From the 35th Diocesan Assembly of the Canadian Diocese of the Serbian Orthodox Church held at St. Symeon the Myrrh Gusher in Calgary, February 3-5, 2017.
- We, the clergy, monastics and laity – representatives and delegates of all diocesan parishes and church-school congregations throughout our God-protected Diocese of Canada, gathered at 35th Annual Assembly of the Diocese of Canada, under the omophorion of our Hierarch, His Grace Bishop of Canada Kyr Mitrofan, at St. Symeon the Myrrh Gusher church-school congregation in Calgary, February 3-5, extend our sincere filial greetings to His Holiness Serbian Patriarch Kyr Irinej and to all Hierarchs of the Serbian Orthodox Church.
2. Filled with joy of the gathering and unity, we also greet all our brothers and sisters throughout the Diocese of Canada. Representing the pleroma of the Church of Christ in this Land, we address all the faithful people, with the invitation to rejoice and to be aware of their calling: “You are the light of the world” (Mt. 5:14). Hence our obligation to self-reflection and to questioning our own actions and mission in time and space, first of all among those who do not share the same faith and the same line of thinking.
3. Gathered in this way under the spiritual care and paternal leadership of our father and Hierarch His Grace Bishop Mitrofan, we express a twofold delight; on the one hand because the community of St. Symeon the Myrrh-Gusher, our host this year, is developing so dynamically – as do most of our communities – and on the other, because the powerful religious potential of this land represents a pledge for a great future of this blessed country.
4. We are grateful to God for the gifts we have received and which we abundantly receive, though we are aware of the work and the challenges that still lie ahead. Therefore, earnestly and humbly invoking the blessing and aid from the Lord, we turn to our brothers and sisters to work together on the unity of our community. Life of the Church is inseparable from the life of all of us, and we in this region in particular feel the need for unity – in Christ, the only true and solid unity. Aware of the significance of the community, we invite all the honorable and pious brothers and sisters to actively participate in the life of the Church. Even if sometimes in some things we do not agree with each other, it should not be a reason for divisions. We are a few in number to be disunited! God forbid that some individuals abuse the laws of this country and with their delusion begin to confuse pious faithful and separate them from the Body of Christ. If much is allowed in the world, it should be borne in mind that not everything is to the benefit. Humbly, but with sincere affection we invite all of our brothers and sisters who have esranged themselves from the Church community for any reason, to return back to the bosom of the Mother Church and to the measure of their talents and consequently their ability live in peace and love, and to have the same attitude of mind toward each other (Rom. 15: 5).
5. We are particularly grateful to God for making us worthy in the past year on this continent to be recipients of the part of the relics of the Martyrs of Prebilovci and St. Nikolaj of Ochrid and Zica. The church always gathers us around the relics and sacred things. The Martyrs of Prebilovci are indeed a symbol of suffering of our much-suffering people, but they are also a symbol of unity nationwide. The presence of the relics of the holy martyrs who suffered, yet not doing evil in return, did not bring only comfort, but true Cross-Resurrectional joy. If we are burdened by difficulties, let us make haste to venerate their sacred relics for the comfort and blessing, because they understand us; they were in a more difficult position. If we are divided, let us pray to the holy Martyrs, over their relics of which we have been made worthy, yet who laid their lives as a legacy to all future generations; if we are disunited, then all the Martyrs of Prebilovci, Jadovno, and Kosovo-Metohija and all the Martyrs of our people perished in vain, and have sacrificed their lives in vain.
6. Our view is directed primarily to areas where our brothers and sisters in Christ today are threatened, especially in Kosovo and Metohija. We call upon all Christians and all people of faith and good will to pray earnestly to the Creator and Sustainer of all, to grant us the much needed peace. We urge the International community to stop immediately further escalation of unrest by refraining from giving unambiguous support to the unfounded and legally unexplainable unilateral secession of a part of the sovereign State of Serbia. By raising our voice, we appeal to all those who can influence the fate of peoples who live in Kosovo and Metohija to do absolutely all that is necessary to reach a political peace, stability, thus enabling the nations in this region to live together in peace and harmony as it always was throughout history. The unilateral, legally unfounded and violent declaration of independence of any territory, so also the Kosovo and Metohija, it is clear that, at least in the civilized world, it is not acceptable and therefore cannot lead to peace.
7. Deeply concerned about peace and stability in the Balkans, we urge the international community not to ignore the fact that in the Republic of Srpska we see an attempt to bring back the unrest. After so many years of unrest, and finally established peace, to whose interest will serve destabilization of the legally brought and justified peace? Many of us, forced by circumstances before the winds of war, have left our homes and our loved ones in the Republic of Srpska and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Still bearing unhealed wounds of that time, we raise our voice in particular in order that everything will be done to prevent destabilization of the existing peace.
8. We join the appeals of other Christians in the world and urge the world community to immediately do everything to prevent the further expulsion of Christians from the Middle East and to unite efforts in order to put an end to violence and terrorism. We extol our prayers to Christ the Savior of the world, to establish on the soil of the Middle East the peace that is ‘work of justice’ (Is. 32, 17), to strengthen the brotherly coexistence among different peoples, Churches and Religions who live there, to enable the refugees to return to their homes, to give healing to the wounded, and grant rest to the souls of those who have perished innocently.
9. We wish to refer to parents and young people with a particular message. Parents, since you are blessed with the procreation, you are privileged, because the Lord has entrusted to you the role of creators, collaborators of God. God has blessed you to create the life and shape the young souls. Bring up children and grant them the precious pearl of the Christian Orthodox faith. Make sure that your progeny may not be unworthy of their ancestors who were creating, building, consecrating and sanctifying, by sacrificing themselves.
You, however, young people need to know that, whether you like it or not, you are loved. God loves you even though you are sometimes overlooked by people. Yet, God wants you to experience His love and to be His children, His apostles. Do not accept too easily perverted morality that is now publicly and unreservedly propagated. Freedom is a double-edged sword, because not every person uses the freedom for the common benefit, or for the benefit of their fellow men. Be, therefore, by your exemplary life the pride to your parents and teachers, joy of the Church and the nation, and decoration and example to the world.
- Traditionally, from this Assembly we extend special greetings to the Government of Canada, led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. As immigrants or descendants of immigrants to Canada, we are proud to live in one of the best socially regulated systems in the world; a society in which diversity is viewed as ennoblement. Bearing in mind the tolerance for the diversity of opinions and views of life, we cannot help but look at the tendency of suppression of traditional Christian values in our society. Again this time we speak to the relevant authorities of the State in which we live, work, contribute and create families, that the Christian principles inextricably woven into the foundation of this country must be respected. It is striking how modern society – a society of the twenty-first century – arrogantly imposes certain principles that are completely alien to the man of culture only a generation or two earlier. We wonder whether the culture becomes obsolete so quickly? Why Canadian culture represses its principles – Christian principles – on which was created?
11. In the intrepid proclamation of the truth of God, and salvific Good News, may our Lord Jesus Christ aid us, He who strengthen us with His promise: ”Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. ” (Luk. 12, 32).
12. Finally, as always, being grateful to the Lord for all the gifts that he has blessed us with in the past year, we pray that this year as well our Creator and Sustainer of everything does not withhold from us His mercy and His abundant blessings, to fortify and strengthen us to uncompromisingly witness Christ the Lord, especially among those who are yet to know the Lord and that we may never be ashamed of His name. Again and again we repeat, ours is to put efforts, to believe, to pray and hope with humility and meekness, with longsuffering, bearing one another in love, struggling to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph.4:2-3).
In Calgary, Alberta, Canada
February 4, 2017