Written by Vladimir Moss



     After 1945 the struggle to keep the Orthodox Church free from Communist control continued for a few years. But it eventually failed… 

     According to a report dated October 18, 1961 and prepared by the United States Senate’s Subcommittee to Investigate the Administration of the Internal Security Act and Other Internal Security Laws of the Committee on the Judiciary, in 1950, on the death of Patriarch Gabriel of Serbia, the Communists “made certain that the new patriarch would be a ‘cooperative’ one, and forced the election of a weak man, Bishop Vikentije Prodanov, who became a manageable tool of communist propaganda.” He was elected patriarch, as Hieroscheamonk Akakije writes, “with heavy pressure from the secret police” and “by one episcopal vote only. Even though he was very obedient to the authorities, the newly chosen Patriarch Vikentije resisted some of Tito’s plans, for example, the forming of the Macedonian Church. So he didn’t last long on the patriarchal throne. He died eight years later. 

     “After Vikentije, the communists needed a completely loyal person, who would bring the Serbian Church in service to the atheist regime. Such a candidate they found in the person of the widowed priest Chranislav Djorič, who became a monk with the name German and in 1951 became Vikentije’s vicar-bishop. In the campaign electing German as patriarch, the communist regime did not hide its active participation. All the memories of the electing council were very thoroughly worked upon by the secret police. The boss of the Serbian secret police Milan Velić openly said to the members of the electoral council: ‘We want German to be chosen, and he will be chosen, whether you vote for him or not. We want in the person of the patriarch to have a safe and sound friend, and with Vikentije we were too credulous.’ Everyone received an envelope with money. One of the examples of various blackmailing and threats was Abbot Platon Milevoyević of Studenitsa, to whom the bloody boss of the Belgrade secret police, Miloš Minić, came with one associate and told him he would be arrested for public immorality and misuse of money in selling the monastery’s woods unless he voted for German. The secret police claimed that they had all the proofs of all his weaknesses, having mistresses in the monastery, several children born outside wedlock, and so on.” 

     “Father Makary, abbot of the famed Dechani Monastery, was given 200,000 dinars ($650) as payment for his coerced vote for Germanus. He came back to his monastery after the election and threw the money at his monks, telling them that he ‘felt like Judas’.

     “Many delegates to the Electorate were given a special pen and paper on which they were to cast their ballots, in order to show whether they had kept their promise to the agents of the Secret Police. (Two sworn statements by witnesses).”

     According to witnesses in the patriarch’s house, he had a party card. And when he was once accused of embezzling a very large sum of money and was threatened with a court trial, the Serbian equivalent of the KGB (UDBA) saved him and paid the money themselves. Thereafter he was completely “their man”. The Belgrade newspaper Telegraf recently confirmed that German was elected by UDBA. 

     As Archimandrite Justin Popovich wrote in 1960: “… The atheist dictatorship has so far elected two patriarchs… And in this way it has cynically trampled on the holy rights of the Church, and thereby also on the holy dogmas.”

     In this period, the communists tried to break down the resistance of all those bishops who opposed them. In most cases they succeeded. But there were some exceptions. For example: “The Bishops’ quarters in Novi Sad, in which Bishop Irenej (Tsilits) of Bachka lived, became the target of ‘national rage’ – communist demonstrations that threw a large number of stones at the building with terrible exclamations. During a festal litia in 1946 in one village, when the bishop came out from the church in full vestments, the organized communist crowd threw a number of stones at him. Being hit on the back of his head, Bishop Irenej fell on the ground. The raging crowd attacked the bishop, and the priest who was trying to defend him was stabbed by knives. Severely hurt, all covered in blood, his beard pulled out, his vestments torn, spat upon and insulted, Bishop Irenej was taken to Novi Sad during the night. As a consequence of these heavy wounds, he spent the rest of his life mostly in his sickbed.

     “Metropolitan Nektary was lynched by the communists. In August 1953 a group of about 150-250 communists (including some women) arrived unexpectedly in the monastery of Osren. They forced their way into the monastery guest-house, and uttering terrible words they came to the bishop’s cell, where they started to hit and push him until he fell to the ground. One of the women was pulling his beard. The calls for help of an old bishop, who was at that time 75 years old, were heard by nobody. They kept on tearing his ryasa, pushing and torturing him. Heavily wounded, he had to leave Tuzla, and go to Belgrade, where he lay in hospital for several months. Metropolitan Nectarius was the spine of the resistance to the communists in the Serbian Orthodox Church. Before the election of German as patriarch, the president of the socialist republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina – his name was Djuro Putsar, his nickname was “the old one” – said to Metropolitan Nectarius and Bishop Basil: ‘The two of you represent 80% of the Council, and if German is not elected, we know who is responsible.’ Metropolitan Nectarius called patriarch German ‘Judas’ son’. 


