Novi Sad, Serbia, October 3, 2022
Several new saints of the Serbian Orthodox Church were officially proclaimed and glorified in a pan-Orthodox celebration in Novi Sad, Serbia, on Sunday.
The Divine Liturgy and glorification of Hiero-Confessor St. Irinej (Ćirić) of Bačka and the Holy Martyrs of Bačka was presided over by His Holiness Patriarch Porfirije and a whole host of hierarchs from the Serbian and other Local Churches, reports the press service of the Serbian Orthodox Church.
Before the start of the Liturgy, the icons and relics of the newly glorified saints were brought before the faithful in a procession of hierarchs and clergy, led by Pat. Porfirije.
Visiting hierarchs included His Eminence Metropolitan Basilios of Akkar of the Antiochian Church, His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion of Budapest of the Russian Church, His Eminence Metropolitan Nektarios of Corfu of the Greek Church, His Eminence Archbishop Juraj of Michalovce and Košice of the Czech-Slovak Church, and His Eminence Metropolitan Petar of Australia and New Zealand, His Eminence Metropolitan Timotej of Debar and Kičevo, and His Eminence Metropolitan Agatangel of Povardarje of the Macedonian Orthodox Church-Ohrid Archbishopric, and hierarchs from throughout the Serbian Church.
At the Little Entrnace, His Grace Bishop Nikodim of Dalmatia read out the decision of the Serbian Bishops’ Council on the canonization of St. Irinej and the Bačka Martyrs. During the chanting of the troparion, Pat. Porfirije and the current hierarch of Bačka, His Grace Bishop Irinej took turns blessing the faithful with an icon of the newly glorified saints.
Pat. Porfirije offered a homily following the reading of the Gospel, emphasizing that the saints were normal people like everyone else, but who understood that the talents given by God must be multiplied not by our own effort, but by the grace of God. The saints were humble people, the Patriarch said.
St. Irinej was one of the most learned hierarchs of his day, and left a deep and indelible mark on the Diocese of Bačka.
He was born into a priestly family in Sremski Karlovac, and graduated from the Moscow Theological Academy in 1906. He defended his doctoral dissertation in Vienna in 1908, and shortly thereafter he was tonsured as a monk and then ordained as a deacon. In 1909, he became head librarian of the Patriarchal Library.
He taught several subjects at the Karlovac Seminary, including theology and liturgics, and he was involved in translating Old Testament texts.
In 1919, he was elected Bishop of Timok, and in 1922, he was moved to Bačka, which had been without a bishop since January 1918.
St. Irinej earned a great reputation throughout the diocese and the wider Orthodox world for his persistence, strictness, strong moral principles, discipline, and archpastoral gentleness. He lived modestly and fulfilled his duties without fanfare. He is honored as a defender of Orthodoxy in Slovakia and Ukraine.
Bačka suffered greatly during the Second World War, with innocent civilians being killed in mass pogroms. St. Irinej did everything in his power to protect the Church and his people from suffering. His activity and persistence are best demonstrated by the rescue of 2,800 children from the Šarvar camp, and the establishment of the Bačka Diocese Hospital in 1942, where children and other camp inmates were cared for and treated thanks to the engagement of the Diocese itself.
As a member of the Holy Synod, he used his authority to help stabilize the Serbian Church and to stop Hungarian attempts to create an independent Hungarian Orthodox Church, in which the Patriarchate of Constantinople was partially involved.
After the arrival of the new communist authorities, his position worsened. He spent a year and a half under house arrest, during which there were frequent incidents in front of his residence. In 1946, in one incident he was insulted, beaten, and nearly lynched, and one of his accompanying priests was stabbed. St. Irinej suffered injuries that permanently damaged his health.
With his health gradually deteriorating over the next several years, St. Irinej reposed in the Lord on the eve of the feast of the Annunciation in 1955. He was buried in the crypt in the Cathedral of St. George in Novi Sad.