On June 28th 1916, now Sainted Bishop Nikolaj Velimirović addressed a congregation gathered at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London at the invitation of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Gentlemen and friends,
I am coming from Serbia, from European “midnight”. There is no ray of light, not a single trace. All the light went from the ground to the sky and the sky is the only place where the light is coming from. Nevertheless, we that are weak in everything are strong in faith and hope that dawn will soon arrive. I am grateful to Lord Archbishop, Randall Cantuar, that allowed me, on this holy day, Vidovdan, year of Our Lord 1916, in this beautiful church of Saint Paul, to address his majesty, King George V and the most prominent Englishmen.
Headed by His Holiness Irinej, the Serbian Patriarch, the delegation of the Serbian Orthodox Church arrived to Crete today, on 16 June 2016, where the session of the Holy and Great Council is to be held during the forthcoming days. His Holiness is accompanied by Their Eminences and Their Graces hierarchs: Archbishop Jovan of Ohrid, Metropolitan Dr. Porfirije of Zagreb-Ljubljana, Bishop Dr. Irinej of Backa, Bishop Dr. Ignjatije of Branicevo, Bishop Lukijan of Budim and Bishop Jeronim of Jegar.
Along with the Primate of the Serbian Orthodox Church, hierarchs, professors and students arrived in Chania, as part of the Serbian Church delegation.
At the same time with the delegation of the Serbian Church, official delegations of the Jerusalem, Greek and Albanian Orthodox Churches arrived to Crete as well. Next to the highest Greek state and military honors, accompanied by numerous priests and monks, Patriarch Theophilos of Jerusalem, Serbian Patriarch Irinej, Archbishop Jerome of Greece and Archbishop Anastasius of Albania were welcomed at the airport by Archbishop Irenaeus of Crete. On behalf of the Primates, words of gratitude at the formal welcome ceremony were expressed by Archbishop Anastasios of Albania.
The Holy Synod of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church, at the session held on Tuesday, June 14th, decided that the official delegation of the Serbian Orthodox Church participate in the work of the Holy and Great Council, which will be held from 17 until 26 June, 2016, on the island of Crete.
THE HOLY SYNOD OF BISHOPS OF THE SERBIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH
Syn. No. 840
15th June 2016
C O M M U N I Q U E
In brotherly love, while with responsibility and hopes preparing for the participation in the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church, which, God willing, is to be held at the Orthodox Academy at Crete around the Pentecost, from 17 until 26 June 2016, the Holy Synod of Bishops in its broader composition at its session held at the Serbian Patriarchate in Belgrade, on June 15, 2016, regarding the situation created after the ordinary convocation of the Holy Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church, passes the following decision:
First of all, having in mind the importance and significance of the Council, our Church wants, in a spirit of ecclesial upbuilding, to contribute in the way that also this Holy and Great Council fulfills criteria and the measure of true Councils in the history of the Orthodox Church and justifies its title.
On the other hand, our Church requests that problems and matters not only of the Serbian Orthodox Church, but also of the other most Holy Churches that cancelled their participation in the Council, be considered at that Council.
With this aim in mind, the Holy and Great Council should last as long as these questions have not been considered, and it cannot be a hostage of in advance layed out and accepted rules. Exclusively with the full consensus the Council can be considered as Holy and Great Council.
At last, our Church insists that the gathering on the island of Crete be a beginning of a Conciliar process, that the matters in question should be solved during its working process, but in the spirit of synodic tradition of the Church of Christ.
In case that the Churches present at the Council, with the Ecumenical Patriarchate at head, persist in the position that the absent Churches without a real reason boycott the work of the Council, and in case that the already present Churches reject to take into consideration all the matters in question, problems and disagreements, the representatives of the Serbian Orthodox Church at the Council will be, regretfully, forced to leave the sessions of that Council and in that way join the Churches that are already absent.
This is by no means a threat or ransom, but a consequent implementation of the position and decisions of the Holy Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church held in May 2016.
In the spirit of our ecclesial and pastoral responsibility, we present these positions hoping in the illuminating action of the All-Holy Spirit.