     “In 1944 Metropolitan Arsenije was condemned in Cetinje by the national court to ten-and-a-half years’ hard labour for anti-state activities because he did not carry out various requests made by the communists and because he said in his sermons that the Catholic Church did very evil things to Orthodox people. Together with him, seven old Montenegrin priests were condemned too. In 1960, due to serious illness, he was released at the age of 77. Rejected by all, his last days were spent with his daughter and son-in-law. He reposed, humiliated and persecuted by Patriarch German, whom he cursed on the last day of his life. Up to his last hour he rejected the communists and German. Even on his deathbed, the communists asked him to sign a statement by which he approved of the official policy of Patriarch German. Under the pressure of the communists, his funeral was conducted in secret.

     “Bishop Vasilije was forced to leave Banja Luka by the communists. At his question whether there was any written document by the state authorities about his ban from Banja Luka, the communists answered: ‘The people does not give written decisions, and it does not make any such decisions. The people has the right to make such decisions, because it is above the authorities, and each authority originates from the people.’ After constant threats to lynch him, he decided to leave for Belgrade. On his way to the railway station, a lot of men and women ran after him, shouting: ‘You wanted it written, here it is written, you will get it from the people, who are waiting for you. Down with the bearded man! Down with the people’s enemies and the collaborators of the occupiers!’ One of them attacked the car and started to curse God. When the bishop had hardly reached the station, an even larger mass of people were waiting for him there. They started to throw tomatoes and stones at him, and when they had surrounded him completely they started to spit at him, pull his beard and hit his head and body. The police was present all the time, but did not react to this public violence. One communist sub-officer kept on getting close to his face, and saying: ‘We are materialists, we only believe in matter, and not in the immortality of the soul, as you priests teach. Confess that it is senseless. You collaborated with the occupiers, and you don’t want to collaborate with today’s authorities. That is why people are making you leave. Confess that you were wrong, and repent.’ He was so badly hurt that he twice fell on the ground. Then they dragged him over the railway line and tore his sleeveless coat and his mandiya. In the train all the passengers kept on insulting him, and as he sat by the window it was broken from the outside. The reason for this lynching was his resistance to compromise with the godless authorities. Still, he couldn’t withstand the communist tortures to the end, and under UDBA pressure he gave his support to Bishop German as candidate for patriarch.

     “Bishop Varnava (Nastić) was condemned in 1948 by a communist court to ten years’ hard labour for the ‘crime of treason: he helped to weaken the economy and the military power of the state, he helped terrorist bands, he published enemy propaganda, and he was a spy for the Anglo-Americans.’ He suffered his punishment in Zenitsa jail. All the time he was in total isolation in a dark and damp cell under the greatest affliction of soul and body. The communists immediately cut his hair off and shaved his beard to humiliate him and make him a laughing-stock. They made him dothe hardest jobs because they knew he was physically sensitive and weak in health. They starved him of food and water, tortured him with loneliness and deprived him of information from books or newspapers, with no communication with the outer world, just in order to break down his morale and subject him to their godless commands. In reply to all those tortures, he chanted church songs in his cell. Since no torture could break his spirit, the spirit of Bishop Varnava, the UDBA planned his so-called transfer in 1949 and arranged a traffic accident by crashing a locomotive into a parked, locked railway car in which he and a number of other political prisoners were bound. The impact was so powerful that out of a full car only eleven prisoners survived. Bishop Varnava was thrown through the window while tied together with a Catholic priest who died immediately as they fell. Bishop Varnava stayed alive, but both legs and one arm were broken. People from the train station and other trains ran to help, but police surrounded the car and would not allow anyone to come close to the wounded, and one policeman even turned an automatic gun against the people. One hour later, the UDBA came and took all the wounded to the city hospital nearby, where the doctors immediately started to help. Suddenly an UDBA man came back to the hospital and ordered the doctors to stop helping the wounded and to take them off the operating tables. The protests of the doctors were not considered. Bishop Varnava at that moment was on the operating table with a hole in his heel where a metal rod was to be inserted to help his broken leg heal. All the wounded were put in an army truck on wooden planks and they were driven at a horrific speed over very bad roads, so that two of them died during the trip. In 1960, after several transfers, from one prison to another, where he became severely ill, the much-suffering Bishop Varnava came to the end of his term of punishment. At that moment he submitted a plea to the Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church to be reactivated. Patriarch German did not take his plea before the Synod, but sent him a message: ‘It is necessary that you first regulate your relationship with the authorities’, which practically meant that he had to give a statement of loyalty to the communist regime. From that time the UDBA started to pressure him again. The boss of the religious section of the UDBA Milan Velić sent him a letter signed by about ten hierarchs recommending that he sign the statement of loyalty to the authorities and request that the Holy Synod retire him. Velić brought him the prepared text of his statement, a very cunning document prepared by Bishop Vissarion Kostić in which, among other things, they asked him to praise Tito’s regime, be one with the official position of the Church and to fence himself off from the work of the emigration. When he strongly resisted, the UDBA officer told him: ‘That means you are condemning Patriarch German and the other bishops who have already given such statements.’ Bishop Varnava said: ‘Everybody shall answer before the Last Judgement for his deeds on earth.’ Then the UDBA officer said: ‘You think Patriarch German will answer before the Last Judgement?’ Bishop Varnava answered: ‘The first and the hardest!’

