Concerning Pan-Orthodox Concelebration in 2019
During the first week of the Great Fast, as we are preparing to once again on the Sunday of Orthodoxy, in a visible way with all other Orthodox Christians, celebrate the Triumph of Orthodoxy and the Restoration of Icons, the Western American Diocese of the Serbian Orthodox Church hereby notifies its priests and faithful to steadfastly maintain to the current practice of concelebration with other Orthodox bishops, priests and faithful from all the Orthodox Dioceses in the United States of America. In other words, that they do not interrupt any such common fellowship or concelebrations which they have been doing for decades on the Sunday of Orthodoxy, as well as on other feasts and times of the year. It is only through liturgical participation of the people of God which protects the communion with the Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 13:13)
Since some of our faithful, less familiar with the situation, have heard confusing and sometimes inaccurate information, in which is heard that the Serbian Church supposedly is not in communion with some of the Orthodox Patriarchates or autocephalous churches, we set forth following:
We recommend that all Orthodox believers entrusted to our Diocese, not to be subject to any disinformation regarding the alleged non-participation of our Church in Pan-Orthodox services. There are strange and contradictory attitudes coming from various sides whose messengers are somewhere claiming and somewhere suggesting that the Serbian church is supposedly recommending that we distance ourselves from those with whom, until now, we have been in communion. In this regard, we state that it is unacceptable to turn to an uncanonical separation from communion in the eucharistic-hierarchical unity with the other Orthodox Churches in the Diaspora and the whole world.
We remind everyone of the wise ecclesial words of the distinguished Archbishop of Albania, Anastasios (Yannoulatos) as well as those of Metropolitan of Dioclea, Kallistos (Ware), that the Holy Liturgy (communion) can never be allowed to be used as a tool in a fight against those who think differently from ourselves. Metropolitan Kallistos, who will also be the keynote speaker at the Church Assembly of the Serbian Orthodox Church in America in July 2019, expressed his concern that one church has decided to break communion with another church, and explicitly recommends that “this question should be decided in the spirit of brotherly love, without interrupting the Eucharistic community.”
Therefore, we want to encourage our clergy, monastics and faithful to be more earnestly united in the prayer and Eucharistic communion with all Orthodox Christian faithful in America, and more specifically, with representatives of all canonical jurisdictions: Ecumenical Patriarchate (all of its hierarchs and its Dioceses of the United States), Antiochian Patriarchate, Moscow Patriarchate (including the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia), Serbian Patriarchate, Romanian Patriarchate, Bulgarian Patriarchate, Georgian Patriarchate, and the Orthodox Church in America (OCA). By this church-building unity and love, the Serbian Church in America, by action and participation in full fellowship in Christ, by the grace of the Holy Spirit and to the glory of God the Father, give a blameless example to other Orthodox Christians.
In conclusion, in this year when our Serbian Church celebrates 800 years of its autocephaly, we are invited all to act as such a jubilee prescribes: celebrating unity in an overall way and witnessing to the spirit of unity both among our people and in relation to other Orthodox Churches.
The Bishop of West American Diocese Maxim