from the Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church
from its regular meeting held in Belgrade November 17-20, 2010
The second regular meeting of the Holy Assembly of Bishops was held between November 17-20, 2010 at the Patriarchate in Belgrade under the presidency of His Holiness Patriarch Irinej. All diocesan bishops took part in the work of the Assembly, with the exception of the head of the autonomous Archbishopric of Ohrid, His Beatitude Jovan and Bishop Konstantin of Central Europe.
The work of the Holy Assembly of Bishops began with the conciliar serving of the Holy Hierarchical Liturgy at the Monastery of the Holy Archangels in Rakovica near Belgrade, at which Patriarch Irinej officiated, A parastos was served afterward for the repose of the soul of Patriarch Pavle of blessed memory on the occasion of the one year anniversary since his falling asleep, the cross was blessed at his grave site and the invocation of the Holy Spirit for a blessed and God-pleasing Assembly session took place. Afterward, in his introductory comments His Holiness, as the president of the Assembly, evoked memories once again of the person and spiritual merits of his predecessor Patriarch Pavle of blessed memory as well as the newly departed Metropolitan Christopher of Libertyville-Chicago, and indicated the need of a dignified and responsible approach to the issues on the agenda of the Assembly through brotherly dialogue in the spirit of the spiritual maxims of Patriarch Pavle that our words be mild and our proofs strong.
Before beginning with its work, the Assembly reacted to the news of the capture of the Archbishop of Ohrid and Metropolitan of Skoplje Jovan at the border in Kalotin between Bulgaria and Serbia by Bulgarian border police, and his detention on the basis of a warrant for his arrest issued by Macedonian police. The Assembly reacted first through their prayer to God for their brother in distress, then with a public protest for the unjust persecution of Archbishop Jovan following the legal farce against him in the Republic of Macedonia, and finally an Assembly appeal for his release to both the head of Serbia as well as the president of the Republic of Bulgaria, Mr. Georgi Parvanov.
On the agenda at this Assembly were two major issues and a few smaller ones. The two major issues were regarding the restructuring and filling of vacancies in some of the dioceses of the Serbian Orthodox Church, and solving the situation in the Diocese of Ras and Prizren which is burdened with many troubles. Added to these are the uncanonical actions of the former Bishop of Ras and Prizren Artemije and of his sect made up of his followers and supporters, which culminated during the meeting of the Assembly when he arbitrarily left Monastery Sisatovac in Srem, resolutely refusing obedience to the Assembly, explicitly not accepting the decisions of the Assembly and attempting to forcefully take over monasteries and other property of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Kosovo and Metohija, as well as the usurpation of hierarchical authority in the Diocese of Ras and Prizren.
The vacant diocese of Ras and Prizren was filled with the election of the current Vicar Bishop Teodosije of Lipljana as the new Bishop of Ras and Prizren.
The plan for restructuring the dioceses was completed as much as was possible during this session: parts of the Diocese of Nis, Zica, Sumadija and Branicevo will form a new diocese, of Krusevac headquartered in Krusevac, and it was accepted that the largest diocese of the Serbian Orthodox Church, the Archdiocese of Belgrade-Karlovci, be broken up into two more dioceses. Also, the bishops active in America were entrusted with the task of examining the possibilities of restructuring the dioceses there, and the issue was raised of forming a separate diocese for Austria, with headquarters in Vienna, taking into consideration the realistic needs and the magnitude and large number of faithful of the current Diocese of Central Europe.
The Assembly received with joy the news of the unanimous decision of the Diocesan council of the Diocese of Australia and New Zealand and the Church-laity assembly of the New Gracanica Metropolitanate of Australia and New Zealand at their recent extraordinary meeting regarding the establishing of full church-administrative unity.
After learning all the relevant facts and exhaustive discussions, the Holy Hierarchical Assembly, with much sadness, but decisively standing in defense of the holy and salvific unity of the Church, in light of evidence of the most serious canonical transgressions which he himself has confirmed – serving while under suspension, refusing obedience to the Assembly, creating a schism and forcefully occupying some monasteries of the Serbian Orthodox Church in the Dicoese of Ras and Prizren, even with the participation of armed individuals and physically endangering the monastics in those monasteries – the Assembly has stripped the retired Bishop Artemije of Ras and Prizren of the episcopal dignity and returned him to the status of monk.
The Assembly, among other things, made decisions with regards to the upcoming commemoration of the 1700 Anniversary of the Edict of Milan (313-2013), by which Emperor Constantine the Great granted freedom to the Christians of the Roman Empire and established the foundations of Christian Europe, as well as decisions regarding the establishment of military chaplains in the Serbian Army.
The Assembly appeals to all faithful of the Serbian Orthodox Church that, in spite of the difficult economic crisis which is affecting us, we continue to help the renovation of the monastic dwelling of Monastery Hilandar on Mount Athos, destroyed in a fire a few years ago, as well as the renovation of homes and other buildings in Kraljevo and the surrounding areas, destroyed or damaged during the recent earthquake.