Information Service of
the Serbian Orthodox Church

December 23, 2004


Wishing everyone happy upcoming Christmas and New Year’s holidays, we find it appropriate to address the general public in addition to extending our best wishes and our blessings.

Obliging the wishes of our faithful, as their spiritual pastors, in this pre-holiday season we are forced to express our concern regarding the difficult situation in which our people are living in Republika Srpska and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

For more than a decade, the joy of the holiday season has been mixed with sorrow and injustice for Orthodox Christians of Serbian nationality. Instead of welcoming the Nativity of the Our Lord Christ with gladness, years after the tragedy of civil war, our people are again being tried by harsh courts and threatened with new sanctions.

The most recent decisions and statements of the high representative of the international community for Bosnia-Herzegovina, Mr. Paddy Ashdown, made on the eve of Christmas, have horrified many, not only the Orthodox Serbs. By his actions, which represent a violation of human rights and denigration of the democracy we are striving towards, the high representative, whose task is to implement and further democracy in Bosnia and Herzegovina, is encouraging giving up on democracy and democratic principles.

After numerous arbitrary actions implemented as if he were absolute lord and master, of which the general public is not even aware, Mr. Ashdown is now arbitrarily threatening to discontinue the existence of Republika Srpska. Of the many examples of his violations of human rights and freedoms, we will cite only two:

- The crime committed against the unarmed and subsequently proven innocent Serbian Orthodox priest Jeremija Starovlah and his son, catechist Aleksandar, which has been condemned by the entire normal and civilized world.

- The absolutely undemocratic dismissal of persons, whether guilty or innocent, without the right to appeal or defend themselves, and without the right to do their jobs.

The high representative is acting as if he is above the law, and as if the Dayton Agreement, which brought peace and relative progress in Bosnia-Herzegovina, means nothing to him. The man who is responsible for establishing democracy in Bosnia and Herzegovina is emerging as someone who undermines peace and good will among people.

For these reasons, we call on all those responsible in Europe and the global community to examine the facts: Who is working toward peace in Bosnia-Herzegovina and who is creating unrest? Who is advocating democracy, human rights and freedoms, and who is not? Unless the appropriate authorities and institutions do not undertake urgent and serious measures, then this people will be forced on the basis of such “democracy” to lose all remaining confidence in true democratic processes in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

As spiritual pastors, we once again call on local political leaders to demonstrate complete respect for the freedoms and democratic rights of all citizens of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

We call on them to govern democratically and freely, taking care to serve the people who elected them.

We call on them to achieve consensus on general issues, protecting the interests of all people, not political parties.

Recognizing the efforts made toward peace and human rights, and a dignified life for all Bosnia-Herzegovina, we expect the implementation of equal standards toward all on the basis of the internationally recognized Dayton Agreement.

We send our spiritual children a message of hope, as expressed in the Christmas message of the angels: “Glory to God in the highest, and on Earth peace among men.”


His Holiness Serbian Patriarch Pavle received a group of children from the Svetozar Markovic-Toza Elementary School in Novi Sad in the Belgrade Patriarchate on Thursday, December 23. The children presented His Holiness with a donation toward the restoration of Chilandar Monastery, which they collected by painting and then selling their original artwork. Also present at the reception were His Grace Bishop Irinej of Backa and the children’s teacher, Petar Narancic.

Patriarch Pavle welcomed the children and wished them success in their studies so they might remain the pride of their parents and teachers. “Whoever takes his or her responsibilities seriously now, will continue to do so as an adult,” said His Holiness. “None of us can chose the time in which we are born nor the people nor the country; however, it is exclusively up to us how we will behave in our time and in our country.” The Patriarch reminded the children that this is the bicentennial of the First Serbian Uprising, when our forefathers rebelled and sacrificed themselves for freedom that we might enjoy it today. “Their example gives us strength and guides us toward everything that is good and honorable.” His Holiness blessed the children and thanked them for their effort and concern for our greatest holy shrine, Chilandar Monastery.


The head of NATO's Joint Force Command based in Naples and commander in chief of the U.S. Navy in Europe, Admiral Michael Glenn Mullen, and his associates visited Visoki Decani Monastery today to personally familiarize himself with measures being taken for the protection of the Serbian cultural heritage in Kosovo and Metohija. Accompanying Admiral Mullen to the monastery were KFOR commander in chief French general Yves de Kermabon, German general Richard Rossmanith, the commander of Multi-National Brigade South-West, and Italian KFOR commanders protecting the Pec Patriarchate and Decani.

The high representatives of the NATO pact were received on behalf of the abbot of Decani, Bishop Teodosije of Lipljan, by his deputy, Fr. Sava (Janjic), who explained the situation that Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija are living in today. "The March violence were a huge shock to us all and Serbs are still living in fear of repeated violence. Many have still not returned to the torched remains of their ancestral homes. Nevertheless, we remain hopeful that KFOR will undertake all possible measures to ensure that problems in Kosovo and Metohija are not resolved by force but through dialogue and the building of mutual confidence."

Fr. Sava presented the guests with copies of the book "Crucified Kosovo" describing the destruction of Serbian Orthodox churches and monasteries from 1999 to today with a special section on the March violence. Fr. Sava presented Admiral Mullen with an icon of Decani Madonna (Theotokos) as a symbol of confidence that NATO troops would protect the remaining Orthodox Christian holy shrines and people as well as enabling the return of all refugees. He then guided the guests on a tour of the monastery church and acquainted them with monastic life.

Expressing his sincere wishes for the upcoming Christmas holiday, Admiral Mullen told the monks that KFOR troops remain fully committed to the protection of Orthodox churches and monasteries in Kosovo, an important part of the European and world cultural heritage.

Admiral Mullen recently assumed command of NATO's Joint Force Command from Admiral Gregory Johnson, who in addition to local KFOR forces personally intervened to ensure the protection of the monasteries of Gracanica, the Pec Patriarchate and Decani during the course of the March pogrom.

[Serbian Translation Services]

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