His Holiness Serbian Patriarch Irinej visited the St. Sava Serbian Orthodox parish in San Petersburg in Florida on February 28, 2020.
The Serbian Patriarch and Bishop Jovan of Sumadija were welcomed by the host hierarch His Grace Bishop Irinej of Eastern America, together with Bishops Longin of New Gracanica and Midwestern America and Maxim of Western America and many faithful people.
Following the Doxology service Bishop Irinej wished His Holiness a heartfelt welcome:
Your Holiness, our dearest father in Christ our Lord and Savior! Welcome! I greet you wholeheartedly on behalf of my clergy, monastics, the diaconate in Christ and on behalf of the God-fearing faithful people. Welcome and bless us with your words, your spiritual blessing, show us the path of St. Sava that leads to life that we, together with you, might always be on that path and that way, as the one Church of Saint Sava and one people of Saint Sava.
Honored brother hierarchs, welcome to this Diocese, may your arrival and stay here be blessed! I thank you for gathering here around our Patriarch and our faithful people. I particularly use this opportunity to thank Bishop Jovan of Sumadija, who accompanied His Holiness and Protodeacon Damjan Bozic who also with us.
You Holiness! We have just completed our two day session of our Diocesan Annual Assembly. The Assembly was conducted peacefully, in love and unity. We asked that you visit us, to bless us with your presence, for you will be happy, we hope, with the spiritual children of your Holy Church, who, either by dedication or elections, are members of the Annual Assembly of the Eastern American Diocese. All the decisions rendered during these two days we hope will be to the benefit of our Serbian Orthodox Church. Know that these people - the clergy and monastics – they are an integral part of our holy Church of Saint Sava and for this reason are we so thankful to God that you, our spiritual father, have come to kindle that flame within us with your paternal blessings for you come from the capital city of Belgrade and bring us the blessings of Saint Sava and all the Saints of our people! Welcome! Bless us and grant unto us words of edification from the rich treasury of your knowledge and experience with our good people, clergy and monastics who have come here on this day out of their respect and to honor you.
Patriach Irinej of Serbia addressed the people with the following words:
Thank you, dear Bishop, for your beautiful words of welcome to my humility. Brother hierarchs, brother clergy, dear brothers and sisters! I trust that I have come among my own. Our holy Church, the Church of Saint Sava is also your history and spiritual inheritance – you who for various reasons are not in your Fatherland, for you have found new homes in this country, but not only in America but throughout the world. Many of you were forced to leave your homes in the Fatherland and to leave your your homes in God's country, but we hope that even though you are not there were your ancestors were, that you still preserve your faith, your Church, your history and all those things intertwined with our holy, martyred and much-suffering history. I pray to the Lord that your preserve that which is most valuable in the life of all of us, and that is our holy Orthodox faith. Our ancestors were baptized and lived in that faith. That faith, as the greatest spiritual and moral heritage, you are to preserve also here in your lives.
You won't mind me mentioning, but it brings me much sadness that you are losing that which must be preserved – and that is our language. A people are characterized and recognized by their faith and language. Here you have the opportunity to hear about that ancient nation, the people of Isreal, who for two thousands years have been scattered and dispersed throughout the world, but they have keep their faith and their language. And if they can preserve their language for two thousand years – you can as well! Our language is beautiful, inherited from our parents, in it were written beautiful works which are not only for one time and one generation, but a treasury for all times of our people. God has gifted us with knowledge, wisdom and the ability to learn other languages. There is a proverb: „Man is as valuable as the amount of languages he speaks“, but the native tongue is first and most important. Therefore, through your Church and life in it, keep and preserve your native tongue.
And the other thing that is very important: for you here in America but also our people in Australia, Africa and Europe – preserve that which has preserved us throughout our history, and that is unity! Unfortunately we as a people are small in comparison to other nations, we can surive only if we preserve our faith and that whic is ours, our heritage, our history and our historical traditions. Here, in this country, there are many nationalities and I believe that they keep their national characteristics, their culture, their faith, their language. You preserve it as well!
We have come to visit you as one who visits his own! We have come to calm some voices heard on all sides, voices that do not qualify us as a wise nation. We will determine the truth, but oftentimes something small happens, and out of that small thing something much bigger is made, not to mention, something terrible. But it all boils down to being faithful to one's Church, to one's faith! Our Church was also with our people! It rejoiced when the people made progress in all good things, when it created its history, great deeds, built monasteries, churches and other cultural and spiritual goods but it suffered when the people suffered. And the suffering of the people always affeced its Church. Such is our history, such is our fate and we must be proud that we have always been with our Church for we feel a great blessing from God and grace which through the Church is poured upon its people.
On behalf of our Church, we wish you all the best in this wealthy country. Make all efforts to display all of our good characteristics here, that we might be value us and respect us a people who has much significance in history. Do not forget that in seeing you, your behavior here and your attitude towards this country, your jobs and your environment in which you find yourselves, they will respect us who have remained in our Fatherland. Unfortunately, in recent times we have been portrayed very negatively in the face of this world. Our neighbors with whom we share our lives. Our neighbors, with whom we share our lives, attributed all their qualities and their evil deeds to us in relation to their people. Thank God, that thinking is slowly beginning to change, for people are beginning to see where the truth lies and where falsehood and lies are
I wish to relay one more thing to you, apart from greetings sent to you from our people. Serbia is slowly
And I would like to convey something else, in addition to the greetings our people send you. Serbia is slowly recovering from its great troubles and temptations that it has experienced in its near and distant past, life is normalized, the economy is being restored, so you also might think of returning from where you have sprouted as Njegos said: “Where the seed sprouts, let the fruit rest there”. May the Lord bless you, you and your children, may the blessings of God be with all the Serbian people, wherever they may be, in the words of the great Apostle: “If God is with us, who can be against us?” May the Lord bless us all, that God's blessings upon all of you, now and ever and unto the ages of ages.
Protodeacon Damjan Bozic