Patriarch Porfirije: The remembrance of our suffering is an effort to manifest the fullness of life in every good deed and every virtue

Published On: 24/03/2024

On 24 March 2024, His Holiness Serbian Patriarch kyr Porfirije served a memorial service for the victims of NATO aggression at the Square of Toplica Heroes in Prokuplje. Below is the address of His Holiness the Patriarch:

Esteemed Mr. President of the Republic of Serbia, esteemed Mr. President of the Republic of Srpska, Your Grace, Most Reverend Archbishop, esteemed Mr. Mufti, all according to rank and order, brothers and sisters, dear people of Toplica.

We have gathered on this covenantal day for the people of Saint Sava, in order to give prayerful testimony to God, Who is love, and Who dwells in love, of our firm determination to stand on the side of love and not hatred, peace and not war, justice and not tyranny, truth and not lies, innocents and not criminals. Frankly speaking, both dimensions of human expression turned this patch of land into a global stage twenty-five years ago, reaffirming for who knows which time in history the ancient truth: That man is great only when he is humane and that he is soulless when he chooses anti-humanity!

I am happy as a man, joyful as an Orthodox Serb, blessed as a priest, because no ultimatum has swayed my people to give up love, God, and neighbor. Although the cost of such commitment is very high, it is also a pledge of survival and endurance not only on geographical maps but also in eternity, in the Kingdom to which Saint Sava directed us, and which the honorable prince and immortal knight Lazar opted for.

Did little Milica Rakić, and a citizen of Toplica Boban Nedeljković, and the other eleven soldiers who perished in the barracks in Kuršumlija, and all those who suffered in the NATO bombing, not stand on the side of Abel, the side of innocent victims, while their executioners stood on the Cain-like fratricidal side of misanthropy!? The innocent blood shed then across the land that God gave us has become the pledge of our hope and the seed of salvation.

Therefore, saddened for two and a half decades, and for as long as we endure, because of all those who were forcibly taken from us then, but with faith in Christ risen from the dead and the only Lord of love, we confess that nothing will separate us from His love (Rom. 8:39), their love, the land that we have paid for with our own blood for centuries, our determination never to give in to hatred towards our fellow man, even if they have united themselves with enemies.

To choose Christ means to stand by every innocent sufferer, whoever they may be and to whichever nation, faith, or language they belong. Therefore, the wounds of every Abel, every innocent victim, regardless of their faith, skin color, or nationality, hurt us. The essence of this stance is not that we want to be victims, but that we refuse to be cowards, not because we as individuals and as a collective are immature, or as some might say: stubbornly cling to immature obstinacy and reckless bravery and readiness to be provocateurs. No. It is precisely the opposite.

Our guide and measure are the holy martyrs who remained true to themselves and to a value system that has no alternative, which is the strongest expression of human maturity and godlikeness. Therefore, despite the fact that we have lost our dearest ones and that sorrow has crushed our hearts, our trust in God, our living faith, makes the main feeling that overwhelms us not inconsolable sadness and irreparable loss, but the deepest realization and conviction that we have had, have, and will have the worthiest among us who have refused to and will not exchange their Golgotha sacrifice for executioner privileges. In this way, all of us, just like anyone who, especially in these days of Lent, wholeheartedly enters into the mystery of Christ’s cross but also of His resurrection, are on a lasting gain. Therefore, summarizing the occasion of tonight’s prayerful remembrance, we remember the past, live the present that has been given to us, and decisively look towards and move into the future with hope, for according to the words of the Holy Scripture: hope does not disappoint(Rom. 5:5).

Dear people of Toplica, I am delighted to be with you tonight. The people of this region, led by your spiritual guiding star and the first host of Prokuplje, Saint Great Martyr Procopius, whose relics rest here for centuries, breed people of fearless faith, a faith that does not yield to the forces of lies and evil of this world at the cost of life. Just as Procopius did in the past, so have the people of Toplica done from the beginning until today. Only such an attitude could have given birth to the Iron Regiment, to fight for freedom, to survive the bombings, and to move forward, to move forward with a message of peace and love towards all, with the conviction that good is stronger than evil, with a prayer that disarms every deadly weapon of hatred and violence.

It is immensely important that we have gathered tonight right here before Saint Great Martyr Procopius to conduct an inspection of all the forces of our being, to see if we are capable of following him in professing our faith, which means: love, peace, tolerance, forgiveness, and readiness for sacrifice. Before him, it is as obvious as when the sun is at its zenith that the victims of the 78-day bombing are his followers and Christ’s little brothers and sisters.

We pray that everyone understands that we all need each other, that all people are brothers, and that all are our brothers, even those who persecute and slander us, to whom, unfortunately, we have been a target to this day. We will not persecute or slander anyone, but we will declare and testify to the truth, both for their sake and for ours. The remembrance of our suffering, the prayerful remembrance of the innocent victims of the NATO bombing, is not about holding grudges and with God’s help, will not turn into vengefulness. The remembrance of our suffering, as well as our prayer for innocent victims, is a testimony of truth, justice, love, and peace, an effort to manifest the fullness of life in every good and in every virtue.

Therefore, let us together pray to God with the prayer of my great predecessor Patriarch Pavle: Lord Jesus Christ, our God, accept our fervent prayer and forgive us our sins. Behold our enemies who hate and oppress us, and do not give them according to their deeds, but enlighten them by Your great mercy so that they may realize that evil cannot bring good. Deliver Your Holy Church and Your faithful from all evil with Your almighty hand. Help us, o Lord, You Who for the salvation of all took to the cross and endured death, that among us and throughout the world, hatred gives way to love, unrest to peace, sorrow to joy, that we may lead a quiet and peaceful life as Your people, brothers and sisters among ourselves and with each other. Amen.