost synonymous terms. As the topic of his doctoral dissertation he chose “Tajna Crkve — Sistematsko-erminevticki pristup tajni Crkve po Svetom Maksimu Ispovedniku” (The sacrament of the Church – The systematic-hermeutic approach to the sacrament of the Church according to St. Maximos the Confessor”), which he successfully defended in 1987 at the University of Athens. This work attracted great attention in Greek theological circles, eliciting both polemics and differing opinions, which attests to the significance of his dissertation. Unfortunately, at this time it has not been translated into the Serbian language.

After completing doctoral studies and defending his dissertation Bishop Ignjatije returned to his homeland in 1988 and was almost immediately appointed an assistant professor at the Faculty of Theology in Belgrade. He first taught ethics and later, after the death of Professor Stojan Gosevic, also dogmatics. He took monastic vows in 1991 and the same year was ordained hierodeacon and later hieromonk. In the meanwhile, he spent two periods of six months each in Germany for specialized studies in eschatological theology. The Holy Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church appointed him the representative of the Serbian Church in the Inter-Orthodox Preparatory Commission for the Great Council. He immediately began to take part in numerous domestic and international scientific and theological symposiums and public tribunals. He was also elected a member of the editorial board of the Serbian language theological periodical “Teoloski pogledi” (Theological Views). He began to work with and publish his works in numerous domestic and foreign professional publications.

Although very young Fr. Ignjatije was elected Bishop of Branicevo in 1994 at the regular session of the Holy Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church. His appointment as bishop was a great and joyful event for our local Church, especially for the Diocese of Branicevo. The Patriarchate of Constantinople and the Greek Church welcomed His vestment as an archpastor of Christ’s Church with joy and confirmed this by the presence of their representatives at his consecration ceremony.

Many priests, monks and nuns and Orthodox faithful from the Diocese of Branicevo say that with his arrival “something new is happening”. They feel that he is “first” only in service, that he dedicates his entire being to them, and that his only goal is to build God’s Church as a living liturgical community and the Body of Christ. They see in him a Father and Teacher of the Church in the full and true meaning of those words.

On this occasion the Information and Publishing Service of the Serbian Orthodox Church and all contributors to the Internet site www.spc.yu wish to congratulate Bishop Ignjatije of Branicevo on the ten-year anniversary of his archpastoral service.

Mnogaya Lyeta - Eis Polla Eti (Many years - Ad multos annos)


The following interview with His Grace Bishop Grigorije of Zahumlje and Herzegovina took place with Mirjana Radetic of the Belgrade daily “Vecernje Novosti” and was published in the paper on September 6, 2004:

“Apparently parrot-like stories of how the Church is overstepping its mandate and getting to involved in state affairs are not foreign to any regime. In response to these stories, of which we are all already sick and tired, I would say just the opposite is true: the state is meddling far more in the decisions the Church makes than the Church is interfering in state affairs.”

These are the words with which His Grace Bishop Grigorije of Zahumlje and Herzegovina comments on individual attacks on the Serbian Orthodox Church allegedly provoked by the reaction of official representatives of the Serbian Orthodox Church to concrete developments in society. According to the Bishop, it is as if we have not yet overcome the psychology according to which the Church should stick to censing and keep its opinion on state affairs to itself. If there is anyone who best aware of the suffering of the people and who shares in that suffering with the people, says the Bishop, then that is the people’s Church.


“Quite a bit of dust has been raised after the Patriarch sent a letter to the highest officials of the state union with regard to the selection of the state anthem,” says this member of the Holy Assembly of Bishops. “What does the Church have to do with the anthem? Why did the Patriarch wait until the last moment? These were typical reactions but no one wanted to see the essence of the problem. The problem was that the anthem issue had become extremely unpleasant. There was no one in the government who would finally stop it and say: Ladies and gentlemen, what you are doing is not correct and does not lend to the honor of our country.

“The Patriarch was watching and enduring all this, just as every sensible person was enduring it, and when he saw it was leading nowhere, he gave his opinion without any pretensions that it had to be acknowledged. The Patriarch does not have an army or a police force that would enable him to implement his thoughts in deed nor does he need them. However, a democratic state should not be bothered by the opinion of the Church given with the best of intentions. If someone says to us: It is not your business to talk about the anthem or to discuss Kosovo or any other deed on our part that means we are not free. Because if you have a state telling you something like that, it is automatically denying your freedom, both religious and human. The worst thing of all is that the very people who like to criticize the Church for meddling in their affairs just love to meddle in church affairs. They just adore having their photographs taken with the Patriarch, especially just before the elections, which is generally the only time they like to visit him!

“Of course it is not the Church’s fault that everything in our state is more de facto than de jure, that everything in the state apparatus is barely functional because one system has collapsed and another has not yet been established to take its place; however, the Church is called upon to state that this is the case and to discuss it freely. People are seeking an institution that has internal cohesion, that can accept the people’s suffering and articulate it in the proper manner. Obviously, right now that is the Church.

