To the Christ-loving clergy and pious believers of the
Orthodox Diocese of Canada
As we draw near the great and joyous feast of the Nativity of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and the feasts adjoined to it, We would like to address you with select archpastoral words and a greeting for the upcoming feast which causes rejoicing on earth and in the heavens, among people and angels - for all of God's creation.
There are many examples of joy in this world, but the joy which the incarnated Lord gives us with His birth is the Joy of all joys. It has a beginning here on earth, yet it continues in the eternity of the Kingdom of God. This joy is our wish to you, Our spiritual children, who are loyal to your Church, Saint Sava and his heritage. We have visited our Church, in the Diocese of Canada, on several occasions. During these visits We familiarized ourselves with the life our Church and its people; primarily the priests and faithful. This is, for the most part, our people who had to leave their homeland due to fortunate or unfortunate circumstances, often running for their lives from the merciless sword of godless authorities. They have found a safe home in this blessed country. Being burdened with all of these misfortunes, they did not forget their roots and Orthodox faith. The Church is the one who carries our faith and cares for our souls. This is why the these immigrants built churches resembling the ones from their homeland.
In a relatively short period of time, Canada has been decorated by many grand and beautiful Serbian temples. As such, today in every major city of Canada our churches shine forth, adorned with the frescoes of saints, and stunning iconostases. These churches have become the spiritual, cultural, and national centers which gather our Orthodox people. The founders and benefactors of these Holy sites are our pious people. Fulfilled with love towards God and His Church, they did not spare effort or finances to buy plots of land and build churches and supporting infrastructure. There is a large number of those who took away from their families and sacrifices so that our churches can prosper.
Of course, our Church participated in all of these efforts through its bishops and priests. The Church spiritually guided the pious believers; and the believers followed the truth and teachings of its Church. The fruit of of God's blessing are the multitude of churches, congregations, clergy, and Christ-loving Orthodox Serbs who remain with their Bishop and the Diocese of Canada.
Bishop Georgije is the first bishop of Canada. Before him, Canada was a part of the Eastern-american Diocese. During his thirty years of pastoral service much has been accomplished in many aspects. The Church will forever be grateful for this. However, in the last ten years of his administering with the Diocese, some of the clergy and people began to seriously criticize the bishop. The criticism was directed at the way he related to his priests, but mostly at the way he led his private life. Complaints were directed to the Holy Hierarchal Synod and to many bishops. When the complaint became widespread and familiar to the people, the Holy Hierarchal Synod had no choice but to send a Committee, headed by two bishops, with the task of examining the validity of these accusations. The Committee spent several days in Canada, hearing the opinions of most priests, and representatives and members of Church congregations and affiliated organisations. It performed a review of diocesan bodies and delivered a detailed report to the Holy Synod. This report was also heard by the Holy Assembly of Bishops, with its many accusations and complaints directed at Bishop Georgije; with the Holy Assembly finally deciding to dismiss Bishop Georgije from further administering the Diocese of Canada. This is a constitutional right of the Assembly founded on the Constitution of the Serbian Orthodox Church and the Holy Canons.
We expected Bishop Georgije to reasonably accept this decision of the Assembly, hand over the Diocese to the appointed Administrator, and to put himself at the disposal of the Holy Assembly of Bishops. Sadly, he has not done that to this day. Instead of listening to the Church, on the occasion of Our arrival to the Monastery of the Holy Transfiguration in Milton, in order to take over the Diocese in the capacity of appointed Administrator, he orchestrated such scenes which a Serbian Patriarch has not ever had to endure. The police, and several people, Bishop Georgije's friends, prevented Us from entering the Holy Monastery. It was only after exhaustive explanations of our prayerful intentions that the police granted us access. This is not the only example of strange behaviour displayed by this bishop, who swore an oath of obedience to the decisions of the Holy Assembly of Bishops on the occasion of his elevation to the rank of bishop.
Nobody is denying the fact that Bishop Georgije did much for the Diocese of Canada. All of the good which he did, it will not go away. However, this which he is doing now; blocking the Diocesan bank accounts, forming a schismatic sect with his former deacon, buying himself a house with diocesan funds - this is all demolishing the good which he did and it is giving the Church cause to examine his uncanonical behaviour.
We take this opportunity, as We have done many times previously, to urge Bishop Georgije to return to himself and to his priestly and episcopal oath, to coordinate his behaviour with the Holy Canons of the Church and to cease forming a schism among our people and the Church. We urge him to leave his current path and way of life and to return to the monastic vow of obedience, and to put himself at the disposal of his Church. This will be pleasing to God, and beneficial to Bishop Georgije.
I appeal to you, brother priests, and pious believers, Our spiritual children, with an archpastoral message to keep the Orthodox faith, and to nurture love toward our Holy Church. We need to be grateful to God, our faith, and the Church that we exist as a christian people. Continue to support your Church. Those who supported the Church and remained loyal to it never erred in their choice. Respect your priests who care about your souls and pray for you. We especially appeal for mutual love, respect, and unity. These are the fundamental teachings of Christianity. In that far away land, living among many people, nobody is closer to you than your Serbian brothers and sisters. Of course, we have to respect all other humans. We are taught all of this by the faith of our fathers, St. Sava, and all the Serbian saints.
With these wishes and prayers to the Lord for all of you, We wholeheartedly wish you a happy and joyous feast of the Nativity of Christ, with the Christmas greeting:
SERBIAN PATRIARCH, Administrator of the Canadian Diocese
I R I N E J