Communiqué from the administrator of the Diocese of Raska and Prizren, Bishop Atanasije
By the decision of the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church no. 131 dated February 11, 2010, which is signed by His Beatitude the Serbian Patriarch Irinej, His Grace Bishop Artemije of Raska-Prizren and Kosovo-Metohija has been dismissed from the administration of the Diocese of Raska and Prizren until the conclusion of canonical proceedings that have been initiated or until the next session of the Holy Assembly of Bishops. His Grace Bishop Artemije is not banned from religious service and may reside in his bishop’s seat or another place or monastery or another Diocese of the Serbian Orthodox Church with the consent of the newly appointed administrator or the pertinent Bishop of the relevant other Diocese of the Serbian Orthodox Church.
At the same time, by this decision and by a special act of the Holy Synod of Bishops, no. 132 dated February 11, 2010, the undersigned was appointed administrator of the Diocese of Raska and Prizren with all the rights and duties of the diocesan bishop. Both these acts are personally delivered to His Grace Bishop Artemije at a meeting of the Holy Synod of Bishops on February 13, 2010 in the Patriarchate, with the explicit indication that both acts go into effect immediately. At the same time, using the car of the Synod and accompanied by one of the members of the Synod commission who participated in the previously conducted review of the situation in the bishop’s seat of the Diocese, we were sent directly to Gracanica Monastery, where we arrived yesterday, February 13, in the early afternoon. We were greeted by all the hierarchal administrators and a number of brother priests, monks, nuns and faithful of this Diocese, as well as by Vicar Bishop Teodosije of Lipljan and the abbess of Gracanica Monastery, Mother Efrosinija.
On that occasion, both of the above acts were read to all present. There were no objections to them because the local clergy and faithful have long expected the final resolution of the difficult situation in the Diocese of Raska and Prizren, which resulted from the lawless, uncanonical and church destroying actions of Simeon Vilovski and his collaborators.
Upon arrival in Gracanica, by authorization of the Synod, we took over the Info-Service office, as well as the office of the secretary and cashier of the same Diocese. We entered the chambers of the bishop’s residence, not touching anything else and awaiting the return of His Grace Bishop Artemije. We took over the two above mentioned offices immediately after our arrival because of a founded suspicion that they could be abused, especially as we found out that the uncanonically appointed bishop’s deputy Simeon Vilovski had secretly fled from the seat of the Diocese to Greece the previous night. (At the same time, we wish to declare that possible broadcasting over the official website of the Diocese of Raska-Prizren and Kosovo-Metohija (www.eparhija-prizren.com) by abusing this or another title of the Diocese is invalid until normal operation of the Info-Service of the Diocese is established with the authorization of the Bishop administrator.)
At the same time, we wish to inform the Holy Synod of Bishops, all parishes and monasteries of the Diocese of Raska and Prizren and the general public that we have taken over the administration of the Diocese of Raska and Prizren as the canonically appointed administrator, asking brother priests and the faithful, as well as the monks and nuns, to fully respect the decisions of the Holy Synod of Bishops, which are actually the implementation of the decisions of the Holy Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church, and to conscientiously contribute, with genuine Orthodox faith and love in Christ the Chief Pastor, our Savior and the Savior of all people and all the world, to the peaceful overcoming of the canonical and financial disorder created by the anticanonical actions, more precisely, the church destroying behavior of the above mentioned Simeon Vilovski and his unscrupulous and anti-church associates. (The Holy Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church had already requested canonical proceedings against hieromonk Simeon Vilovski two years ago, directing Bishop Artemije to remove him from all clerical and administrative duties but unfortunately Bishop Artemije failed to do so, as he failed to carry out a series of other decisions by the Assembly and the Synod.)
At the same time, we call on all uninformed people in the Diocese of Raska and Prizren not to allow themselves to be deceived by individuals or groups and small groups that are maliciously spreading misinformation regarding the decisions of the Holy Synod and Assembly and slandering the Holy Synod and Assembly, thus directly opposing the competent ecclesiastical authority of our Church, and trying to create a schism in this tormented Diocese of St. Sava and St. Lazar, and beyond throughout the Church.
Some of these pseudo-zealots, instructed by the aforementioned Vilovski and others, whose selfish, criminogenic interests are threatened, and whose actions are subject to canonical and judicial sanctions, or stirred up by hegumen Nikolaj of Crna Reka and his submissive followers, were in front of the Patriarchate in Belgrade yesterday in order to pressure and hinder the work of the Holy Synod. His Beatitude the Patriarch reacted to this and asked Bishop Artemije to dismiss these rebels and subverters of law and order in the Church or be faced with additional charges and the assumption of even greater responsibility in his own case. This he did in front of the Patriarchate. We also pointed this out to His Grace our brother Artemije today and canonically requested that he remove a few monks from Crna Reka and Holy Archangels from Gracanica or that we would request a new intervention by the Holy Synod and the Patriarch, which will be at his expense, and for this we again received the approval of the Holy Synod and the Patriarch. If misled people, whether they are faithful or monks, truly want to help our brother and co-celebrant Bishop Artemije, let them do so by fasting, calmness, prayer and obeying His Holiness the Patriarch and the Holy Synod and Assembly, and consequently the Church of Christ. The monks especially should know that our Church is communal and communally hierarchically arranged and administered in the Holy Spirit, and that we are all subject to canonical order and canonical sanctions – if we are an Orthodox Church.
We greet our brother priests and faithful, as well as the monks and nuns of this ancient and sacred, divinely salvational Diocese of the great martyred Kosovo and Metohija, from Prizren to Raska and we prayerfully wish everyone a happy beginning of the Forty Day Great Fast, which introduces us to the Resurrection of Our Lord from the Cross and our own resurrection with the prayerful wish and blessing that we quietly and in prayer, repentance and hope in the Resurrection pass the days of the paschal fast and with a pure heart and peaceful conscience welcome the opportunity to revere Christ’s suffering and Resurrection – the God-manly Mysteries-Events of our salvation – with mutual forgiveness and brotherly love, taking part in these holy days as often as possible in religious services, especially in the Divine Liturgy, and taking communion as well, as frequently as possible, in the holy and life-giving Mysteries of the Body and Blood of Christ, Crucified and Resurrected for us and for our salvation.
We also wish to announce that we will, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, visit parishes and monasteries and serve in all Kosovo-Metohija and Raska-Prizren churches and monasteries, including destroyed and renewed holy shrines.
Thus we will, with Holy God, already be serving on St. Theodore Saturday in the destroyed and renewed church of St. Nicholas in Pristina, and on the Sunday of Orthodoxy in the Orthodox cathedral of St. George in imperial Prizren, the ancient seat of this Nemanjic in spirit and pre-Nemanjic by date of founding, ancient Christian Diocese.
On Sunday before the beginning of the Holy Paschal Fast,
on the Feast of the Meeting of Our Lord, in the year of Our Lord 2010
Administrator of the Diocese of
Raska-Prizren and Kosovo-Metohija
+ Bishop Atanasije