The Serbian Orthodox Church’s highest ranking religious leader kicked off a two-week visit to Chicago by telling members of Holy Resurrection Serbian Orthodox Cathedral they should be proud of perserving their religious tradition.
Children in traditional ethnic dress greeted heartily Patriarch Irinej as he entered the church, flanked by dignitaries, including consul general of Serbia, Desko Nikitovic.
It was the first stop in a packed schedule for the leader who is visiting Chicago for the first time since his elevation in January 2010.
More than 300,000 Serbian Orthodox Christians live in Chicago area. There are more than 10 million worldwide.
“The church is more beautiful than it’s ever been,” said Irinej, 80, who’d last visited the church as a bishop. “We feel like we’re in God’s home and that our hearts glow with the warmest feeling.”
Holy Resurrection is the oldest Serbian Orthodox Church in Chicago.
“We’ve been through some very difficult times in the past few years, but the church is what gives us strength and what gives us hope,” he said.