Archbishop of Pec, Metropolitan of Belgrade - Karlovci
and Serbian Patriarch
President of the Holy Assembly of Bishops
sign. I R I N E J
On the situation caused by the refusal of several Local Orthodox Churches to participate in the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church
For many decades the Russian Orthodox Church took and continues to take an active part in the preparation of the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church. Since the First Pan-Orthodox Conference in 1961 on Rhodes, the outstanding hierarchs and the best theologians of our Church have made their contribution to the work on a great number of the Council’s topics, including those which were not to be included later in the agenda of the Holy and Great Council. For the sake of the earliest convocation of the Council, the Russian Orthodox Church has repeatedly re-affirmed her readiness to accept decisions mutually acceptable for all the participants in the pre-Council process, even if such decisions diverted from the already agreed rules of the Council’s preparation.
1. Message of the Holy Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church concerning the convocation of the Holy and Great Council to be held on Crete on the occasion of the feast-day of the Holy Trinity, from 17th to the 27th of June 2016.
The Holy Assembly of Bishops of
the Serbian Orthodox Church
№ 62/min. 164
25. Мay 2016
МESSAGE OF THE HOLY ASSEMBLY OF BISHOPS
OF THE SERBIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH
to Primates and Holy Synods of the Local Orthodox Churches
In the days of the most joyful Christian Feast, which fills every human being and all of creation with catholic meaning and good tidings of salvation in Christ, we welcome the summoning of autocephalous Orthodox Churches to the Holy and Great Synod which, if God allows it, will be held at the Orthodox Academy in Crete, on Pentecost, from 17 to 26 June 2016.
In brotherly love, with responsibility and great hopes, we reflect on this Holy and Great Synod during the session of our Local Church’s Assembly, and remind ourselves as well as others that the Orthodox Church is a Synod (Council), called by God in Christ and inspired by His Holy Spirit, as was the Synod of Holy Apostles, which took the following words as its guiding hand: “For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us” (Acts 15, 28). We rejoice at the prospect of commencement of the Holy and Great Synod on the Feast of descent of the Holy Spirit. For, it is and should be a pneumatic, Pentecostal event of communion (κοινωνία) of Churches. Assembled in order to “accordantly celebrate the All-Holy Spirit”, we believe that where the Church abides, there the Holy Spirit abides as well; and, where the Spirit of God abides, there abide the Church and all grace, and the Spirit is truth” (Saint Irenaeus of Lyons, Against Heresies 3, 2, 4, 1).
Being aware of the magnitude and importance of this Synod, with sacred trepidation we wonder whether the pending Synod fulfills the criteria and measure of true synods from the history of the Orthodox Church. Alongside, we ask whether the Synod will express the unity of the Church of Christ in the Holy Spirit, to the glory of God the Father: that unity which we ceaselessly witness and invoke in the Holy Liturgy: “Having prayed for the unity of faith and for the communion of the Holy Spirit”. We remind ourselves and others: this unity is a concrete unity according to the image of the Holy Trinity (Jn. 17, 21), the unity of the Body of Christ, “by good will of the Father…, and the communion of the Holy Spirit”. This is the unity in One Christ as One and Only Head of the divine-human Body of the Church regarded as Home of the Father, Abiding place of the Holy Spirit and Body of Christ the Savior.
In thoughts and in feelings we immerse ourselves into the theme of the oncoming Synod and, with reason, we ask whether and in what measure the imminent Synod expresses the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church (as we confess in the Creed). Therefore, aware of the historic importance of this Great Synod for the witness and mission of the Orthodox Church in the contemporary world, the Holy Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church, with regard to the issue of composition of membership, themes and rules regulating the work of the Holy and Great Synod, offers the following standpoints to the attention of Forestanders and Holy Synods of Local Orthodox Churches:
1. With regard to the accepted Code of Regulations for organizing the work of the Holy and Great Synod of the Orthodox Church, it is our position that it allows the introduction of a practice unknown in the synods of the Orthodox Church which have hitherto come to pass: mostly due to the imparity and inequality of all bishops at the Synod. We do not discern in it the centennial living conciliar Tradition of summoning, of presiding at a Synod, of realizing a Synod and of administrating it. So far no one in history has determined and prescribed in advance the code of regulations of work of the Synod. For, this was realized by the Holy Synod itself in virtue of its conciliarity. One could gain the impression that the accentuation of certain “rights” of summoning and presiding makes the Synod a function of one man, even if he happens to be the first. It is Saint Paul who advises as follows: “… Outdo one another in showing honor” (Rom. 12, 10). If it happens to be the case that this Code of Regulations anticipates and controls the work of the Synod in advance, then little space will be left for freedom of the members of the Synod in the Holy Spirit and for what the Apostles formulate by the following words: “For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us” (Acts 15, 28).