     “When Patriarch Vikentije went to Moscow and laid flowers at the tomb of Lenin, Bishop Varnava under his full signature from prison sent a letter saying: ‘In whose name did you go, who did you represent, and who authorised you to put the flowers on the tomb of Lenin? From that wreath that you laid on Lenin’s tomb, take off one leaf in the name of the Serbian priesthood, one leaf in the name of Serbian bishops , one leaf in the name of the Serbian people, and the remaining six leaves will represent you and the members of your delegation.’ Because of this letter, the Hierarchical Synod gathered and pronounced him irresponsible and irrational. That was when his real spiritual torments began, because his brother hierarchs became his enemies. The notorious Bishop Vissarion led the systematic action against Bishop Varnava, who often used to say: ‘Being imprisoned by the communists was sweet for me, but now it is not the communists who are persecuting me, but my brother bishops.’ Lonely, and surrounded by the iron wall of the communist police, Bishop Varnava died in unexplained circumstances.

     “During his ordination, on the Feast of the Transfiguration, 1947, in the Saborna church in Belgrade, the newly ordained Bishop Varnava uttered the following prophetic words: ‘When our Lord Jesus Christ sent his apostles into the world, he put before them sacrifice as the programme and way of their lives. And only readiness for apostolic sacrifice made the Galilaean fishermen receive apostolic honour. Lofty honour in the Church of Christ means lofty sacrifice. The Holy Hierarchical Council led by the Holy Spirit chose my unworthiness as bishop of the Church of Christ. By that choice they condemned me to the sacrifice of Christ’s Golgotha. And in condemning me to that highest sacrifice they gave me the loftiest honour that can be given to a mortal man. All I can say is that I shall gladly climb my Golgotha, and I shall never trade that honour for any other under the sun of God. The bishop’s position is a sacrifice on Golgotha because the bishop’s service is apostolic service, and to the apostles the Lord said: “The cup which I am drinking you will drink, and the baptism which I am being baptised with you will be baptised with” (Mark 10.39). And the cup which our Lord drank and the baptism with which he was baptized, what else could it be but the cup of Golgotha and the bloody baptism in His own Blood?… And that is why, though I know the weaknesses of the soul, I am not afraid that my leg will shatter on the road of Golgotha strewn with thorns that I am today undertaking. Even if it wanted to shatter, the light and the warmth of innumerable examples of Christ’s heroes will bring back to it firmness and might.’ This sermon by Bishop Varnava was fulfilled completely through his much-suffering hierarchical service and struggle to defend Church freedom.

     “This was the way they prepared the total collapse of the Serbian Church. First by removing unfitting [bishops], and then carefully choosing new bishops sympathetic to the regime, or at least those who would accept the new kind of situation. In the period after the war the existence of the Serbian Church depended on the way the patriarch and the bishops treated Tito’s regime. In the time of Metropolitan Joseph, the patriarchal locum tenens, the Church still, regardless of external persecution, enjoyed internal freedom, because his firm position, if we exclude his lukewarm and flexible position towards the MP, let everybody know that he would firmly hold to the Church canons. And he succeeded. Much more modest, but still firm, was the position displayed by Patriarch Gabriel. The two of them represented the last defence of Church freedom. 

     “As we have seen, after the death of Patriarch Gabriel, the situation in the Church became more difficult. Using the UDBA, the communists choose Vikentije as patriarch, who did many favours for them. In 1958 the act of the destruction of the Serbian Orthodox Church came to its end when the UDBA imposed as patriarch German, who was an absolutely submissive tool, accepted all the requests of the regime. The first big concessions to Tito were the act of forming the Macedonian Autocephalous Church and the blessing of the pro-communist association of priests (partisans), through which the possibility of total control of the Church was created. Patriarch German told the priesthood in Belgrade: ‘Whichever priest insults Tito, insults me.’ Really the position of the Serbian patriarchate was harder than at any time in its long-lasting history, because for the first time its patriarch and bishops joined the enemies of the Church. In the years after the war most of the Serbian bishops obviously had no ecclesiological consciousness, which is a confessing position of struggle for the purity of the Orthodox faith, which was best illustrated by the presence of the Serbian Church at the councils of Moscow in 1945 and 1948, as well as the fact that not a single bishop or clergyman – though many of them were against the communists and criticised the behaviour of Patriarchs Vikentije and German, - never thought of stopping communion with the red patriarch in Belgrade, which all this time was in full eucharistic communion with the new calendarists…”

    From the time of the election of Patriarch German in 1958, and with the exception of a very few clergy, the communists were now in complete control of the Serbian Patriarchate. Archimandrite Justin Popovich wrote on the catastrophic situation of the Church at this time: “The Church is being gradually destroyed from within and without, ideologically and organizationally. All means are being used: known and unknown, open and secret, the most subtle and the most crude… And all this is skilfully dissolved, but in fact it is the most deadly of poisons with a sugar coating… The most elementary and rudimentary logic demonstrates and proves: cooperation with open atheists, the cursed enemies of Christ and the Orthodox Church of Christ, is illogical and anti-logical. We ask those who seek such cooperation, or already cooperate, or – terrible thought! – compel others to cooperate, with the words of Christ: ’What communion can there be between righteousness and lawlessness? Or what is there in common between light and darkness? What agreement can there be between Christ and Belial?’ (II Corinthians 6.14-15). Do you not hear the Christ-bearing Apostle, who thunders: ‘If we, or an angel from heaven begins to preach to you that which we have not preached to you, let him be anathema!’ (Galatians 1.8). Or have you, in the frenzy of the atheist dictatorship, gone completely deaf to the Divine truth and commandment of Christ: ‘You cannot serve God and Mammon’ (Matthew 6.24)?”

