Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Irinej said while in London last week that Christian churches “must find ways to put aside that which possibly divides us.”
Speaking during his meeting with the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby at Lambeth Palace, he also noted that “in today’s times, saturated with confusion and unrest” churches must “seek ways which allow us to approach each other more closely.”
“But at the same time to build from within that which is common to us – and indeed there is much in common between you and us, both of us and the Roman Catholics, and, of course, the Protestant world,” Irinej has been quoted as saying.
“It is on that foundation that we need to build our common relationships. I trust this is the will of God, and that this is what God expects from us. This is why we need to be servants of the mission, of evangelization in our times and in our world,” the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church said.
Lambeth Palace also announced that Archbishop Welby welcomed Patriarch Irinej on the centenary of the visit of St. Nikolaj Velimirovic, who was the first Orthodox Christian to preach from pulpit of St. Paul’s Cathedral.
The invitation to Patriarch Irinej to make an official visit to the UK came “as an expression of the historic warm and strong relationship between the Church of England and the Serbian Orthodox Church, which reflects the enduring friendship of the two countries.”
The conversation, meanwhile, was an occasion of “significant conversation and warm fellowship between them and their delegations, which signals a renewal of the longstanding and close relationship between the Church of England and the Serbian Orthodox Church,” a statement said.
The two delegations “reflected together among other things, on the spiritual life of our churches; our work with young people, the poor and refugees, the problems of modern society, the renewal of the Serbian Orthodox Church and the household as the place of spiritual nurture and devotion, following the collapse of communism.”
“Once again, today, Serbia finds itself on the frontier of Europe, facing the countless tens of thousands driven by darkness from their own homes. And, tragically, as in the past, Europe has not, in a united way, risen to this challenge, and Serbia has had to bear a great burden – and the Orthodox Church has demonstrated, again, its faithfulness,” Archbishop Welby has been quoted as saying.
The patriarch and the archbishop also discussed rebuilding ties between the two churches. The head of the Church of England also thanked the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church for “the extraordinary hospitality and welcome to the Anglican community in Serbia for a hundred years.”