Chicago, IL - The annual meeting of the Central Church Council of the Serbian Orthodox Church in North and South America was held at Holy Resurrection Cathedral in Chicago December 9-10, 2011, chaired by His Holiness Serbian Patriarch Irinej, dean of the stavropigial Monastery of St. Sava in Libertyville.
The opening prayer was led by His Holiness, who gave his patriarchal blessing.
Present at the meeting were all the hierarchs of the Serbian Orthodox Church in North and South America: His Eminence Metropolitan Amphilohije, administrator of the Diocese of Buenos Aires-South America, His Grace Bishop Georgije of Canada, His Grace Bishop Longin of New Gracanica-Midwestern America, His Grace Bishop Mitrophan of Eastern America, and His Grace Bishop Maxim of Western America. Each diocese was also represented at the Central Council meeting by its clergy and lay Council members.
His Holiness greeted the members of the Central Council and expressed his hope that their work be successful for the good estate of our Holy Church. In brief the Patriarch pointed out the decisions of the Holy Assembly of Bishops in regards to the administrative unity which has been achieved, as the St. Sava Monastery has been proclaimed stavropigial, under the direct jurisdiction of the Serbian Patriarch. In this capacity, according to the decisions of the Holy Assembly of Bishops, the Patriarch is thereby President of the Episcopal Council and the Central Church Council. At the meeting of the Holy Assembly of Bishops in May 2011 the Diocese of South America was established, with headquarters in Buenos Aires, Argentina. His Eminence Metropolitan Amphilohije of Montenegro and the Coastlands was appointed administrator of the new diocese. Then, His Holiness addressed the condition of the buildings at the St. Sava Monastery, noting their dilapidated state. Everything is dilapidated except the St. Sava church and the new residence. While many parishes have built new churches and beautiful church halls and other structures, all the while the St. Sava Monastery remained unchanged, and nothing has been done there. His Holiness appealed to all Serbs on this continent to not abandon this great holy site, a monument to Bishop Mardarije, who built this sacred monastery. A part of the relics of Bishop Nicholai remain there. The last King of Yugoslavia, Petar II Karadjordjevic is buried in the church, and its cemetery is the resting place of many church and national dignitaries.
Reports were given from the different departments of the Central Council. Treasurer Brian Gerich gave a financial report. Assessements were paid by the dioceses on time and therefore the work of the church bodies continued without interruption.
V. Rev. Dragoljub Malich submitted his report for the Clergy Pension Plan as the fund's administrator. According to the decision of the Sabor all clergy are members of the Pension fund. Church-school congregations are obligated to pay their portion to the fund, two-thirds of the premium, while the priest pays one-third.
A written report for the Clergy Healthcare plan was submitted by Protonamesnik Milovan Katanic. There were no changes. We are part of a joint, group health insurance with other Orthodox jurisdictions. In the event church-school congregations are not in a position to join the group plan they are to find comparable healthcare coverage individually for their clergy. Fr. Milovan also submitted a report for the official website of the Serbian Orthodox Church in North and South America, www.serborth.org.
A report from the official publication, The Path of Orthodoxy, was submitted by the newspaper's editorial board. This is a monthly publication, with a double issue for July-August. It is made up of both a Serbian and English section with a wide variety of material. All parishioners in good standing receive the newspaper without charge. The editorial board appeals to all church-school congregations from the former New Gracanica Metropolitanate to submit the addresses of their parishioners so that they too might be included in the mailing. The Central Church Council decided that a copy be sent to all clergy of the Canadian Diocese and to all hierarchs of the Serbian Orthodox Church.
A report from the Theological School was presented by the School's Dean, His Grace Bishop Dr. Mitrophan. The School is mainly financed through the endowment of Dragomir Nikolic while part is financed through the Central treasury.
The location of the School was also discussed, bearing in mind the inadequate conditions at St. Sava Monastery. The Central Council considered this and rendered the decision to transfer the Theological School to New Gracanica Monastery. It was also considered whether Bishop Longin should move into the episcopal residence in Libertyville, and this decision was made. These decisions will be acted upon during the course of 2012.
The Central Church Council still administers the Zivadinovic Fund, designated for post graduate stipends to students of chemical engineering.
Attorney Ljubisa Milicic introduced Attorney Seratela, who deals exclusively with church legal questions. Attorneys Milicic and Seratela spoke regarding the status of church bodies before civil authorities and the various types of religious corporations and other legal issues concerning the church and clergy.
V. Rev. Nikola Ceko, Director of the National Standing Committees, reported on the committees’ activities. These committees include those working in the areas of education, communications and publications, stewardship, youth work, language and cultural heritage, liturgical music, young adult work, marriage and family concerns, and continuing education for the clergy. The Central Council made a recommendation to the Episcopal Council that another committee be formed: the legal committee, chaired by Attorney Ljubisa Milicic.
His Eminence Metropolitan Amphilohije spoke of his two month mission to the newly established South American Diocese. He visited Argentina, Brazil and Venezuela. The beginning is difficult but there is hope for success. In the entire territory there are five parishes and seven missions, five priests and one protodeacon, six churches and three chapels. Three additional priests are needed, but it is difficult to ensure resources. Metropolitan Amphilohije made an appeal for aid for the Diocese of South America. The Central Church Council decided to allocate 5% of the budget of the Central treasury and that each Diocese donate $10,000.
His Grace Bishop Maxim and Ron Radakovich reported on the financial aid to Monastery Hilandar on Mount Athos. They recently visited the monastery where they familiarized themselves with the renovation work on the monastery. Ron Radakovich informed the Council of the work of the Western American Diocese in helping Monastery Hilandar. A committee, “Hilandar 100”, has been formed. One hundred donors are needed to promise to donate $1,000 a year for three years. Currently there are 81 participants.
A letter from Archbishop Jovan of Ohrid was received, asking for financial assistance for the purchase of space in Skoplje where the office of the archdiocese would be able to move. The Central Council approved assistance up to $15,000 to be taken from the Central treasury.
The Central Church Council approved the budget for 2012.
At the end of the meeting His Holiness, on behalf of the Episcopal and the Central Church Council, thanked the hosts, the church board and clergy of the Holy Resurrection Cathedral Church-School congregation for their hospitality.
The meeting concluded with a prayer, the troparion to St. Sava and a blessing from His Holiness Patriarch Irinej of Serbia.
V. Rev. Nedeljko Lunich
Secretary of the Central Church Council