Longin of the Serbian Orthodox Church Speaks at the Pastoral Conference
of the Diocese of Chicago and Detroit
On March 23, His Grace Bishop Longin addressed the clergy of the
Chicago and Detroit Diocese on the reconciliation of the Serbian
Church. His Grace stated, in part, the following:
Serbian Church, in the period after the war, passed through one
of the greatest temptations in her history. In 1963, the 'American
Schism' occurred, brought about firstly as the result of our spiritual
state, and greatly helped along by the communist regime in the
conflict in the Church, in part due to the political state of
our people, grew into a serious ecclesiastical problem. This can
be seen in the fact that the Bishop of America and Canada, Dionisije,
along with a good portion of the clergy, was defrocked; they,
being separated from the Church, created the 'Free American-Canadian
Diocese.' Their excuse for remaining outside the embrace of the
Church was the communist regime. They stated that they would not
listen to any orders coming from Belgrade, because they were under
the influence of the godless regime. I remind you that this was
an administrative schism, which did not involve any heretical
teachings of the church. The Assembly of the Serbian Church did
not accurately evaluate the spiritual and political reality of
those times. When things began to take the wrong course, it was
all very difficult to stop. Unfortunately, our people in America,
Australia, and Canada, and in some parts of Europe, went through
unbelievable difficulties. They became disunited, estranged, spiritually
crippled. The schism divided households and families. Thus, there
were cases where a father would be on one side, and his son on
the other; one brother on one side, and the other in the opposition…
the course of the schism, there were attempts to resolve this
problem, but they all paled in the attempt, and, of course, did
not bear fruit. Both sides of the schism felt greatly insulted,
all made accusations, and it seemed as though this would never
come to an end. The American court system benefited from our quarrels.
Imagine, we brought about one of the longest and most expensive
court cases in the United States. It lasted a full 17 years. Millions
of dollars were spent, and thousands of insults and accusations
were made. The Serbian Church ultimately won the case, but this
was no longer of any use to anybody. The situation remained the
same. We were disunited, with a large portion of the people remaining
outside of the Church, and not even aware of it.
all of this failure of useless attempts to reunite, the things
we were not able to do, God did. God Himself helped us by, at
the appropriate time, bringing Patriarch Pavle to the head of
the Church. Patriarch Pavle is the personification of sainthood.
He is spiritual, pious, and humble. These are the virtues that
adorn a true servant of God. Metropolitan Irinej, who headed the
'Free Diocese of America and Canada,' soon to be the 'Metropolitanate
of New Gracanica,' joined to help him in the great task of resolving
the question of the schism in such a manner that even today we
are not fully aware of the meaning and greatness of this moment.
The Patriarch covered all our sins with his love. He was ready
to 'kneel' before the people of the former 'Free Diocese' and
to tell them: 'come, brothers, under the wings of the Church.'
The Patriarch was not demanding justice, he did not try to place
blame, he did not become fixated on any minute details, but rather
filled with true pastoral concern for the faithful members of
the Church, he protected them all in a fatherly manner.
Holy Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church, at the
suggestion of the Patriarch and the Holy Synod, returned the dignity
to the bishops and majority of the clergy, as well as that of
the people, the former 'Free Diocese of America and Canada,' and
this was crowned with the Holy Liturgy on the Feast of the Meeting
of the Lord in Belgrade in 1992.
the achievement of Eucharistic unity, not all of the problems
were resolved in regard to administration, but we are working
on that. Ultimately, that is not a key question in the Church.
Pastorally it is first important to be united through the Body
and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are really spiritually
united, ecclesiastical order has been established, and everything
else will be accomplished in due time. The wound on the body of
the Church and people has been healed. Now we are gradually solving
the problem of the reorganization of the diocese of the Serbian
Orthodox Church on this continent.
consider this to be a great success in our Church and a definite
act of God. I feel that nobody else could have so successfully
accomplished this task, as did Patriarch Pavle. The implementation
of a purely judicial method in this case would have left us disunited
for a long time, considering the character of the Serbian people.
all this in mind, the case of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside
of Russia and the Moscow Patriarchate appears quite simple. As
far as I know, nobody was been defrocked in this conflict. Because
of this fact, this division in many ways does not seem to be as
serious a conflict. In any case, it does not even minimally have
the same characteristics as the Serbian schism.
my opinion, it would be a blessing in the true sense of that word,
for the Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian Orthodox Church Outside
of Russia, to confirm the unity at their Assemblies. After all,
in the spiritual sense, that unity always existed. This would
be the most dignified way to resolve this important question.
And believe me this would have a positive effect on all Orthodoxy.
The Russian Orthodox Church today has an important mission in
the role of strengthening the Church amongst our Russian Orthodox
brothers. Without a doubt, this would also help to strengthen
us Serbs as well as other Orthodox peoples. With such an act,
a brighter future and role of the Orthodox Church would arise
throughout the world. For that we pray to God, and in the spirit
of brotherly love, we greet all of you gathered here today.”