From the regular Holy Assembly of Bishops
of the Serbian Orthodox Church
held in Belgrade May 15-21
With the blessings of His Holiness Patriarch Pavle and under the presidency of His Eminence Metropolitan Amphilohije of Montenegro and the Coastlands, who, in accordance with Article 62 of the Constitution of the Serbian Orthodox Church took the place of His Holiness, who was absent for health reasons, the regular Assembly of the Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church was held from May 14 through May 21, 2008 at the Patriarchate in Belgrade. Participating in the work of the Assembly were all the diocesan hierarchs of the Serbian Orthodox Church in the homeland and from abroad, as well as His Beatitude Archbishop of Ochrid and Metropolitan of Skopje Jovan with the hierarchs of the Autonomous Archdiocese of Ochrid.
In the spirit of the Paschal joy and with love in the Resurrected Lord, the Holy Assembly of Bishops, confronted by the great spiritual challenges of our time, dealt with vital questions of the life, administration and mission of the Serbian Orthodox Church.
Besides many current issues, the Assembly dedicated particular attention to Kosovo and Metohija following the illegal proclamation of the “independence” of this province. At the same time, the Assembly sends words of gratitude to all those who have not recognized this lawless act, especially those who have shown sincere solidarity with our Church and co-suffering love towards the Serbian people, expressing to everyone once and for all that the Serbian Church and people will never agree to the usurpation of Kosovo and Metohija.
The ongoing renovations to the holy sites in Kosovo and Metohija, destroyed in the March 2004 pogrom, were considered and it was decided that the same continue in cooperation with the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Serbia, the international institutions and representatives of UMNIK - as the only international authority and legal factor according to United Nations Resolution 1244. Striving that the renovated churches and church buildings will be accepted and consecrated, and that clergy and laity will settle in them so that they may begin to function and be preserved, the Assembly believes that the Serbian Orthodox people will be encouraged to remain and to return to their centuries old hearths, their ancient land and holy sites, in the Diocese of Raska and Prizren.
With the aim of preserving the age-old tradition of prayer and living witness of the Church in the contemporary world, the Assembly has confirmed its position concerning the serving of the Divine Liturgy and other services in the spirit of the centuries old liturgical tradition of our Church. With the conciliar serving of the Holy Hierarchical Liturgy in the Church of St. Sava on Vracar this unity was yet again demonstrated at the Table of the Lord on the feastday of the translation of the relics of St. Sava, on Monday May 6/19, 2008.
Attention was given to the ongoing construction of the St. Sava Memorial-Church on Vracar, and we express the desire and invite all the faithful of our Church to help complete this testamentary church of the Serbian people.
The Assembly has, once again, demonstrated its spiritual and archpastoral responsibility by dedicating attention to the state and serious problems in which our dioceses find themselves in the countries of the former Yugoslavia, as well as to the life of our dioceses in the Diaspora throughout the world. In so doing, the Assembly Fathers considered questions concerning the life of the church in Montenegro, Croatia, and Bosnia and Hercegovina to whose governments they have addressed appeals that the basic rights religious and property rights of the members of the Serbian Orthodox Church not be endangered. Similarly, an appeal was addressed to the officials of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, that they end the exile of His Beatitude Archbishop of Ochrid and Metropolitan of Skopje Jovan and lift all bans and the other unlawful measures taken against the autonomous Archdiocese of Ohrid.
The question of church property, both the preservation of existing property and the return of that which has been taken; as well as the question of the work of church bequests and funds, was also considered.
Relations and cooperation with the sister Orthodox Churches was a topic of long attention and concern by the Assembly, as well as relations and dialogue with other churches and religious communities. The Assembly accepted the report of the Commission of the Holy Hierarchical Assembly regarding the dialogue with representatives of the Roman Catholic Church in Ravenna (Italy), and concluded that this dialogue was not conducted to the detriment of the Orthodox Church. Regarding this, the Holy Hierarchical Assembly was astonished with the behavior of certain media sources, electronic and written, whose goal was clearly not objective and responsible public information, but the ill-intended dissemination of untruths regarding events from the life of the Church. Unfortunately, media reports during the course of this Assembly were conducted with the same intentions and prejudices regarding the health condition of His Holiness Patriarch Pavle of Serbia. The Assembly has concluded that such behavior by some media outlets does not have the aim of disseminating timely and truthful information to the public, but of provoking disturbance and disorder among the faithful people in our local Church and among the general public.
To the fullness of the Serbian Orthodox Church and to all people of good will, the Holy Assembly sends a message of peace and love, once again greeting everyone with the most joyous greeting: