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Bishop Artemije: Comments on the letter from Patriarch Irinej

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Доносимо превод на енглески ОСВРТ НА ПИСМО ПАТРИЈАРХА ИРИНЕЈА владике Артемија.


The days of joy, the days of Christmas celebrations, to be more precise the 13th day of January, brought us a curious greeting via Fax — a letter from Patriarch Irinej, full to overflowing with “love and fatherly concern,” and just as we were about to think that the letter was sincere, full of good intentions and sent to us personally, we learned that at that very moment it was put on the official site of the Serbian Orthodox Church. Having thus become a public document, it lost the nature of a private and personal letter. That fact alone obliges us and, at the same time, gives us the right to respond publicly to this public document.

Patriarch Irinej’s letter tends to present the entire story about “the case of Bishop Artemije” in the black-and-white technique, although everybody who has followed the unfolding of events inside the SOC for the last four years, knows very well that the picture is very colorful. The letter begins with the Decision of the Holy Assembly of Bishops rendered in May 2012, overlooking and never mentioning what happened and has been happening since February 2010. And yet, what happened then, how it happened and why it happened is public knowledge, not only within Serbia, but wherever Serbian people live throughout the world. The manner in which we were deposed from the throne of the Diocese Ras-Prizren was an operation worthy of a blitzkrieg — uncanonical, unconstitutional, without a bill of indictment, without due process, without proof of guilt — yet guilt was piled upon us, pell-mell, in a plethora of generalized charges leaving us without the possibility to exercise our right to defense. Throughout it all, the more than willing media enthusiastically performed their assigned roles of mud-slinging and public lynching. The Patriarch’s letter is an invitation to the revival of that performance.

And yet, it was clear and evident to the people that they were watching an act of persecution driven by political reasons and religious convictions. That is to say, the people saw that the matter was all about political pressure applied from outside of the country (from Washington and Brussels) through the agency of whatever government was in power in Belgrade at any given moment. As for the Synod, the Assembly of Bishops and the Patriarch, they were simply executors. This statement is in no way our “deceiving of our insufficiently informed people” as the Patriarch’s letter claims; it is an evident fact. It is a fact confirmed by, among other things, the dispatches from the American Embassy in Belgrade, as discovered and made public by WikiLeaks. In these dispatches we can read conversations of various SOC hierarchs, including the Patriarch, with various American ambassadors. Bishop Artemije and his hard position on the question of Kosovo and Metohija figured several times in these conversations (See: Српска црква и Викиликс, завет или издаја [Serbian Church and WikiLeaks: Sacred pledge or treason] Belgrade 2013. pp 22-25). A quick solution of the Kosovo and Metohija question was sought in the elimination of Artemije. Unfortunately, we can see where we have ended up in our search for that solution.

These comments are not intended to pinpoint and analyze all questions connected with our person because that would be impossible to achieve in this short space. The place where it should have been done and where all matters should have been brought out into the open and clarified, the place where all that could have been done, had there ever been any transgressions against the Church canons on the part of Bishop Artemije, is a properly conducted and objective court trial, as envisaged by the canons and the Constitution of SOC. Why has the Church evaded that? Why were the Synod and the Assembly in such a hurry? Why was the canonical system violated? The system once violated has continued to fall apart at an increasing rate, and all of us are witnesses to the process.

The letter also “lovingly” threatens us with a “further canonical measure.” That further “canonical” measure will be just as “canonical” as were all earlier decisions regarding us taken by the Synod and the Assembly. How can we then respect or obey them? Would that not be the case of claiming that midnight is noon because of the strength of artificial light? A claim like that could be made only by someone who has quarreled with logic and common sense. Yet that is exactly what is required of us. And, considering that we refuse to do that, it is claimed that we are “in a state of schism”, that our’s is not the Church but a “para-synagogue,” “a sect.” They say that “the Liturgy we serve is not the Liturgy,” that “our Communion is not Communion,” that “our Mysteries are not the Holy Mysteries of the Church of God…” Why are they doing that? Allegedly, it is so because we have left the Church. But whom have we left? More than once have we spoken and written that we are what we were before, a Bishop of the Serbian Orthodox Church founded by Saint Sava; the Bishop of the Diocese of Ras-Prizren, exiled from my canonical territory by the high and mighty. So, what have we abandoned? What have we renounced?

