Info Service of the Serbian Orthodox Church: Communiqué in re: the so-called appeal/petition to the Assembly of the SOC with signatures gathered in the streets on the pretext of defending Bishop Artemije

For days a group of monks of the Diocese of Raška and Prizren who do not acknowledge the hierarchy of the church or the decisions of the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church dated 13 February 2010 and who have been placed under canonical prohibitions, together with certain like-minded individuals, led by monk Antonije Davidović of Crna Reka Monastery, against whom an ecclesiastical legal case has been initiated, have been disseminating throughout the cities of Serbia and in some monasteries a text entitled “Appeal of the Clergy, Monks and Nuns and Faithful to the Holy Assembly of the Serbian Orthodox Church Council” and collecting signatures of support.

This is a text that has been published on several anti-church Internet sites on March 19 this year that, under the guise of alleged support for Bishop Artemije of Raška-Prizren, who has been temporarily relieved of the duty of administering the Diocese, seriously undermines the unity of the church and the canonical hierarchy of the Serbian Orthodox Church. In this “Appeal”, which most closely resembles sectarian pamphlets, there is a direct attack on the institution of the Holy Synod of Bishops, which is chaired by His Beatitude the Serbian Patriarch, and denigration of the Constitution of the Serbian Orthodox Church. The drafters of this extremely ill-intended and anti-church text do not have honest intentions because they do not seek the solution for their concern, sincere in some, faked in others, in obedience to councilar church hierarchy but further complicate and make even more difficult the position of His Grace Bishop Artemije by associating his name with their non-church and destructive positions. Purportedly seeking justice, the drafters and proponents of this pamphlet rise against all law and order, resigning their canonical obedience to the canonically appointed administrator of the Diocese of Raška and Prizren, as well as to His Beatitude the Serbian Patriarch and the Holy Synod of Bishops, who requested that His Grace Bishop Atanasije accept this difficult and responsible duty, granting him, during the period of his administration, all rights of a diocesan bishop in order to reestablish law and order in the Diocese of Raška and Prizren, which has been seriously compromised especially from the moment when Simeon Vilovski was elevated to the office of bishop’s deputy and practically controlled the entire life of the Diocese.

We call on the faithful of the Serbian Orthodox Church not to fall victim to false and unsubstantiated stories leading to confusion and disharmony, not to become separated from eucharistic community with their bishops, to avoid “para-synagogues”, i.e. nonchurch groupings, even at the urging of certain spiritual “leaders” but instead, respecting the church hierarchy, to prayerfully pass these brightest days of Holy Pentecost in the paschal joy of Christ the Risen. The church of Christ rests on centuries of canonical order, based on the Holy Eucharist. Therefore, the introduction of the modern mentality of petitioning and the drafting of petty political pamphlets in church life cannot be considered an acceptable way of expressing the opinion of Orthodox Christians. This is especially true for monks, for those Christians who have voluntarily taken vows to live a peaceful life of obedience, prayer and silence. They should be an example to others in meekness and love, not the cause of shock and confusion. The holy cannons of the Orthodox Church provide for strict epitimia – canonical sanctions – for monks who fall deaf and violate the nature of monastic testimony in the Church, for the Church and about the Church.

As has been said many times, issues related to the temporary release from administrative duties of His Grace Bishop Artemije of Raška and Prizren and the extent of his canonical responsibility for the situation that has since been created in the Diocese of Raška and Prizren will be discussed at this year's spring convocation of the Holy Assembly of Bishops in a spirit of community, canonical order, responsibility toward the church and also sincere and genuine help to Bishop Artemije himself, not on the basis of defamatory pamphlets such as the aforementioned “Appeal” nor “protest meetings” and other forms of non-church and non-Orthodox behavior.

Information Service of the Serbian Orthodox Church

Belgrade, 16 April 2010

Submitted by: Bishop Irinej of Bačka