2. The mentioned weaknesses of this Code of Regulations lead us to the question about the role and status of bishops at this Synod. Are bishops at the Synod to be regarded as participants or as viewers? Apart from the unjustified limiting of the number of participants in the Synod, we hold that the fact that not all bishops have the right of vote is unjustified as well. We believe that the right of vote is not contrary to the proclaimed principle of consensus (which, by rule, is preceded by consultations) and we hold that free and responsible voting by bishops would not restrain the unanimous witness of the Orthodox Church to the glory of God celebrated in the Trinity. The conciliar Tradition of the One Church presupposes the right to vote of each bishop in the Synod, from regional to ecumenical one. This Synod is an occasion to manifest the multitude of local Churches (most of them) to the joy of the Mother Church, — the first in throne Church of Constantinople, — as well as the Mother of all Churches, the Church of Sion.
3. In view of the fact that the question of communion between autocephalous Churches is of crucial importance for the mission of the Orthodox Church in the world, we deem it necessary to discuss the theme of autocephaly, and our Church has insisted on this incessantly. This Synod has a sufficient number of theological and pastoral motifs to acknowledge that today fourteen autocephalous Churches exist and that this is sufficient to confirm their status. Besides, within current preparations for the Synod the theme of autocephaly has been explored in detail, as well as the way in which it is proclaimed, except for the way of signing. Therefore, it is wholly justified and appropriate at the Holy and Great Synod to accept and proclaim that which for decades has been processed and completed.
4. Confessing the unity and unbroken conciliar Tradition of the Orthodox Church, we think that it is not true that there were no synods within the Orthodox Church during the centuries; although it stands as true that in the newer centuries we have not held a single pan-Orthodox or ecumenical Synod. Bearing in mind their dogmatic-ecclesiological importance and pan-Orthodox endorsement, our local Church proposes that the ecumenical importance of the Holy Synod of 879/880, held in the time of Saint Photius of Constantinople, should be confirmed, and that the hesychastic Synod held in 1351 should be confirmed as well. In proposing the conciliar confirmation of these Holy Synods, we have in mind the word of Saint Maximus the Confessor: “The God-revering rule of the Church recognizes as holy and confirmed those synods which have been confirmed by rightness of the dogmas”.
5. Acting in the spirit of the decision of all most holy local Orthodox Churches, namely that each of them is called to actively and ceaselessly participate in the conciliar event of the Church, we express our standpoint that the six prepared texts, although basically good, need amendment and re-working in order to be brought into concordance with the demands of life and mission of the Church. The text Оn the Mission of the Church in the Contemporary World stands in need of enrichment by the Gospel, that is, by soteriological and cosmological dimensions of salvation. In connection to the text Оn the Relation With the Christian World we think that the highly condescending attitude towards other religions should not stifle awareness of the need for the evangelization of this world. We stress that the question of Diaspora should be solved conciliarily, by agreement and pan-Orthodox consensus, under the presidency of the Primate of Constantinople, but, with equal participation of throne co-holders, Orthodox Primates, and their Holy Assemblies or Synods.
Last but not least, the Holy and Great Synod of the Orthodox Church, also, is a call for repentance of all, according to the decree of Christ: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel!” (Мk. 1, 15). In that way this Holy and Great Synod of the Orthodox Church will be a renewal and confirmation of the living, true and salvific faith, “… which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Јu. 3); and, it will confirm the true divine-human catholicity (ecumenicity) of Orthodoxy, in time and space, for “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever” (Heb. 13, 8).
