Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada, May 4, 2023
A true Pascha miracle occurred this year among the Serbian Orthodox community of Niagara Falls, Ontario, which came together to celebrate the Resurrection of Christ as one body for the first time in 60 years.
The Paschal Divine Liturgy was celebrated at the Church of St. George by parish rector Fr. Milorad Delić, in the prayerful presence of His Grace Bishop Mitrophan. This was the first time this had happened since 1963, the Serbian Orthodox Diocese of Canada reports.
The division in the Serbian community began in 1964 when Bishop Dionisije of America and Canada led a number of parishes into a schism that eventually became known as the Free Serbian Orthodox Church, centered at New Gračanica Monastery in Illinois.
The schism with the Free Serbian Church was healed in 1992, though the overlapping New Gračanica Diocese remained for a time. However, another division occurred when the St. George parish and the Archangel Michael parish (formerly Free Serbian) merged in the 2000s. Then-ruling hierarch Bishop Georgije protested the merger and the St. Elijah parish was founded. St. George Church was shut down for a time and later moved to the Eastern American Diocese, returning to the Canadian Diocese when Bp. Mitrophan took over in 2016.
Both of the remaining parishes were canonical, though they remained separated. More recently, the church connected to Bp. Georgije was disestablished, and now all the Serbian faithful are united again in the St. George parish.
“The church was filled with faithful people who witnessed the words of the Eucharistic invitation: ‘Let us love one another, that with one mind we may confess...,’” the diocese writes.
More than 250 people communed of the Holy Body and Blood of Christ.
At the end of the service, Fr. Milorad expressed joy at the common celebration of Pascha, and entreated the faithful to never again allow the Body of Christ to be split over anyone’s ego:
Let’s be aware that there will always be disagreements, but that these disagreements and arguments must never be the reason for founding new churches, because those are not the foundations on which a church can and must be built. That is not the foundation on which the Lord Jesus Christ established the Church. Love is a prerequisite for building any community, and only such a community can survive.
Bp. Mitrophan also spoke:
There’s great joy today for all of us gathered here because Christ is Risen and destroys death! It is a great joy for the Church of Christ because the Serbian people are united in Niagara.
St. Sava is happy today, so are the Great Martyr George, the holy Archangel Michael, and St. Elijah (patrons of the parishes that arose throughout the history of the conflict in Niagara).
We pray to the Risen Lord Jesus Christ to preserve this unity, so that conflicts and the separation of brothers never happen again.
The celebration then continued in the parish hall and outside with activities for children.