The Bishop of the Diocese of Western America of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Maksim, stated on Oct. 24, that the Order of St. Sava President Aleksandar Vucic recently received from Patriarch Irinej, was an oversight, adding that the Serbian Church sees the division of Kosovo as treason.
“The Order of St. Sava has a symbolic meaning, and when a symbol is used properly it has the power to unite, not divide. I’m afraid there has been an oversight in this case,” the bishop said in an interview for the latest issue of NIN weekly.
According to him, “while the current president of Serbia keeps reiterating he is in favor of a demarcation and division [of Kosovo], the Holy Assembly stands by its view that the partition and demarcation are treason.”
“How to reconcile these two stands? At least one-half of the Serbian archbishops are incapable of comprehending this paradox, including a good part of our Church as well,” said Bishop Maksim.
He quoted a statement by one of the bishops who had said that “the Synod has the right to decorate whomever it wishes,” but, as he put it, when it is known that the majority of the Assembly disagrees, “then [the Synod] should change a decision that would bewilder the public and divide the Church leaders, and Church itself.”
“Whether Vucic deserves the order should have been put before the Assembly. I believe that many would have been surprised by the outcome of the vote. This year, the Order should’ve been given to the real defenders of Kosovo and Metohija, our holy territory, and that are the people who live there,” Bishop Maksim pointed out.
Commenting on the reasoning behind the decision to decorate Vucic which said that the president was granted the order for his active love of the Church – the bishop said that “those members of the Synod who have recognized this “active love” should be asked to elaborate on that.”
When asked about the Synod’s decision to remove him from the teaching staff at the School of Theology, the bishop said that he would “like to believe it was a misunderstanding that will be resolved at the next Assembly session.”
He said that he had noticed that certain media outlets link the Synod’s decision with his criticism of Vucic.
“I hope and believe, however, that the relationship between the two is non-existent. If it were true that these two are related, that would pose a great problem for our Church, the School, the country, and society as a whole,” the bishop said.
The Patriarch of Serbia Irinej had awarded President Vucic the Order of St. Sava of the 1st Degree for his “love of the Church and tireless struggle for the integrity of Serbia, especially [his] efforts to keep Kosovo and Metohija within it,” at a ceremony to mark the 800th anniversary of the Serbian Orthodox Church’s autocephaly.