“The Church by its nature values the unity of the people. There is a written record from the first century discussing the nature of the Church, which begins: Just as with wheat that is sowed on hills and mountains and scattered in billions of grains the grains perish only to grow again and yield a harvest that is formed into a single bread, so too from many grains of people the Church is formed like a single bread. We are One in Christ.


“The authorities themselves are forcing the Church to deal with issues that are not hers because the people in power are not doing their job properly; they are not leading the people on the right path. We are a good people, a people with heart but we have the problem of failing to find the right path. There is the story of the man who purchased some sheep in another village and was driving them back to his own village. The sheep, however, refused to follow the road but walked through the scrub by the side of the road. Upon meeting a monk next to the monastery, the man said: Father, why will the sheep not follow the road? The monk replied: Probably because the sheep do not know the road. Upon which the peasant exclaimed: But do the sheep then know the side of the road?

“I do not like this hiding behind the people. If you are a leader, then be one or leave.

“The Church are pained when the people are not unified and when they – like the sheep in the story – do not follow the road but walk through the scrub. It is not necessary that we are all for the same option or share the same politics; it is good to have some differences. However, we should all gather in unity around what represents the essence. Our officials should not let their privileges make them forget why they have been appointed to their offices. They should always remember the words of St. Petar Zimonjic, who was told in 1941 not to go to Sarajevo because there the Gestapo and the Ustashe [Croatian Nazi-Fascists] awaited him. Should I not share in the evil that has befallen the people with whom I shared everything good? he asked and soon after was killed.”

Bishop Grigorije comments on the present relations between the state and the Church as follows:

“For twenty years I have lived intensively in the Church and I still have not seen a lot of clerics lingering in government and state offices; on the contrary, these people are coming to us. Unfortunately, they generally come only when they need the Church as a means of accomplishing something. Recently a man from Mr. Ashdown’s office said to me: You meet so many people; you must have political influence! Many people do not understand that those of us in the Church would be happiest if we could do our job: to serve liturgies, baptize children and marry couples, to sing church hymns instead of worrying about Kosovo, refugees and the state anthem. The Church should not have to think about whether we will become part of a coalition with the UN, NATO or Partnership for Peace; the Church should preach the Gospel and offer the faithful consolation and hope.

“It is extremely important that everyone does their job conscientiously, and of course there are irresponsible people everywhere. For example, for the past two years I have been watching the work being done on this road next to the Patriarchate; it’s only about 50 meters long but they can’t seem to finish it. In my eyes the authority of the state is being undermined here and my heart grows even heavier when just a few meters further I see the painful column of people waiting in front of the Austrian Embassy to get their visas. But if we say anything to the government, when we propose or reprimand, they immediately become angry just as Milosevic in his time used to become angry. For me that is a sign that they are really guilty and that they are not good because the Most Wise Solomon says: Unmask the good and he will improve, unmask the bad and he will become angry.


“Unfortunately, many people in the government do not have the most rudimentary knowledge of the church; they are bothered by the very word church. On the other hand, priests and bishops have still not managed to completely overcome the feeling of rejection they gained during the time of Communism when they survived various forms of torture, incarceration, punishment and murder. Even though the state today is different than the one before, they still have a sort of resistance. The pressure was so great in the past that even today there are bishops who consider it a small miracle when a minister wants to talk with them. In a normal society this is a normal thing. In resolving problems in the relations between Church and state, both sides should sincerely and quickly become more open and talk if we want to have some progress.”

By Mirjana Radetic, September 5, 2004



On Sunday, September 5, 2004 His Grace Bishop Jovan (Mladenovic) of Sumadija visited Velika Krsna. The Bishop was welcomed by the hierarchal deputy of Mladenovac, Protopresbyter-Stavrophor Dragoljub Rakic, Presbyter Zivan Rakic, the parish priest, the clergy of the hierarchal deputy’s office of Mladenovac, regional representatives of the arts and public officials and the Orthodox faithful who gathered to celebrate the centennial of the church of the Nativity of the Most Holy Mother of God with their bishop.

Bishop Jovan with his priests and deacons consecrated the fountain before the churchyard, which was built by the local administration of the village. The Bishop then served Holy Hierarchal Liturgy in the churchyard with the concelebration of the priests of the Mladenovac deputy’s office.

In his sermon Bishop Jovan emphasized the importance of properly raising one’s children, which is the foundation of a good Orthodox family. He warned of the dangers of sects that destroy the family. At the end of the sermon the Bishop reminded those present of the zeal and religious spirit of their ancestors upon which we, too, should model ourselves.

For his dedicated work in the parish of Velika Krsna Bishop Jovan awarded parish priest Zivan Zujevic the right to wear a red belt. After Holy Liturgy His Grace also performed two baptisms.

[Serbian Translation Services]

Copyright © 1999-2004 by
The Information Service of the Serbian Orthodox Church
11000 Belgrade
Kralja Petra I no.5
+381 11 3282 596