God bless dear brothers and sisters. We bring to you the blessing of our Bishop and the brotherly greetings of the monks of the Decani Monastery. We are all here tonight to show the fellows of our Prizren Theological Academy the brotherly solidarity of our faithful people from Kosovo and Metohija with all of you who have been gathered here tonight in prayer and liturgies throughout Montenegro. We admire your perseverance, your dignity that you have been displaying at these prayer meetings for two months now, your faith. You all present a true example and an inspiration to us.
We are all here for one reason – to defend the sanctities. What do these sanctities represent to us? Buildings, works of art, cultural heritage? No, brothers and sisters, they are much more than that. The shrines are our beacons in this world that shine and, as landmarks in the dark, point us to the path of God.
They tell us who we were, what we are and what we should be. Above all, the sanctities are the visible expressions of our faith, the love of those who built them and those who have prayed in them for centuries. Defending the sanctities, we defend our home, our houses, our families, our name, everything that makes us who we are. That is why they are so important to us, here in Montenegro and throughout Serbia, especially in Kosovo and Metohija, but also everywhere where our people live.
For us, sanctities are a pledge of HOLINESS, and holiness is not some supernatural property, but what we are meant to be and created for by God.
Saints are people just like us, but through which the One who is the only world manifests himself, how the only Lord God works. To be holy is not only to do great works or miracles, but above all to recognize in every man the holiness of God, the image of God, as one wise man said … to recognize an eagle in an egg, a butterfly in a caterpillar, a saint in a sinner. That is why the sanctities cannot and should not separate us. They have always been and must be a meeting place, a place of reconciliation, not only for us Christians, but also for those who believe in God differently.
The High Decani Monastery where I am honored to be the Abbot of and which is 700 years old would never have survived had it not witnessed this holiness, had Saint King Stefan Decanski not done wonders and favors to all people of goodwill who approached him, that we were not in the most difficult times ready to lend a helping hand to anyone who is suffering, regardless of their religion or language. Even today, the Decani and all our saints are shining on both Christians and Muslims and all those who open their eyes to the secret of the beauty and wisdom of God.
But today, brothers and sisters, some would see the sanctities only as cultural and artistic property, as museums, not places of prayer and homes of God. This is precisely why this law is controversial and unacceptable because it paves the way for these shrines that have been spiritual havens and homes of comfort for our people in Montenegro for centuries to be transformed into state property that the Church can now only use as a tenant. WE ARE NOT AND CANNOT BE A TENANT – A HOUSEHOLD IN YOUR HOUSE CANNOT BE IN A STATUS OF A TENANT.
That is why we are here to raise our voice and say that we do not give away our sacred things loud and clear… we do not give up on our sacred things because we do not give up on our religion, our name, our dignity, because we do not give away our home. Just as places of prayer, our sanctities are not only ours but also of all people of good will, because when we come together with faith and love to the Liturgy and there are no parties in the liturgy, there is no nation or language here, but we are all united in God who brings us together in love.
In this, brothers and sisters, is the secret of the Church. The Church is not just made of priests, monks…
The whole world is called upon to become the House of God. The church is like a fruit tree that gives shade to all who come under it to rest. The church is these liturgies in which the liturgy is carried to the streets in joy and song. The Church is, more broadly speaking, every human being who recognizes in himself and others the image of God. The Church is every flower, and the whole worldly substance is the temple of God, which testifies to the wisdom of Him who created us. That is why God took the bodily form and came among us – to make us become our own, to restore our lost dignity, to share joy with all of us, and to understand in that joy that we are not called to live as selfish individuals who constantly quarrel, but as brothers, as children of God assembled in Christ and sanctified by the Holy Spirit.
Our feat is not a struggle based on division, conflict, or God forbidden violence.
Evil and violence cannot be overcome by evil, so only evil multiplies. Terrestrial victories always have winners and losers, and that is always changing. There is never an end to these struggles, from Cain and Avel to this very day. Our victory must be the victory of all, a victory in which there is actually neither a winner nor a defeated one, in which both one and the other recognize the truth and justice, kindness and honesty and take away the dark blindness that does not allow us to see the truth. We must spiritually fight for such a victory, and as long as we hold on, no one will lose, but we will find each other again as our own.
That is why, from this point, we urge all those responsible in this country to conscientiously and reasonably consider the new situation and to find, together with our Bishops and the people, a path that will preserve the rule of law and justice and which will strengthen peace so that never again a brother to brother and neighbor to neighbor rises in rage. We can and should do it as soon as possible. THAT and ONLY THAT will be a victory for all of us.
Until then, it is upon us to turn on the light with these prayers and liturgies and point to the truth and justice, to dispel lies and injustice.
Our monastery has a famous fresco of Christ with a sword. It says that it is a word of truth, of a truth that overcomes all that is injust, all the lies. It is not a weapon because whoever holds the sword by the sword will perish as is written in the Scripture. That is why any kind of violence and hatred must not ever be our way. In truth, with arguments, justice, song and peaceful baptismal movements, the smiles of children, we just follow our Lord who teaches us that we should be light to the world and the salt of the earth.
So, brothers and sisters, let us light our lamps and drive away the darkness of falsehood, prejudice, fear, bitterness. Let us drive away all the intolerance and anger from the heart. Let us declare a state of freedom, truth and reason and God will help us all – both those who are here and those who are not here.
When we light the lamps, in that light, we will see the face of our neighbor and we will all understand that there is no joy or peace for us if our victory is not the victory of brotherly love. If that victory is not what all the greatest sons of these mountains and karst have been witnesses to by building these sanctities as a simbol and a reminder that they are places of our encounter with God and with one another, places that teach us true human dignity.
God bless you, God’s Grace and may the blessings of the Holy King Stephen and all the saints sifted over Kosovo and Metohija and all over the world be with you all. Amin!