ADDRESS OF THE SERBIAN PATRIARCH AT THE OPENING CEREMONY
(Sarajevo, 9. September 2012. at 5 p.m.)
Distinguished Misters, President of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, President of Serbia and President of Republika Srpska, and other senior representatives of States in this part of Europe, Your Eminences, Your Graces, Your Excellences, Honorable representatives of Islam and Judaism, Honorable senior representatives of other Great World’s Religions, Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear friends, participants in this Meeting for Peace, brothers and sisters,
At the beginning of this short address at the opening ceremony of the Meeting for Peace allow me to greet all of you, with sincere respect and love in God’s name, with the traditional Biblical greeting, which has become, after its latter usage in the Koran, the traditional greeting of all three Monotheistic Religions: Peace to you! Shalom aleikhem! Salam aleikum! Εἰρήνη ὑμῖν!
Here we must emphasize that this peace is not just a state without war, it is rather the fullness of life under God's blessing, the totality of divine gifts and goods, salvation and bliss. I thank God of peace and love and I rejoice that I can share with all of you, people of faith, statesmen, activists in culture, prominent public figures, friends and people of good will, the greeting of peace and the thought of peace in its deepest meaning.
Peoples of the country in which we are now visiting, and all the peoples of neighboring countries, in their older, newer and newest history, went through much suffering and had many casualties. All of this is stored in a permanent historical memory of the people of this region, not as a call for retribution but as a reminder and a guide for the future, for the future as a condition that requires from all of us a will for peace, mutual acceptance and respect, reconciliation and awareness of the need for the living in a great community of people. My predecessor on
the Throne of Saint Sava wisely said: The Earth is spacious enough for the billions of people, if the people are truly faithful and obedient to God, and is narrow and tight even for two, if one of the two is like Biblical Cain.
Our roots here in the Balkans – as well as in the Europe to which, geographically, historically and civilizationally we belong – are spiritual roots. The roots of the Europe are mostly Christian, with the significant contribution of Judaism and Islam. European spiritual and cultural heritage rests, therefore, on the experience of faith in the One God and on the invitation, in the name of the Faith, to accept another man as a neighbor, and to treat the neighbor in the same manner the All-Merciful God does, Who “causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good,
and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Mt. 5:45). “For God is Love” (I John 5:8; 16). He “wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (I Tim. 2:4). The Conclusion of St. John the Theologian, rightly called the Apostle of love, is certainly logical and perhaps the only possible one: “If anyone says, "I love God," yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen” (I John 4:20). Therefore he adds, “Whoever loves God must also love his brother” (I
John 4:21). Today the World is faced with a deep crisis. This crisis is manifold - economic-financial, political, environmental, moral ... But, in my opinion, it is primarily a spiritual crisis. This is the claim even of the greatest thinkers. Thus, for example, the famous Russian religious
philosopher Nikolai Berdyaev writes that the crisis of our time is primarily the crisis of spirit, and its roots lie in the fact that the modern man believes in the omnipotence of science and technology, and has largely forgotten or neglected the relationship with God, that is to say, the
reality of the Spirit. For us all, people of faith, a crisis is a positive challenge - to try to help our contemporaries to rediscover the world of faith in which they may look for answers to their questions and find the ways to hope instead of the roadless utilitarianism and a mentality of
consumerism. My presence here today, at the very Seat of the one of the oldest and most respected Episcopal Sees of the Serbian Orthodox Church, along with the presence of my brother Bishops, priests, monks and nuns, means a commitment of the Serbian people to the noble cause of peace, which was always taught by our Orthodox Church. I am firmly convinced that the spiritual leaders and believers of other Churches and Religious communities in this city and this country – Muslims, Roman Catholics, Jews and all others, - share exactly the same feelings and same thoughts, therefore, also the peoples with whom we are invoked and evoked to live together. And to live together – that is the future, which is the motto of our Meeting. It is my deep desire that the common future may be liberated of the most painful and tragic experiences of the past which we have all been through. May God grant that the new generations grow and live without hate and without a feeling of the fearful experience of war! The prerequisite and preparation for such a future are, among other things, the meetings in a gesture of goodwill, peace, openness, dialogue and reciprocity, in the name of God the Merciful, in the name of God who is Love and the Giver of Love. It is in this context that our present Meeting finds its true and full meaning.
Finally, let me conclude with the words of cordial gratitude to the Community of St. Egidio, its founder Professor Andrea Riccardi and its spiritual father, Archbishop Monsignor Vincenzo Paglia, for their visionary initiatives and ventures, especially for organizing this meeting, in which each of us is free to testify our own faith, and all together are hopeful that we will be given a future in peace.
God's blessing be with you all!