Stay With God and Live With Him

An interview with His Holiness Patriarch Pavle of Serbia († 2009)


How do you, our archpastor, the head of our Church, see the future of Orthodoxy in the so-called New Times?

—Christ said that the further it gets, the harder it will be for us. There will be wars and rumors of wars, earthquakes, famines and pestilences; that lawlessness will increase, the love of many will grow cold, one person will rise up against another and one will betray another. However, Christ says in another place, we need to prepare ourselves to withstand it to the end.

Orthodoxy is now ready, and should always be ready, for these hardships. Christ also said to us: Whoever wants to follow after Me, let him take up his cross and walk. They persecuted Me and they will persecute you also. That means that we need to be ready for these difficulties, endure them and withstand them. He who endures to the end, says Christ, will be saved. You yourself can see that our misfortunes come not only from those who are against us, people of other faiths and atheists, but unfortunately also from people who consider themselves Christians. And now we can see how certain Christians behave inhumanly... If we were to do the same thing we would be even more severely condemned—to whom much is given, much is also asked. It is all a matter of withstanding to the end.

Four years ago I was at the celebration of the hundredth anniversary of the church of St. Savva in Vienna, Austria. That morning the [Serbian] newspapers wrote that I had arrived to throw dust in the eyes of the whole world, and that at fault for all the misfortunes and wars are the Serbs and the Serbian Church, which called everyone to go to war. At one assembly of Serbs and Austrians I was forced to announce, “They are accusing me and the Serbian Church of calling people to go to war for greater Serbia. But I say that if greater Serbia should and can survive only through evil doing, I do not give my consent! Let there be no lesser Serbia either—we will redeem it! But not at the cost of evil doing! No, never! May we cease to exist, but remain Christ’s people in that disappearance. We refuse to live any other way, not for anything. This means that the essence is in this: After all, we know that our ancestors were not free for so many years and centuries, but they stood fast in the truth; and the Most High, Who is on the side of goodness, preserved us. If we need to perish, then it is better to be a dead man than living but inhuman.”

Your Holiness, in Montenegro we have one priest who was defrocked by the Constantinople Patriarchate, cast out of his rank by the Orthodox Church, who presents himself as some self-proclaimed metropolitan of the “Montenegrin autocephalous church”, and is forming a peculiar sect of “defrocked Montenegrins” out of other wretches like himself. But after all, he was once baptized in the Serbian Orthodox Church, was educated in it, and prepared for worthy pastoral service. What do you think about this?

—This is schism, and schism is heresy. Heresies exist, and schisms exist. Heresy is a sin against the Gospel truth, and schism is a sin against the unity of the Church. I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (Mt. 16:18), said Christ. The apostle Paul says that the Church is the pillar and ground of truth (1 Tim. 3:15). If a person prefers something in this world over the Gospel truth, then of course heresy, schism, and ruptures happen. Meanwhile one holy father says that heretics can have faith in the Holy Trinity, they can have the Gospel and the Sacraments, but there will be no salvation with them. St. Cyprian of Carthage says about this: “Whoever does not have the Church as his mother, does not have God as his Father.” Based on this the Roman Church separated in 1054 from the Eastern Church. They exalted the principle of this world over the principles of the Gospel, God’s Kingdom of Heaven—and that is the crux of the matter. Whoever does not think about his salvation can in no way take care for his honor. We can only depart from someone who does not take care for his principles, which are passed down from generation to generation, and does not care for his own people and Church. We shall all appear before the face of our Lord at His Judgment, and each of us will answer for our deeds. If we all remember this, then such problems resolve themselves very quickly. Now it is clear that a schism is brewing, and we know that if the schismatics do not repent, they will find themselves in same place as others like themselves.

Our readers await your archpastoral blessing.

—May the Lord be with us and we with Him, and He will never depart from us, ever, if only we will not depart from Him. And departing from Him and His way means going to sin, to what is not worthy of the name of our ancestors and of ourselves. May we be with the Lord and He with us, no mater what happens. And it will be good, because all goodness comes from God. May the blessing of God, and St. Savva, St. Basil of Ostrog, and St. Peter of Cetinje, and all our holy martyrs and new martrys be with all of us. Amen!

From the book on His Holiness Patriarch Pavle of Serbia, Walking to Eternity.

Patriarch Pavle (Stojčević) of Serbia
Translation by Nun Cornelia (Rees)

Sretensky Monastery


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