Belgrade, May 19, 2022
A glorious and joyous celebration was held at St. Sava’s Cathedral in Belgrade today, as the primates and various hierarchs of the Serbian and Macedonian Orthodox Churches concelebrated the Divine Liturgy and shared in the holy Eucharist for the first time since canonical communion was restored earlier this week.
The Serbian Orthodox Bishops’ Council gathered on Monday, announcing that it had accepted the Macedonian Church’s petition to be received back as an autonomous body within the Serbian Patriarchate, thus healing a 55-year schism.
The Macedonian delegation, led by His Eminence Archbishop Stefan of Skopje, was festively greeted by His Holiness Patriarch Porfirije and other Serbian hierarchs as they arrived at St. Sava’s Cathedral in Belgrade yesterday:
“As the bells of the Church of St. Sava ring out, so our hearts beat with joy because of this blessed day. Welcome dear brothers! Welcome, brother Archbishop Stefan and Vladykas. Welcome to the community of love, you and all your God-loving people. We are brothers and always will be!” Pat. Porfirije exclaimed on Instagram.
And this morning, the Divine Liturgy of reconciliation was joyously celebrated at St. Sava’s:
In his homily during the Divine Liturgy, Serbian Patriarch Porfirije referred to the healing of the schism as “a miracle of God.”
“Our joy is immeasurable, because it is the joy of God’s grace,” he exclaimed.
The Patriarch said:
We are one in Christ, one in the Church, and this response of brothers and sisters shows that the hearts of our virtuous peoples beat with the rhythm of Christ. It shows us that God has had mercy on us. In the joy of Pascha we can shout with the words of the one who wrote the Psalms: This is the day that God has made, and we rejoice in it! Because today the fullness of the Church of Christ rejoices, Heaven and Earth rejoice, all the saints rejoice, St. Sava and all those who were planted in Him and grew in Him and whose fruits we also taste today rejoice, because by these prayers we have gathered today in this church dedicated to St. Sava, to manifest what God’s commandment is, to realize that the world was created to be the temple of God, to glorify God, and we humans are all created to be members of the royal priesthood, to glorify the name of God based on our gifts. He also ordered all to be one. People must be one with each other—a community of love based on God Himself, the living Christ. For all to be one, that is what the Lord wants from us.
The Patriarch also said that the Church is one because God is the head of the Church, and that with one faith we build unity:
Through order we manifest faith. There is no unity without faith in the one Trinue God, but also without participation in the same order. We say this in the Church, within the canons. This applies to all Orthodoxy. Because we confess that we believe in One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. First there is one, because there is one Lord. Unity in faith and in the Tradition of the Church springs from the Divine Liturgy, is manifested and confirmed in it. We are one in Christ with nothing left over when we receive communion from the same chalice.
His Holiness also emphasized that despite the goals of worldly forces, in the Church our goal is to be one.
In turn, Abp. Stefan of Skopje exclaimed: “We rejoice as a people and as a Church today… In this wonderful Church, our communion shows the unity of our two Churches and our unity with all the other Local Orthodox Churches.”
“We express our immense joy this Paschal season. As long as we rejoice in the victory of life over death, we rejoice as a people and as a Church today because, for us, today there is a new Pascha, the restoration of normal and Eucharistic communion in its Orthodox fullness,” the Archbishop said.
He also reiterated the Macedonian Church’s desire to eventually receive the status of a canonical autocephalous Church:
The Macedonian Orthodox Church-Ohrid Archdiocese, striving to preserve the unity of the Spirit through the bonds of peace, will continue on the path that leads and serves for peace and mutual development, on the path that will justify fraternal decisions for unity with all, including our request for a definitive settlement of the autocephalous status of our holy Church.
The Macedonian primate also thanked Patriarch Bartholomew and the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Constantinople for its own decision to restore communion with the Macedonian Church.
Following the Divine Liturgy, a cultural and artistic program was presented with traditional songs and dances.