Оn April 12 of this year a meeting of the clergy of the Diocese of New Gracanica – Midwest America was held. This assembly, which normally takes place at the Monastery of the Protection of the Mother of God – New Gracanica during the fifth week of great lent, this year took place over a computer application zoom. This meeting was of a historic importance for our diocese because the opening blessing and introductory word was given by His Holiness, Patriarch Porfirije. His Holiness gave the blessing and then a beautiful speech on the topic of the great lent, struggle we engage in during the lent and the outcome we hope for at the end of it. He also pointed out that we should have in mind that Christ’s Church does not have a stand on certain issues but rather preaches the truth. The stand which the Church takes on any question is the Truth which we have been witnessing for the last two millennia and which we carry within ourselves as a part of our very being – that is if we are men of the Church. His Holiness thought it important to relate this fact at the time we live in – the time of relativization, when each dialogue and each sign of good will on the part of the Church is seen as willingness to compromise by the worldly society around us. The Church will always gladly enter any dialogue, with any party, with the goal of relating to its interlocutor the salvific Truth, not to compromise the very essence of its being. At the core of our being is the answer to all questions and challenges, and it is from our being that we can momentarily formulate our so-called stand on topics we are faced with, a stand which cannot be changed by any individual or a working group, according to the desires of the society we happen to be surrounded by at the moment.
Bishop Longin and clergy of the Diocese of New Gracanica – Midwest America expresses their gratitude to His Holiness for the time, care and attention dedicated to diaspora, not only on April 12th of this year but every day of the year.
A guest at the virtual meeting was also Bishop Siluan of Australia and New Zealand. Clergy of our diocese were glad, and of great importance, to hear what kind of trials our brethren on the other side of the planet are going through, and what sort of opinions and comments on those issues would be given by a bishop who was born and raised in the diaspora. Bishop Siluan related experiences they had in a country where anti-corona measures were much more intense than in the USA for many months. It became evident during these trials, which have not yet completely passed, that civil authorities in Australia do not consider the Church to be an essential part in the life of their society. Also, they tried to place the Church into the service of the state in several ways, trying to put Her into position where She would compromise on Her Holy Tradition and Her mission itself, to the point where the faithful could possibly be permanently scandalized by such decisions. There were even requests on the part of the civil authorities that the Church change the manner in which it distributes the Holy Communion to the faithful. Bishop Siluan concludes that this trial is almost over but it should prompt us to an awakening and sobering up from certain delusions we may have had, and that we should think ahead, based on this experience, how we are going to face some other, bigger trials which we shall perhaps encounter soon. Needless to say, we found ourselves several times in Bishop Siluan’s presentation, and we identified with many problems which he and his clergy face in Australia.
Another guest at the meeting was Bishop Anthony of Toledo and the Midwest of the Antiochian Orthodox Church. Bishop Anthony spoke about the secular society around us trying to turn itself into a religion, and how much effort it has put into this feat, but it faces one problem – it cannot offer eternal life to the people. Only Christ’s Church can. While the secular society tries to elevate its own thoughts, feelings, beliefs, rituals and customs to a level where they do not belong, the Church has to be living and loving, representing God who is living and loving, offering to the world around Her all She has to offer – love, power, beauty, music, liturgy, all the things which direct us toward eternity through the experience of the same here and now. This witness of life is especially important at the time when we are at the end of a pandemic in which many had to face death.