Bishop Atanasije on the Break into Gracanica Monastery
Yesterday, February 14, 2010, a group of about twenty monks of the Diocese of Raska and Prizren which opposes the decision of the Patriarch and the Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church, led by the hegumen of Crna Reka Monastery Fr. Nikolaj and a number of civilians from the north of Kosovo, forcibly broke into the courtyard of Gracanica Monastery with the intent of “protecting the dismissed Bishop Artemije”. After unsuccessful attempts to enter through the main gate, the group of perpetrators led by the monks of Crna Reka physically assaulted the monks who are helping Bishop Atanasije in performing his duties. After a clash the group broke into the monastery using a side entrance. Shouting, they broke the entrance door of the bishop’s residence and one civilian even snatched a rifle from a Swedish soldier. (Swedish KFOR has been providing security for Bishop Artemije and the monastery for years.) The incident concluded after the group reemerged from the bishop’s residence, having convinced itself that Bishop Artemije “is not being held prisoner”.
Comments of Bishop Atanasije, the administrator of the Diocese of Raska and Prizren regarding this unfortunate event:
„One cannot “defend” Bishop Artemije by creating small para-church groups, “para-synagogues” (the first canon of St. Basil the Great), which threaten not only the unity of the Diocese but the entire Serbian Orthodox Church. One cannot build a personality cult around one man, while at the same time trampling the authority of His Holiness the Patriarch, the Holy Synod and the Holy Assembly of the Serbian Orthodox Church. Likewise, Kosovo cannot be defended using an anti-Kosovo ethic, i.e. with violence, just as good cannot be created in an evil manner for in the words of the Holy Fathers “good done in a way that is not good – is not good!”
Without a trace of human and Christian conscience, heinous lies have been spread about an alleged “assassination attempt”, the “expulsion” of the sisterhoods of Gorioc and Gracanica and the use of NATO troops (which have provided security this monastery during all the years Bishop Artemije has stayed here). Quotes were made up that yesterday’s Liturgy on the feast of the Meeting of Our Lord was “attended only by the followers of Hashim Thaci, even though there were about 200 faithful in the Gracanica church, including a substantial number of children, two of whom were baptized yesterday, and all the children and many others took communion.
Such a dishonorable campaign carried out by the followers of Simeon Vilovski only confirms that there has been a spiritually ailing and canonically out of step situation in this Diocese for years. However, in the Church of the Meek Christ not only can there not be brigandage (Jhn 2:16) but there is order and good acts, respect for the traditional and liturgical order of the Church, so that “all things should be done decently and in order” (1Cr 14:40).
"By the decision of the Holy Synod of Bishops of February 13, 2010, Bishop Artemije has retained his episcopal title and dignity, with the exception of the right of administering the Diocese. Bishop Artemije’s return to his earlier duty depends only on him and his attitude toward the structure and order of the Church of God. If he supports mobs like these it will be to his own disadvantage. The behavior of people calling themselves his “spiritual children” does not serve that purpose and is causing further damage to his spiritual authority and person, and the proper solution of his status. I stress that Bishop Artemije in his chambers in the bishop’s residence in Gracanica enjoys full personal freedom and can serve liturgy with the knowledge and consent of the competent Bishop Administrator and the Holy Synod of Bishops (due to possible abuse by irresponsible persons). Spiritual leadership plays a significant role in church life but it cannot be above a bishop’s authority and the canonical order of the Church. Insinuations that Bishop Artemije is supposedly “imprisoned and should be freed” are completely untrue, as Bishop Artemije himself testified yesterday before yesterday’s perpetrators whom he told to go home and honor the decisions of the Holy Synod of Bishops, which he personally signed on Saturday in the Patriarchate in Belgrade.
The bishop also has at his disposal four monks whom he wished to remain with him and every claim of his “captivity” is nothing more than common defamation which inflicts the most damage to Bishop Artemije himself, in whose name violence is being carried out and calls broadcast with alarming content for “the release of the imprisoned bishop”.
Due to abuses of the former official site of the Diocese of Raska and Prizren, it was decided to bring the site under the control of the new administration. With respect to this, Bishop Atanasije said:
Due to ongoing efforts against the church on the former website of the Diocese of Raska and Prizren, we were forced to temporarily shut down the site until a new presentation is prepared. The articles are full of passionate hatred, lies and slander that have no place on a site that bears the St. Sava seal of our Church and the title of this martyred Diocese. Any activity on behalf of the Diocese without the blessing of the Administrator of the Diocese will be considered an abuse. The website of the Diocese has been used for years for the publication of various petty political and subversive news items that undermined the reputation of the Diocese and the Serbian Orthodox Church throughout the whole world. This site was used to reflect a false situation that protected everything that was done in the name of Bishop Artemije, whose devastating effects were best seen yesterday in the unmonastic and unchristian behavior of some of his “spiritual children”. Unfortunately, a few hothead pseudo-zealots and pseudo-monks create the impression that this Diocese is ruled by a “monkocracy”, not a “Christocracy” and because of such persons the honorable clergy, which is already humiliated, and the faithful are repressed and practically pushed out from serving God and building a God-manly Body of Christ.
Bishop Atanasije explained new details about the case of Simeon Vilovski and his canonical crimes and financial frauds:
The Holy Assembly of Bishops explicitly warned Bishop Artemije twice, in 2006 and 2009, of the devastating activities of his secretary, Simeon Vilovski, and of the spiritually unhealthy situation in the Diocese he has headed and passed decisions to that effect which, unfortunately, were not implemented. Once it was established that the lawlessness exceeded all measures, the Holy Synod of Bishops was forced to take this measure and to send an administrator for the Diocese who could, with the help of the clergy and the faithful, repair the situation and return the Diocese to the full order of the church.
While reviewing diocesan documents it was established that Simeon Vilovski arbitrarily took money from the NGO “Majka Jugovica” which was intended for four soup kitchens that feed 1200 most vulnerable Serbs for which donations are collected by SMS. He used this money for personal luxuries, purchases, equipping an office in Belgrade and other purposes against the will of the authorized priest’s wife, Svetlana Stevic, who heads the NGO and who has made great efforts to prevent the siphoning of funds for the hungry. It is these very facts for which there is detailed documentation that show how grave was the moral fall of Vilovski, whom Bishop Artemije gave full authority and control over finances and even personnel matters within the Diocese, even though the Holy Synod and Assembly ordered him several times that this man be dismissed from all church duties for earlier canonical transgressions and financial frauds.
We also wish to point out the inverted logic of the aforementioned rebellious monks: "We do not recognize the Synod, but only Assembly!" If they were thinking clearly at all, these people could have concluded: that the Assembly elected this Patriarch, that two other members of the Synods were candidates for Patriarch, and that the same Patriarch presides over both the Assembly and the Synod. What happens when some members of an Assembly, whether this one or any other one, whether existing today or in the past, do not agree was resolved long ago by the sixth canon of the First Ecumenical Council: “If two or three object due to their argumentative nature, may the voice of the majority prevail.”