     The result of the subjection of the Serbian Church to the communists was predictable: “an alarming tendency on the part of the hierarchy of the ‘Mother Church’ to abandon true Orthodoxy and embrace heresy… the worst heresy that has ever assaulted the Orthodox Church – the heresy of ‘ecumenism’.” 

     In 1965 the Serbian Church entered the World Council of Churches. In September, 1966, two inter-Orthodox Commissions were established in Belgrade to negotiate with the Anglicans and the Old Catholics. In 1967 Patriarch German said to the Roman Catholic bishop of Mostar: “The times are such that our sister Churches have to lean on each other, to turn away from that which divided us and to concentrate on all that we have in common.” The next year he recognized Catholic marriages, and became one of the presidents of the WCC. In 1985, at a nuns’ conference, he welcomed two Catholic bishops “with special honour” into the sanctuary, and then all the conference members (Orthodox, Catholics and Protestants) recited the Creed together in the Liturgy. In 1971 he signed the following WCC statement in Geneva: “The powerful Breath of renewal will blow into the mighty arena of the Church, as well as into each of her communities; for these are not simple administrative units, but they all constitute a part of the one great Christian Church.”

     Patriarch German liked to justify his ecumenism by quoting the Serbian proverb: Drvo se na drvo naslanja; a čovek na čoveka – “Tree leans on tree and man on man.” But the Free Serbs had an answer to this. “We can also quote the proverbs of our people: S’kim si, onaki si. – ‘You are like those with whom you associate.’ If you find your fellowship with heretics, you begin to share their erroneous thinking and eventually become a heretic. As an American proverb goes: ‘Birds of a feather flock together.’”

     Commenting on the decision of the Orthodox Churches to become “organic members” of the WCC, Fr. Justin wrote: “Every true Orthodox Christian, who is instructed under the guidance of the Holy Fathers, is overcome with shame when he reads that the Orthodox members of the Fifth Pan-Orthodox Conference in Geneva [in June, 1968]… on the question of the participation of the Orthodox in the work of the World Council of Churches, considered it necessary ‘to declare that the Orthodox Church considers itself to be an organic part of the World Council of Churches.’

     “This assertion is apocalyptically horrifying in its un-orthodoxy and anti-orthodoxy. Was it necessary for the Orthodox Church, that most holy Body of the God-Man Christ, to become so debased to such a pitiful degree that its theological representatives – some of whom were Serbian bishops – have begun to beg for ‘organic’ participation and membership in the World Council of Churches, which will supposedly become a new ‘Body’ and a new ‘Church’, which will stand above all other churches, in which the Orthodox Churches and the non-orthodox churches will appear only as parts. God forbid! Never before has there been such a betrayal and abandonment of our holy Faith!

     “We are renouncing the Orthodox Faith of the God-Man Christ, and organic ties with the God-Man and His Most Holy Body: we are repudiating the Orthodox Church of the holy apostles, the Fathers, and the Ecumenical Councils – and we wish to become ‘organic members’ of a heretical, humanistic, humanized and man-worshipping club, which consists of 263 heresies – every one of which is a spiritual death.

     “As Orthodox Christians we are ‘members of Christ.’ ‘Shall I therefore take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute?’ (I Corinthians 6.15). We are doing this by our organic union with the World Council of Churches, which is nothing other than the rebirth of atheistic man, of pagan idolatry.

     “The time has finally come for the patristic Orthodox Church of Saint Sabbas, the Church of the holy apostles and Fathers, of the holy confessors, martyrs and new-martyrs, to stop mingling ecclesiastically and hierarchically with the so-called ‘World Council of Churches’, and to cast off forever any participation in joint prayer or services, and to renounce general participation in any ecclesiastical dealings whatsoever, which are not self-contained and do not express the unique and unchangeable character of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church – the Orthodox Church – the only true Church that has ever existed.”

     ROCOR’s attitude towards the Serbian Church now began to change. Thus on September 14/27, 1967, Archbishop Averky of Jordanville wrote to Metropolitan Philaret: “With regard to the question of the Serbian Church, whose Patriarch German is a stooge of the communist Tito, as the Serbs themselves are convinced, calling him ‘the red patriarch’. We have heard this from many clergy and laity who have fled from Serbia. How can we recognize, and have communion in prayer with, ‘the red patriarch’, who maintains the closest friendly relations with red Moscow? Cannot our Hierarchical Council make erroneous decisions? Do we in the Orthodox Church have a doctrine about the infallibility of every Council of Bishops?” 

     Archbishop Averky’s attitude to the Serbs was confirmed by the ROCOR Council of Bishops in 1967, which resolved to annul the resolution of the Council of Bishops in 1964 on the preservation of prayerful communion with the hierarchy of the Serbian Orthodox Church. 