We are still striving to stay on the path of Saint Sava and the Holy Apostles, the path of Our Lord Jesus Christ, by remaining faithful to them and obeying all their commandments (Mt. 28:20). Since we are talking about schism, about splitting the Church apart, we should take a look at those who persecute us and accuse us of everything imaginable and see where they stand. The essential question is the following: are they on the path of Saint Sava, are they at one with him and other Holy Fathers of the Church? Anyone who knows anything about the Orthodox faith and is aware of the behavior in which the Patriarch and the majority of Serbian Orthodox Bishops engage, statements they make, positions they take, sees and knows that it is precisely they who have strayed from the path of our Holy Fathers both in theology and in liturgical life. The people know that it is precisely our persecutors who are in a state of schism with the diachronic Orthodox Church. There are many examples to support this claim. We shall cite only some of the most notorious and extreme.

Today, the Serbian Orthodox Church (and, unfortunately not only the Serbian Orthodox Church, but also the other local Orthodox Churches) are severely shaken and nearly drowned by ecumenism, the heresy of our times. Some might ask “And what is this ecumenism?” Briefly, it is an attempt, a desire, an aspiration to equate truth with lie, justice with injustice, darkness with light, good with evil, God with the devil, all with a view to accepting and implementing the New World Order and overall globalization. And that means only one thing: ecumenism is the destruction of Orthodox faith and the Orthodox Church by equating all heresies with the One, Orthodox, Catholic and Apostolic Church. The way which leads to this end is through inter-religious dialogues, joint prayers of the Orthodox with the non-Orthodox (which is explicitly forbidden by the canons of the Church), which are participated in by many Serbian Orthodox Bishops and Patriarch Irinej, particularly. Who can forget his actions, statements, messages—all of which have been posted on the SOC official site and published in the media from Vienna (2010), where he himself testified to his being “an ecumenist and a pacifist,” through Zagreb and Sarajevo (2012), where he called the Roman heresy “a sister Church,” all, the way to Hanukkah when he lit candles in a synagogue and to comments on the election of the new Pope in which he declared that the Pope was elected and placed in his position by the Holy Spirit.

True, schism is a terrible thing and a terrible sin. The question is, however, who has committed the sin of schism and from what has he split away? Who is in a state of schism? What we have said earlier, albeit very briefly, clearly shows who has deviated from the path of Orthodoxy and from Saint Sava’s teaching, who has chosen the primrose way, who should return and to what, who is the one who is confusing and deceiving our insufficiently informed people. One thing, however, is certain: it is the common people who suffer the most because of the current state of affairs within the Serbian Orthodox Church. Many are disoriented and no longer know which way is the right way. Those whose ties to the Church are stronger, those who are more pious and more faithful know that every heresy, and particularly ecumenism, take us away from God and lead our souls to perdition. For this reason, they do not want to and are unable to follow in the footsteps of those who would take them to perdition. They try to follow the path charted for them by Saint Sava, the path trodden by our holy ancestors all the way down to Saint Nicholas Velimirović and Saint Justin of Ćelije. It is comforting to see that, God be praised, there are more and more such people in our country. The sight of our official Church sinking deeper and deeper into the murky waters of ecumenism has proved particularly conducive to this trend.

And, finally, the Patriarch has invited us to return to the “canonical order of the Church and unity with the Church.” Had the SOC been and remained within that canonical order and had it remained in unity with the Church of the holy Apostles and her Holy Fathers, this problem would never have arisen. Is it is necessary to heal the unhealthy state of affairs within the SOC? Indeed, it is. That was our position in the beginning; that is our position now. That fact is what more than two years ago brought about a personal meeting between the Patriarch and us. On that occasion we laid out before him, both orally and in writing (we personally handed him our letter on the subject), the only way in which the problem could be solved and transcended, without “making demands for any kind of repentance” only asking for the reinstatement of the violated canonical order. To this day, we have received no reply, no reaction whatsoever. We continue to wait and hope, although the situation has palpably deteriorated, at least as far as the actual acceptance and spread of ecumenism through the introduction of various novel practices in the life and work of the SOC.

And even so, were it only the question of Bishop Artemije as a man, that problem would long have been solved. But the problem goes much deeper than that. The purity of our Orthodox faith is at stake and our faithfulness to the centuries-long Tradition of our Holy Fathers. Until this question is resolved and transcended in a manner compatible with the teaching of our Holy Fathers, until the SOC abandons the path of ecumenism and “philo-Papism” and returns to the path charted by Saint Sava, the problems within the Church will multiply; they will not be resolved, and neither will the problem of Bishop Artemije.