the Serbian Orthodox Church
September 6, 2004
ASSEMBLY OF BISHOPS EXPRESSES CONDOLENCES TO RUSSIAN PATRIARCH
FOLLOWING CRIME IN OSSETIA
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.
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.
SESSION OF THE HOLY ASSEMBLY OF BISHOPS BEGINS
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.
hierarchs of the Serbian Orthodox Church will participate in the
work of the session. Upon its conclusion a public communique will
SYMPOSIUM IN POZAREVAC
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.
Lyeta - Eis Polla Eti (Many years - Ad multos annos)
WITH BISHOP GRIGORIJE OF ZAHUMLJE AND HERZEGOVINA: WE SHARE THE
SUFFERING OF THE PEOPLE
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:
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.”
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.
DENIAL OF FREEDOM
“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.
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
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.
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.
EVERYONE JUST DID HIS JOB
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.
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.”
comments on the present relations between the state and the Church
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
“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.
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.”
Mirjana Radetic, September 5, 2004
OF CENTENNIAL OF CHURCH OF NATIVITY OF MOST HOLY THEOTOKOS IN
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.
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.
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