     Metropolitan Agathangel (Pashkovsky) of New York writes: “Already on May 19 / June 1, 1967 the following resolution marked “Top Secret” was accepted by our Hierarchical Council in connection with [the Serbian Church’s] ecumenical activity: ‘In addition to the resolution of the present Council of Bishops on relations with the Serbian Orthodox church, the suggestion of his Eminence the First Hierarch and President of the Council of Bishops Metropolitan Philaret has been accepted and confirmed, that all the Reverend Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad should refrain from concelebration with the hierarchy of the Serbian Orthodox Church.’ As far as I know, this resolution has never been repealed in a council.” Early in 1970, Metropolitan Philaret of New York announced to the members of the ROCOR Synod that since the Serbian Patriarch German had chosen to serve as Chairman of the World Council of Churches, ROCOR should avoid joint prayer and service with him, while at the same time not making a major demonstration of the fact. 

     Nevertheless, communion with the Serbs continued. For many hierarchs and priests of ROCOR had been brought up in Serbia, and out of gratitude felt that the Serbs should not be condemned or excommunicated. To what extent this attitude was truly motivated by gratitude, and to what extent simply by fear of ROCOR’s losing its last friends in “World Orthodoxy”, is a moot point. In any case, it was contrary to the canons of the Church, which require the breaking of communion with all those in communion with heresy. Such an act would have been truly loving, for true love for the Serbs dictated that it should be pointed out to them into what an abyss their ecumenism was leading them, an exhortation which would have acquired greater weight by a full break in communion…


     Did any of the Serbs break from the now definitely heretical patriarchate? Inside Serbia, nobody broke completely, although in 1971 Archimandrite Justin broke off relations with the patriarch, while retaining contact with the other bishops. In the Serbian emigration, there was a bigger rebellion in 1963, when Germanus and his Synod decided to divide the diocese of Bishop Dionysius of America and Canada into three. Claiming to see in this a communist plot, Dionysius refused to accept the decision, made his diocese autonomous and broke communion with the patriarch and his synod. On March 27, 1964 the Serbian Synod defrocked Dionysius. Then three pro-Belgrade priests were ordained bishops -in his place. Dionysius and his supporters refused to recognize these acts, for which the patriarchate condemned them as graceless schismatics.

     However, this rebellion was not all that it seemed. Fr. Joseph of Avila writes: “In 1963 the American-Canadian diocese left the patriarchate of Belgrade. The American-Canadian diocese headed by Bishop Dionisije (Milivojevič) belonged to the Serbian Church in the United States. Besides Bishop Dionisije, since 1946 in the US there lived the Serbian Bishop Nikolai Velimirovič. Several years after the war, he was active in events in the Serbian emigration in the USA, he was rector of the theological school at Libertyville, and associate lecturer at the Academy of St. Vladimir and at the theological school in Holy Trinity monastery in Jordanville. In the 50s Bishop Nikolai withdrew from public life and he started living in the Russian monastery of St. Tikhon in Pennsylvania, where in the monastery theological school he lectured Pastoral and Dogmatic Theology and Homiletics, and later in 1955 he became rector of the theological school. 

     “Several Serbs at that time went to the Russian Church Abroad, among them former judge of the church court of the diocese of Žiča Jovan Saračevič. Under the name of Savva he was made a monk by Archbishop Leonty of Chile, was ordained as hieromonk in Argentina and later was chosen as a bishop of ROCOR in Edmonton, Canada.

     “At the beginning of the 1950s, because of the bad situation in the Serbian Church, Michael Tošovič joined the Russian Church Abroad. He was one of the important people in Serbian True Orthodoxy. In the year 1952 he was chosen as teacher and lecturer of the Holy Bible and Greek language in the Russian seminary of Holy Trinity in Jordanville. In Jordanville he became a monk with the name Arsenije. Later he became a hieromonk and after that an archimandrite. In the middle of the 50s, with the blessing of Metropolitan Anastassy, he began to published the theological journal, Srpski misionar, in which he revealed the falling away of the Serbian Church, the Moscow Patriarchate and World Orthodoxy. Fr. Arsenije tried to convince the Serbs that since the Serbian patriarchate was enslaved by the communists, it was necessary to separate from the patriarchate and was in favour of founding a Serbian Church Abroad like the Russian Church Abroad. Bishop Nikolai Velimirovič supported this idea of Fr. Arsenije, but in 1956 he reposed. Bishop Nikolai died under very suspicious circumstances, and there is very serious supposition that he was killed.

     “In 1963 the American-Canadian diocese with Bishop Dionisije left the Serbian patriarchate. The direct cause for the split was Bishop Dionisije’s suspension in May, 1963 because of moral and disciplinary transgressions. Dionisije claimed that he was suspended because he was anti-communist and that all the accusations were made up by the communist authorities, who were aiming to remove him and enslave the Serbian Church in the States using bishops loyal to the communists. 

     “In August, 1963 the clergy-laity assembly of the American-Canadian diocese refused obedience to the Serbian patriarchate. The followers of Dionisije claimed that the guilt of their bishop was invented, and they themselves brought up several accusations against the patriarchate, such as accepting Patriarch German from the communist authorities and his submission to those authorities, the foundation of the Macedonian Orthodox Church, the splitting of the American-Canadian diocese into three parts and the enthroning of three new bishops, all at the orders of the communists, as well as the accusations that the new bishops were loyal to the communists, etc.

     “Although most of the accusations against the patriarchate were well-founded, and for that reason Dionisije had more than enough reasons to separate, many facts indicate that his sincerity was questionable. 

     “In 1963 Djoko Slijepčevič, a Church historian with an anti-communist orientation, but at the same time the follower of Patriarch German, wrote: ‘Dionisije is trying to defend himself by his anti-communism, which was quite problematic for a long time, and later nothing else but a pile of empty phrases. What is really anti-communist about Bishop Dionisije?’ On June 28, 1962, Srpska Borba, Bishop Dionisije’s main ally and defender today, stated several of his ‘anti-communist’ slips. These are: in his article on November 7, 1957 but published in Amerikansky Srbobran on January 16, 1959, Bishop Dionisije was telling the chetniks about Karl Marx’s example of unity. The newspaper Srpska Borba explains: ‘Maybe there is some logic in this act of Bishop Dionisije, because even the manner in which he led the action for a ‘Serbian gathering’ and the ideas that he disclosed in his article on the foundation of the Association of Ravnogortsy, really are much closer to Karl Marx and his proletarians than to the holy things and interests of the Serbian nation and Serbian Orthodox Church.

     “’It could be said that in this case Bishop Dionisije was a victim of confusion both in a logical and an ideological sense: he was confused, but later ‘he gained his eyesight and found the right way’. The facts tell a completely different story: Bishop Dionisije sent his regards to Stalin, praised and glorified Tito and his People’s Liberation Army, and of course was for a long time on the payroll of Tito’s embassy in New York. 

     “’Glas Kanadskikh Srba twice, on July 25 and September 12, 1963, openly stated that Bishop Dionisije “in the autumn of 1944 through Dr. Šubšič greeted Marshal Tito and his courageous People’s Liberation Army in a telegram. He was on the payroll of the Yugoslav communist embassy in Washington until the leaders of Serb nationality in the US promised that they would give him financial support. He was the only one of the Serbian bishops who, on October 23, 1958, delightedly greeted the foundation of the Macedonian Orthodox Church as ‘a grand act and very useful for our Church” (Glas Kanadskikh Srba, September 12, 1963).

     “’In the same article in which he revealed this opinion, and which is entitled ‘His Holiness Kir German, the fifth patriarch of the renewed patriarchate of Peč’ (Glas Kanadskikh Srba, October 23, 1958) Bishop Dionisije had this to say in trying to praise the new patriarch: ‘The first great act of the new patriarch, which is perhaps of ultimate importance for the whole of the Serbian Orthodox Church, was the satisfactory solution of the question of the so-called Macedonian Church’. At that time, Bishop Dionisije had not the slightest doubt as regards the regularity of the election of Patriarch German, because he wrote this as well: ‘And so the Holy Spirit and the electoral council of the Serbian Orthodox Church has decided that on the throne of the Serbian patriarchs should come Bishop German of Žiča, indisputably a very capable and gifted man, active and full of every virtue’ (Glas Kanadskikh Srba, October 23, 1958).’

     “Slobodan Draškovič, who in 1963 was one of the main followers of Dionisije and played a major role in the National Church Council of the American-Canadian diocese at which this diocese decided to disobey the patriarch, wrote in 1967: ‘There is no need to talk a lot about Bishop Dionisije. His policy, not only until May, 1963, but later as well, was marked by a policy of co-existence with the hierarchy of the enslaved and enchained Orthodox Church in Yugoslavia, in contrast with the very clear and strong decisions of the National Church Council. On March 1966, after almost four years of struggle against the Joseph Broz’s Patriarch German, he complained against German to the notorious Soviet agent, the ‘Russian Patriarch’ Alexis, and sought justice from him.’ 

     “The fact that Dionisije split from the Church only for personal reasons is shown by the fact that he several times stated he was against any split from the Mother Church - until he was suspended and understood that he would be condemned. 

     “Besides this, it was not only the anti-communism of Bishop Dionisije that was problematic. In 1957 the American-Canadian diocese of the Serbian Orthodox Church headed by Bishop Dionisije became a member of the heretical church organization, the National Church Council of America. Dionisije did not stop at that, but already then (in the 50s) he started to practise the most extreme ecumenism.

     “In Orthodox Russia (no. 17, 1959) the following note was printed: ‘On Sunday, 15/28 August in Buffalo (Lakavana) there took place the consecration of the newly built Serbian church of St. Stefan. The all-night vigil was served by the parish priest Miodrag Djurič, accompanied by two Serbian priests and one Anglican priest. In the morning the triumphant reception of Bishop Dionisije and Anglican Bishop Scafe took place. 15 priests were serving, among them Serbs, Anglicans, Belorussians, Ukrainian samosviaty and Ukrainians under Archbishop Palladius. Besides Bishop Dionisije, as the oldest hierarch, Bishop Scafe also took part in the service. He made some exclamations in the service, kissed Bishop Dionisije, and they said: ‘Christ is among us, He is and will be’. He communed together with Dionisije in the Holy Gifts, and after that Bishop Dionisije gave communion to all the serving priests. At the banquet Bishop Scafe spoke of his admiration for Orthodoxy and how happy he was that America was having a chance to see beautiful Orthodox services on its land. He stated that in accordance with his abilities he was making a donation of $2500.

     “‘… Just before the consecration of the church Bishop Scafe called Bishop Dionisije and the local priest of Lacavan to his side and showed them that the Episcopalians had sent $75,000 to our church in Yugoslavia. At this point Bishop Scafe showed pictures of those in the Orthodox world with whom he had communed before: the patriarchs of Jerusalem and Constantinople, as well as our Vikentije. As he was going to commune with Bishop Dionisije the next day, at the banquet he gave a gift of $2500 for the church in Lacavan.’

     “Concerning the Church situation among the Serbs abroad, Fr. Arsenije Tosovich wrote in 1964: ‘Bishop Dionisije recently for the first time referred positively to Misionar for its writing about separating from the enslaved patriarchate in Yugoslavia and for the letter Bishop Nikolai.’ And then he condemned Hieromonk Arsenije as the one who was ‘for the separation from the patriarchate’. And it was only when he was suspended and it was clear that he would be condemned, that he reminded us that the Church in Yugoslavia was not free and that he was being persecuted not only because he was guilty but because the communists wanted it. To tell the truth, nobody did more for the communists and for dissolving the Serbs in America than that same great Serb and great anti-communist Dionisije. If Tito was looking all over the world for a man for this job, he could not find a better one than this Dionisije, even if we don’t mention his blessing telegrams on the occasion of the liberation of Belgrade ‘to the father of the people, Stalin’….

     “… And so if Bishop Dionisije was wrong, it doesn’t mean that the patriarchate was right and that the Serbian Church in Yugoslavia was free and that we should unconditionally submit to its decisions. On the contrary. Everything was said about that in the above-mentioned article of 1954, including the fact, for example, that all candidates for the hierarchy had to be approved by the communist central committee. The central committee of course would approve only of those candidates who were theirs or at least did not have any dispute with them. We, who are free, and who don’t want to put our necks under the communist yoke, cannot and should not accept in any way the communist choice of hierarchs. That would mean those candidates first have to receive Satan’s blessing and seal, and then be consecrated as hierarchs!…

     “So far the American diocese and the whole emigration has had one unsuccessful bishop, Dionisije Milivojevich, and now there are five of them: three sparrows and two Dionisijes. Stefan, Firmilian and Grigorije, because of their dependence on the enslaved patriarchate, and his dependence on the communist godless authorities, will be obliged, whether willingly or not, ‘to fly over the sea’, keep in touch with the patriarch, and through him with the religious commission and communist authorities…

     “…. Since these three hierarchs are willingly going into communist enslavement, and thereby have to submit to the godless authorities, there arises the question of their grace and the question of our submission to them. Of course, the answer to both questions can be only no. ‘For what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?’ (II Corinthians 6.14-15).

     “We have two Dionisijes, that is, Dionisije Milivojevič and Irinej Kovačevič, who are both illegal and graceless. The first was condemned by the authority that enthroned him and which he constantly acknowledged. It is understandable that now he is trying to deny the right of that authority to condemn him, but that does not save him. Irinej Kovačevič was consecrated by Ukrainian samosvyaty, who themselves are not lawful and have no grace, so they could not give him what they themselves did not have. In his message for the Nativity of the Lord Dionisije has promised us more of these samosvyaty hierarchs. For this consecration Bishop Dionisije turned to the ROCOR and American Metropolia, but only the samosvyaty accepted.

     “With regard to that subordination of the official church to the godless authorities, we should do as the Russians did in the same case. Will we found a Catacomb Church, as it was in Russia, which will not acknowledge the official Serbian Church and its capitulation before the godless authorities? We don’t know. But we know what the emigration should do, it is the foundation of the Serbian Church Abroad. What Bishop Dionisije is doing now is nothing, since he is under suspension and he is guilty of many things and should have been defrocked long ago. For two decades he has been leading the American-Canadian diocese, and now we see her pitiful end. And the same thing would have happened with the Church Abroad if he had been the leader. But will the Serbian emigration do something in this direction, or will it go on following the leader without a head? We cannot tell for sure. In any case, honourable and God-loving Serbian emigrants, who have God and faith in the Church in the first place in their lives, should remember that each hierarch who comes to freedom but out of submission of Patriarch German and in connection with the godless communist authorities and their representatives, is not a real hierarch and has no grace of God in him. In the same way, the suspended Bishop Dionisije and his samosvyat Irinej and all the others whom he may invent are not real and have no grace. To the Serbian God-loving emigration it is left that until the foundation of the Serbian Church Abroad the Serbian God-loving emigration should turn for their spiritual needs to the representatives of our sister Church, the Russian Church Abroad. She is the only one in the world that has remained faithful and undefiled as the Bride of Christ.’”

