Sunday, September 18, 2016 will go down in history at the beginning of a new chapter in the mission of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Canada.
In a packed-to-capacity church of All Serbian Saints in Mississauga, with the prayers of 8 bishops, 20 priests, and 2 protodeacons, His Holiness the Serbian Patriarch Irinej, up to that moment the Administrator of the God-preserved Diocese of Canada, enthroned the new Bishop of Canada His Grace Right Reverend Dr. Mitrofan.
Hours before the Holy Liturgy commenced believers started to flow in so that at the start of the service the church was filled to capacity.
Children in traditional folklore dress preceded all of the priests of the Canadian Diocese, tens of guests from neighbouring Serbian dioceses, as well as representatives of other Orthodox jurisdictions in Canada, as they led the ceremonial procession of hierarchs into the church.
His Holiness the Serbian Patriarch celebrate the Divine Liturgy, along with Metropolitan Sotirions (Patriarchate of Constantinople), Archbishop Irinee (Orthodox Church in America), Bishop Andriy (Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Canada – Patriarchate of Constantinople), Bishop Christopher (Patriarchate of Constantinople), as well as Serbian bishops Vasilije of Srem, Longin of New Gracanica, Hrizostom of Zvornik-Tuzla, and Maksim of Western America.
The Holy Liturgy was prayerful and peaceful, especially because of the melodious responses sung by St. Sava Choir (John Lukich conductor), and the diocesan choir Kir Stefan the Serb (Jasmina Vucurovic conductor). The chanters for the Liturgy were Very Reverend Frs. Ljubo Rajic, Rajko Kosic, Dragan Veleusic, theologian Milorad Delic, and Aleksandar Markovic.
Several hundred youth and believers received Holy Communion.
The church service was attended by dignitaries from the Roman Catholic diocese: Bishop of Hamilton Douglas Crosby, Vicar Bishop Daniel Miehm, Fr. Damian MacPherson on behalf of Thomas Cardinal Collins. Also present were priests Ammonius Guirgis and Luke Khoury, of the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of Canada representing His Grace Bishop Mina.
His Grace Longin, Bishop of New Gracanica and Midwestern America, presiding bishop of the Council of Hierarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church in North and South America, proclaimed the official letter of installation from the Holy Synod of Bishops, naming Bishop Mitrofan, the former bishop of Eastern America, Dean of St. Sava School of Theology in Chicago, as a worthy candidate for the Diocese of Canada.
Leading Bishop Mitrofan into the throne His Holiness Serbian Patriarch Irinej wished for Bishop Mitrofan to overcome temptations by being wise, saying that it will not be easy, but that he was elected because the Church had confidence in him. “In these parts there were bigger problems at one point but thank God these problems have been solved. The difference in opinion between clergy and the laity have been resolved in the best possible manner and the Church is now run by order and discipline…We hope that Bishop Mitrofan will give everything so that peace and tranquillity bring unity to the clergy and faithful of this diocese, and all the people of this blessed and beautiful country. All of us are followers of St. Sava and we should emulate his example.
In his first archpastoral sermon to the fullness of the Canadian Diocese Bishop Mitrofan spoke of the New Testament vineyard, which when toiled and cultivated gives fruit in the form of spiritual blessings.
Calling on priests to be vigilant over the souls which they oversee, Bishop Mitrofan said: “It is my duty to, together with the brethren clergy and believers, hedge, furrow, and weed this vineyard; to break off all excess germinations, to cut off the dry branches, and to safeguard it from all ruination, both visible and invisible.” Encouraging all the faithful Bishop Mitrofan continued with wishes that we may all hear the words of one of the Church melodists when he speaks of a certain Holy Father: “Good and faithful servant, labourer of the vineyard of Christ, you endured the daily toil, you increased the entrusted talent, and you did not envy those who came after you.”
In his sermon Vladika highlighted: “There is no more perfect unity that that of Christ’s Church. It is paradise and we need not seek another. Such a unity is not to be found in any religion. And this unity is not maintained by the letter of the Law, by courts of law, by legal systems, but by love. If we possess it then we need not fear schism, divisions. God, our Father, Son and Holy Spirit, protect this vineyard from now and forever.”
Following the intonation of “Many Years” to the new bishop, Vladika Mitrofan distributed blessings and the nafora to all present.
The Joy of the liturgy was carried over into the hall where light refreshment was served for all guests.
The same day, in the afternoon hours, over 700 guests, with the utmost joy greeted their new archpastor at the formal banquet prepared in his honour at the Oakville Conference Centre. Following the national anthems of Canada and Serbia, His Holiness blessed the meal and thus began the program during which greeting were read from the following: Mihail Papazoglu, Ambassador of the Republic of Serbia to Canada; Metropolitan Sotirios, presiding bishop of the Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of Canada; Very Reverend Dragoljub Malich, Episcopal Deputy of the Eastern American Diocese; Milan Mrkal, Vice-president of the Diocesan Council of the Eastern American Diocese, and Very Reverend Vasilije Tomic, Episcopal Deputy of the Canadian Diocese.
The president of the Diocesan Circle of Serbian Sisters Mima Kobilski Ivosevic, on behalf of the faithful and clergy of Canada, presented Bishop Mitrofan with a complete set of vestments and a mitre as a welcome gift and a symbol of his dignity as ruling bishop.
His Holiness Serbian Patriarch Irinej, speaking to the gathering, called upon everyone that resides outside our homeland to preserve their language, culture, and most of all to be adherent to the Orthodox Church and faith. Greeting Bishop Mitrofan, the Patriarch wished him many years of successful and spiritually fruitful work in Canada.
In the end His Grace Bishop Mitrofan thanked everyone who contributed to the enthronement with their prayers and reminded all that the Church is our hope, salvation, and comfort. “She is higher than the heavens and wider than the Earth. She never gets old and is always in full bloom. She faces storms, but is never shipwrecked.” Bishop Mitrofan wished for all to be done with love.
It is exactly this thought, closing this gathering, which was visible on the faces of the hundreds who stood in line to get a blessing from the new Bishop of Canada, and to share their love with him.