His All-Holiness was in Serbia from October 4-9, 2013, for the Edict of Milan 1700th anniversary celebrations organized by the Orthodox Patriarchate of Serbia. Accompanying the Ecumenical Patriarch were Metropolitans John of Pergamon and Emmanuel of France, as well as Archimandrite Bartholomew Samaras, Chief Secretary of the Holy and Sacred Synod, Grand Archdeacon Maximos Vgenopoulos, and Mr. Symeon Frantzelas.
On Friday, October 4, 2013, His All-Holiness was welcomed at the runway of Belgrade’s Nikola Tesla airport by His Beatitude Patriarch Irinej of Serbia, numerous Hierarchs and clergymen of the Serbian Patriarchate, the Honorable Ivan Mrkić, Serbian Minister of Foreign Affairs, His Excellency Constantine Economides, newly-appointed Greek Ambassador to Serbia, as well as many other senior officials in Serbia. Patriarch Irinej expressed his gratitude for Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew’s presence in their country and the significance of his participation in these events. That evening, His All-Holiness, together with his Patriarchal delegation, met with Their Beatitudes Archbishops Chrysostomos of Cyprus and Ieronymos II of Athens. They discussed issues faced by their Churches, as well as other inter-Orthodox matters.
On Saturday, October 5, 2013, His All-Holiness presided over the Doxology, which took place in the morning at the Holy Archangel Michael Cathedral Church in Belgrade. In attendance were Their Beatitudes Patriarchs Theophilos III of Jerusalem, Kyrill of Moscow, Irinej of Serbia, First-Hierarchs Archbishops Chrysostomos of Cyprus, Ieronymos II of Athens, Savvas of Warsaw and Anastasios of Tirana as well as hierarchs and representatives of the Serbian Patriarchate, of other local Orthodox and non-Orthodox Churches. A formal reception followed at the Patriarchal residence. Afterward, a formal dinner was hosted at the Presidential residence of His Excellency Tomislav Nikolić, President of the Republic of Serbia. That evening, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, together with the other Patriarchs and Primates, departed for the city of Niš, which was called Naissus in Roman times and is the birthplace of Emperor St. Constantine, where they were welcomed by the local hierarch His Grace Bishop Jovan in front of the Holy Trinity Cathedral. A formal dinner followed by a traditional Serbian music program was held that evening at the Tami Residence hotel.
On Sunday morning, October 6, 2013, His All-Holiness presided over the concelebration of the Divine Liturgy, which was the culmination of these Edict of Milan celebrations, taking place outside of the newly built Church of Sts. Constantine and Helen with all of the Primates and representatives of the Orthodox Churches present. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew spoke after the Divine Liturgy to the thousands in attendance, among which were the highest officials and prominent figures of the Serbian Republic, as well as representatives and ambassadors of other countries. Patriarch Irinej hosted a formal lunch for his guests afterward, who traveled to the capital of Montenegro, the city of Podgorica, where they were received by His Eminence Metropolitan Amfilohije of Montenegro and the Littoral, Their Excellencies Ambassadors Mehmet Niyazi Tanilir of Turkey and Elias Photopoulos of Greece. Upon his arrival, His All-Holiness made a statement to the local media from the airport, and after, they traveled to the newly built Cathedral Church of Christ’s Resurrection, where panegyrics were delivered by His Eminence Metropolitan Amfilohije and His Excellency President Filip Vujanović of Montenegro. Several addresses were delivered on Sunday evening in Podgorica by the delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem and his delegation, and Patriarch Kyrill of Moscow and his delegation concerning the preparations for the forthcoming Great and Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church, as well as common issues related to Pan-Orthodox unity.
On Monday, October 7, 2013, His All-Holiness, together with Their Beatitudes Patriarchs Kyrill of Moscow and Irinej of Serbia, First-Hierarchs Archbishops Chrysostomos of Cyprus, Ieronymos II of Athens, Savvas of Warsaw and Anastasios of Tirana, as well as hierarchs and representatives of the Serbian Patriarchate and other local Orthodox Churches, presided in the morning over the Divine Liturgy and Consecration of the new Cathedral church dedicated to Christ’s Resurrection. The consecration was presided over by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. In attendance was His Excellency President Filip Vujanović of Montenegro, Serbian civil and political leaders, and faithful from around the world. After the Divine Liturgy, a formal lunch was held, during which a cultural program took place. In the afternoon, the Patriarchs and Primates visited His Excellency Milo Djukanovic, Prime Minister of Montenegro. His All-Holiness spoke on behalf of the Orthodox hierarchs, and their disapproval of the present schism among the local Christians, calling for a return to the canonical Church. The Prime Minister was presented with an Icon of the Panaghia from Mt. Athos. Prior to their departure to Belgrade, the Orthodox hierarchs traveled to the Holy Monastery of St. Peter in Cetinje, where there was a small reception.
On the evening of October 8, 2013, prior to the Patriarchal delegation’s departure and after a series of addresses delivered earlier that morning at the Metropolitan Hotel by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Patriarch Irinej of Serbia, Metropolitan Savvas of Warsaw and All Poland, Metropolitan Simeon of Brno and Olomouc, locum tenens of the Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia, His All-Holiness was visited by His Excellency President Tomislav Nikolić and his wife Dragica in the afternoon, and in the evening he attended the premiere of Don Marco Frisina’s opera “In hoc signo,” which took place on the main stage of the National Theatre in Belgrade.
photos by Nikos Manginas