Аrchbishop of Peć, Metropolitan of Belgrade-Karlovci and
President of the Holy Assembly of Bishops
2. Letter of the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church to His Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Sir Sir Bartholomew, a copy of which has been sent to all the Primates of Orthodox Churches and their Holy Synods
The Holy Synod of Bishops of
the Serbian Orthodox Church
6. jun 2016
To His Holiness
Archbishop of Constantinople, New Rome, and Ecumenical Patriarch
Sir Sir Bartholomew
Subject: Holy and Great Synod
Christ is risen!
Most Holy Archbishop of Constantinople, New Rome, and Ecumenical Patriarch, beloved brother in Christ and co-celebrant of Our humbleness, Sir Bartholomew, most wholeheartedly we greet Your respected Holiness with brotherly embrace in the Lord.
We deem it unnecessary to stress the measure of hope, sincere commitment and contribution, according to our capacity, with which our Church participated in the preparation of the Holy and Great Synod of the Orthodox Catholic Church.
However, having taken into consideration:
1. the dissatisfaction and critical remarks of certain local Churches in regard to particular texts, prepared in the pre-Synodal period;
2. the irrevocable decision of the Patriarchates of Antiochia and Bulgaria to refrain from participating in the Synod;
3. the problems in relations and communion between Churches (Jerusalem — Аntioch because of Catar; deteriorating relations between us and the Patriarchate of Romania, which are now hard to overcome, due to the anti-canonical incursion of the latter into Eastern Serbia and the founding of a parallel diocese there, which will lead to severing of liturgical and canonical communion of the two neighbouring Churches if the behavior described above is not terminated, and so on), conjointly with the perspective of allowing these problems to not be solved at the Synod but, rather, to be deferred to the post-Synodal period, as if any commission can be an organ higher than the pan-Orthodox Synod, and
4. the lack of will from our Mother Church of Constantinople to have at least one of the proposals of our Church (such as the discussion on autocephaly, right of bishops to vote at the Synod, on regarding the synods from the ninth and fourteenth centuries as ecumenical already, in the consciousness and practice of the Orthodox Church, and some other ones, perhaps less significant) included into the thematic and agenda of the Synod, and, as long as we remain obligated by the standpoints of the Holy Assembly of Bishops of our Church, officially formulated two years ago, as well as recently, at the end of the past month of May,
we are compelled, with sadness — but also with full feeling of our pastoral and, generally, ecclesial responsibility — to inform Your dear and respected Holiness and Your Holy and Sacred Synod that, since all this is so, our Church feels it difficult to participate in the summoned Holy and Great Synod, and proposes that it be postponed for a certain time: while our pending gathering at Crete, with the help of God, would be regarded as a pre-Synodal inter-Orthodox consultation with the aim of additionally preparing the Synod and improving its texts, or, at the most, as the inaugural phase of the whole synodal process, which is to be completed in subsequent continuation, in the next phase, when all disagreements are removed in favor of unity of mind and consensus of Churches. In this way, with the aid of God, the fruit of the Synod will be seen as witness given to our uncorrupted faith, answer to hope which abides in us as the message of salvation in Christ, directed to all, both to those who are close to us and to those who are remote, and in no case, God forbid, as germination of new pestilent schismas and para-synagogues under the excuse of falsely proclaimed zealousness and alleged preservation of Orthodoxy.
In regard to the said we remain Your Holiness’ humble brother and co-celebrant in the risen Christ
Аrchbishop of Peć, Metropolitan of Belgrade-Karlovci and
President of the Holy Synod of Bishops
When the day of the Jewish Pentecost drew near, the disciples of Christ returned from Galilee to Jerusalem.
On the fortieth day after the resurrection of Jesus Christ, they were all together in one house. Jesus Christ appeared to them and spoke with them saying, "Thus it is written that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in His name to all nations beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to all creation. He, who believes and is baptized, will be saved, but he, who does not believe, will be condemned. And these signs accompanies those who believe: in My name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover."