Liberty 2169

The Saga of Two Serbian Bishops

By Nikola Maric

Shortly after the so called “Arondacija”, or redistribution in the Serbian Orthodox Church in America and Canada I found out that our Cleveland St.Sava Church on Wallings Road no longer belonged with the New Gracanica in Chicago and its Bishop Longin but with Bishop Mitrofan who administered the Eastern part of America.

We hardly got used to the reconciliation of the two factions in our Church, and the new reorganization in our Diocese stirred up new unrest among our faithful. There were some hard heads on both sides of the dispute who swore never to visit that “other “ church, but for the most part things improved. We were able to renew our old friendships, we visited each other, in short, we almost became “normal”again.

Long time ago the so called  federalists called our Bishop Irinei  “Ironie”, and the so called schismatics called their bishop Mitrofan “Mikrophone”! Needless to say, there was a great deal of disrespect on both sides of the conflict but time was a great healer, and people accepted the new arrangements and new authorities.

Not in Cleveland, though. Serbian Church-School Congregation on Wallings Road called a special meeting, elected a Special Committee and decided to sue Bishop Longin in order to keep the St. Sava Church a part of New Gracanica in Chicago. Once again both the Diocese and the Serbian Church in Cleveland began new litigations, spent a great deal of money and finally agreed to stop the litigation. Supposedly, Cleveland Church was to remain a part of the New Gracanica if Cleveland dropped the suit. There was an agreement reached (people did not see the agreement, it remained a secret (!), but people voted anyway to accept the unseen agreement, almost like that Obamacare our legislators voted on before they were able to see what was in it.(“First we have to vote on it, then we’ll see what is in it!”)

Do not ask me why the secret agreement, I do not know, even though I have my theory about it, a rather simple theory. This was an agreement between Bishop Longin and our Special Committee, and Belgrade and the Serbian Patriarch knew nothing about it, never acted on it, and never ratified it. Bishop Longin came to Cleveland a few times, talked in general terms about the agreement, but never anything precise. The bishop who took bishop Mitrofan’s place visited both the St. Sava Church and the St. Mark Monastery in Sheffield, Ohio, spoke about love and tolerance within our Serbian Orthodox Church, served in both St. Sava Cathedral which is in his jurisdiction and in Free St. Sava Church, supposedly in the Bishop Longin ‘s jurisdiction, and that was it. At one of our regular meetings we spent more than an hour of time discussing as to where we belonged?

Our Circle of Serbian Sisters celebrated their Slava, St. Petka, recently, and invited Bishop Longin to be their guest. He came, served the Liturgy, stayed for a gala banquet afterwards, and everything was fine. Or, was it? Addressing the guests at the Slava banquet Bishop Longin gave one of his patented long speeches in which he covered many topics from his recent trip to Dalmatia to how busy he is to see everybody in his huge diocese. I have a habit of listening even to useless and silly commercials on TV, so I waited for him to say something to reassure the audience that he was still our bishop and that we had nothing to worry about. Instead, he kept phrasing Bishop Iriney (Dobrijevich), how smart and educated he was, how he was born in America and spoke English without accent- and my light bulb went on.

I could have, but I did not “translate“ bishop’s remarks, which sounded something like this:

- Look, folks, when Bishop Irinei (Dobrijevich) comes to your church he is coming with my blessings. My diocese is too big, and he is just doing me a favor. Rest assured, nobody wants to take anything away from you. Besides, he was born in Cleveland, he is one of you.

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