His Grace Metropolitan of Dabar and Bosnia Hrizostom has said that the 800 years of autocephaly of the Serbian Orthodox Church /SOC/ is a good opportunity to remind Serbs of that which they are, but also for them to understand their obligation to preserve this huge richness they are bearing on their shoulders.
“Eight hundred years is an important jubilee in the history of our Church and people and the peak of our existence and struggle. We all must assume an obligation for our history and Church, and today it is that which it was yesterday and that which it will be tomorrow – this is a centuries-long duration,” the Metropolitan of Dabar and Bosnia told SRNA.
He noted that autocephaly was the independence of the people and the Church in their free development, in both spiritual-church and national terms.
“This is why we need to understand that this jubilee is a good reminder for us to regain strength and energy for the new 800 years. This is a great jubilee not only for the Church but for the whole Serbian people and each one of us,” Metropolitan Hrizostom said.
The Metropolitan of Dabar and Bosnia has said that every Serb should be aware of the fact that he is not a mere member, but that there is a little church inside of him.
“Each of us carries Lord Jesus Christ and Saint Sava in ourselves and each one of us is a living, moving church. We must be aware of it, we must renew it in ourselves and respect ourselves and everything that Saint Sava gave us, and this is autocephaly,” the Metropolitan of Dabar and Bosnia said.
According to him, without independence, the Serbian people could not have defended themselves from temptations and suffering and would have completely vanished, like many other small peoples who were parts of some other Patriarchates, vanished.
“This is the richness of our existence, struggle, and we must be aware and proud of it and must assume an obligation for the Church in the future, meaning that we must fight, work and put a lot of efforts to justify heritage of Saint Sava and all before us who fought for the Church and the homeland,” he said.
Metropolitan Hrizostom has said that Serb Patriarchs and Bishops struggled with all possible and impossible problems, misfortunes they were facing during these 800 years.
“When one reviews events through centuries, it is a miracle that we still exist,” the Metropolitan of Dabar and Bosnia said.
According to him, the 18th, 19th and the 20th centuries are the most tragic centuries for the Serbian people and Church, but also for the whole of Europe, as they were centuries of great wars and conflicts in which the Serbian people took part.
“But, thanks to the SOC, which was the mother who unites, the Serbian people managed to survive and achieve victories through prayers, tears, suffering, cross, and Golgotha. This is why we are grateful to God and Saint Sava for giving us strength. This is why here and now, in Sarajevo, we can testify of the Lord and Saint Sava,” said Metropolitan of Dabar and Bosnia Hrizostom.
He has said that this means that the Serbian Church can survive and overcome all troubles Serbs in these parts encountered, particularly in the past 30 years.
When it comes to the property of the Serbian Orthodox Church in the Metropolitanate of Dabar and Bosnia, he says that the problem “stands where it was before” and that nothing has changed because there is no good will among people who decide on it.
“We have the Law on Freedom of Religion and Legal Status of Churches and Religious Communities in BiH which unfortunately the authorities do not apply, and their excuse is that the other law, the law on restitution, is lacking,” he said.
The Metropolitan of Dabar and Bosnia says that the law has been waiting to be adopted in drawers of the BiH Presidency for 20 years, even though representatives of religious communities worked on it for several years.
“By the will of the then US Ambassador /Thomas/ Miller, the law is locked in drawers of the BiH Presidency and they still do not want to unlock it,” he said.
Metropolitan Hrizostom has said that Serb BiH Presidency member Milorad Dodik, during his recent visit to Banjaluka, was asked to raise the issue of the law without which BiH cannot move on, as a law on restitution is a prerequisite for any progress in the European integration process.
“The law will bring justice when it comes to usurped and illegally seized property of Churches and religious communities in BiH,” he said and added that the former building of the Theological Faculty, now the building of the Faculty of Economics, was one of the important buildings in Sarajevo that had been mysteriously sized from the Serbian Orthodox Church in 1962.
According to him, the Sarajevo authorities do not want to restore it as this is a very profitable business for them having in mind that they earn a lot of money thanks to the building.
“This is utterly immoral on the part of the Sarajevo authorities and the University, which is responsible for this situation and which should make a decision to restore the building to the SOC. They say there is no law, but where there is a good will then an institution that issued such a decree can void the previous decision and return everything to a previous state. Therefore, all these are mere excuses,” he said.
The Metropolitan has noted that significant property was restored to the Islamic Community and the Roman Catholic Church, but that no one is talking about it, and that almost all property was restored to Churches and religious communities in Republika Srpska.
“We should fight and hope that one day this will happen, as it is very important for us to start functioning in Sarajevo in a more quality way and to be able to do cultural, educational and social work,” the Metropolitan of Dabar and Bosnia said.
He has said that the quality of existence of the SOC in Sarajevo would thus improve and that it could organize everything that is needed, from libraries, museums, archives…
“This way, we don’t have any space to act. We are mutilated and despite that much real property we do not have a space to work in, but we are struggling as much as we can to create something,” the Metropolitan of Dabar and Bosnia told SRNA.