     Cast out in this way, three dioceses and about forty parishes of the Free Serbs, as they now called themselves, applied to join ROCOR. Two archbishops – Averky of Jordanville and John (Maximovich) of San Francisco - supported them. However, other bishops, including Archbishop Vitaly of Canada, were opposed, and the Free Serbs’ petition was rejected. The quarrel was so heated that two Russians were excommunicated. After being rejected by ROCOR, the Free Serbs then briefly came into communion first with two Ukrainian bishops of the Polish Orthodox Church and then with the Patriarchate of Alexandria. Fleeing the Ecumenism of the latter, they briefly found refuge with the “Florinite” Greek Old Calendarists led by Archbishop Auxentius, on September 11/24, 1981. 

     Whatever their canonical status, the Free Serbs did oppose ecumenism – until their reabsorption into the patriarchate in 1991. Moreover, not all the Free Serbs joined the patriarchate, and some parishes remain independent to this day.

     Moreover, there were some anti-ecumenists in the patriarchate. Thus in November, 1994 Bishop Artemije of Raska and Prizren, in a memorandum to the Serbian Synod, said that ecumenism was an ecclesiological heresy, and that the Serbs should withdraw from the WCC. 

     More recently, he has written: “The result of this participation [of the Serbs in the WCC] was reflected in certain material aid which the Serbian Orthodox Church periodically received from the WCC in the form of medicine, medical care and rehabilitation of some individuals in Switzerland, student scholarships, and financial donations for certain concrete purposes and needs of the SOC, such as the construction of a new building by the Theological School. We paid for these crumbs of material assistance by losing, on the spiritual plane, the purity of our faith, canonical consistency and faithfulness to the Holy Tradition of the Orthodox Church. The presence of our representatives (and Orthodox representatives in general) at various and sundry ecumenical gatherings has no canonical justification. We did not go there in order to boldly, openly and unwaveringly confess the eternal and unchangeable Truth of the Orthodox Faith and Church, but in order to make compromises and to agree more or less to all those decisions and formulations offered to us by the non-Orthodox. That is how we ultimately arrived at Balamand, Chambésy and Assisi, which taken as a whole represent infidelity and betrayal of the Holy Orthodox Faith.”

     Logically, in order to make his actions conform with his words, Bishop Artemije should have left the Serbian Synod. Nevertheless, his words remain true, and constitute a clear condemnation of the position of the Serbian Church since its entry into the WCC in the 1960s. At the present time, Bishop Artemije is in schism from the official Serbian patriarchate, but not for reasons of ecumenism; and he claims to be still in communion with the rest of World Orthodoxy…


     In 1968 the Bulgarian Church adopted the new calendar. The change was imposed, according to one account, at the insistence of the WCC, which in 1965-66 had sent letters on the subject to the churches; but according to another account – on orders from the Moscow Patriarchate, which wished to see how the people reacted to the change in Bulgaria before proceeding with the same innovation in Russia. In the event, only the Russian Women’s Monastery of the Protecting Veil in Sophia refused to accept the change.

     Bishop Photius of Triaditza writes: “For some months before the introduction of the reform, Tserkoven Vestnik informed the astonished believing people that the reform was being carried out ‘in accordance with the ecumenist striving of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church…’ The Bulgarian clergy and even episcopate were completely unprepared to resist the calendar innovation, while the people, suspecting something amiss, began to grumble. The calendar reform was introduced skilfully and with lightning suddenness by Patriarch Cyril – an ardent modernist and ‘heartfelt’ friend of the Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras! Everyone knew that the patriarch was on good terms with the communist authorities (for his ‘services’ to it he received the title of ‘academic’ – member of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences!) Everyone also knew of his despotic temperament: he did all he could to persecute and annihilate his ideological opponents.”

     In fact, the Bulgarian Church’s change to the new calendar had been dictated by the Russian communists, who wanted to introduce the innovation into the Russian Church, too, but wanted to “test the waters” by trying it out on the Bulgarians first. But when the only Orthodox in Bulgaria who rejected the innovation turned out to be the Russian women’s monastery at Knyazhevo, Sophia, the Russians decided to hold back from introducing it in Russia…

     However, while deciding not to adopt the new calendar, the MP had already, in 1967, declared: “Bearing in mind the practice of the Ancient Church, when East and West (Rome and the Asian bishops) celebrated Pascha at different times, while preserving complete communion in prayer between themselves, and taking into account the experience of the Orthodox Church of Finland and our parishes in Holland, as also the exceptional position of the parishioners of the church of the Resurrection of Christ amidst the heterodox world, [it has been resolved] to allow Orthodox parishioners of the Moscow Patriarchate living in Switzerland to celebrate the immovable feast and the feasts of the Paschal cycle according to the new style.”

     In 1964, some parishes of the Bulgarian patriarchate in the USA petitioned ROCOR to ordain their leader, Archimandrite Cyril (Ionchev), to the episcopate. The petition was granted, and in August Metropolitan Philaret and four other bishops ordained him. However, in 1968 the Bulgarian patriarchate adopted the new calendar, and soon the Bulgarian parishes began to agitate that they be allowed to use the new calendar. In 1971 Bishop Cyril gave a report on this subject to the Hierarchical Council in Montreal, and in 1972 he and his parishes joined the American Metropolia with the permission of ROCOR. 



July 18/31, 2016.


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