Jasenovac, Croatia, September 14, 2020
The faithful of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Croatia celebrated a joyous event on Sunday, as the first-ever church dedicated to the WW II martyrs of the Jasenovac concentration camp was consecrated at a monastery in Jasenovac.
In 1941, the Croatian Nazi Ustašas established Jasenovac, one of the 10 largest camps in Europe. 700,000 people were killed there, including half a million Orthodox Serbs, many of whom died for their faith. The New Martyrs of Jasenovac were canonized by the Serbian Orthodox Church in 2012.
On their feast, September 13, His Eminence Metropolitan Porfirije of Zagreb and Ljubljana presided over the rite of consecration of the new church and the Divine Liturgy at the Monastery of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist in the Diocese of Slavonia, reports the site of the Serbian Orthodox Church.
His Eminence was concelebrated by a number of Serbian hierarchs from around the world, including Their Graces Bishops Jovan of Slavonia, Joanikije of Budimlja and Nikšić, Grigorije of Düsseldorf and Germany, Irinej of East America, Andrej of Austria-Switzerland, Sergije of Bihać and Petrovac and the retired Atanasije of Zahumlje-Herzegovina, and a number of clerics from several dioceses.
Following the Gospel reading, Bp. Grigorije spoke of the Christian understanding of memory, noting that it “has fullness only if it is rooted and planted in an eternity in which there is no death, pain and sorrow, in which nothing withers.” And this is why the names of the Jasenovac martyrs are commemorated in the Divine services, he added.
But together with remembering the martyrs, the faithful must be careful not to give place to resentment in their hearts.
Speaking of the newly-consecrated chapel, the host, Bp. Jovan noted: “This is a winter church, the first of the Serbian people, the first in the Church of God, the first in the Serbian Church, the first place dedicated to the New Martyrs of Jasenovac.”
Following the Divine Liturgy, the faithful gathered at the Jasenovac memorial area, where Bp. Andrej blessed memorial kollyva and cakes. The people who died in the camps were blameless, he noted, bearing no evil within themselves. “On the contrary, they carried within themselves the faith and vow of their families and their ancestors,” His Grace added, comparing them to the innocent Old Testament Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph.