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Yugoslavia [Former] - Pastoral letter to the Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church

24 June 1999

Letter to H.H. Patriarch Pavle, 24 June 1999.

Your Holiness,

We greet you in the name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

On behalf of the World Council of Churches and the Conference of European Churches we would like to express our sincere appreciation for the statement of the Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church on 15th June, which includes a call for the resignation of the president and the government of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. In taking this clear and courageous position the voice of the Church has been heard, not only in your country, but also by the international community and in the churches in Europe and beyond. Those of us in the WCC and CEC, and in the churches who have been in close relationship with you over the past years, knew that the Serbian Orthodox Church had been critical of the regime of Mr Milosevic for a long time. The statement has helped many better to understand the position of the Church.

We know that you have been concerned with the plight of the Kosovar Albanians. As more facts are being revealed about the atrocities of which they have been victims, we are aware of the crucial role the Church will be called to fulfill in assisting the Serbian nation and the faithful to come to terms with what has happened under the responsibility of the federal president and government.

We are moved and encouraged by the decision of your Holiness to move your patriarchal residence temporarily to the historic site of Pec. This will certainly be an encouragement for many members of the Serbian community in Kosovo, persuading them to stay. We are concerned about the lack of security for the Serbian community and support your call to the authorities of KFOR to provide swift and effective protection for everybody. We were particularly sad to learn about attacks directed at some of the monasteries, obliging Bishop Artemij and some of the monks to leave Prizren.

It is our sincere hope that with time, the Serbian people and the Kosovar Albanians will again be able to live together in peace. Reconciliation may take many years, but it must be the long-term objective of the churches and the international community. In this spirit, Your Holiness and the Church have consistently affirmed the right of all the refugees and displaced persons to return to their homes, and called on the Serbian people in Kosovo not to leave theirs. As WCC and CEC, we would like to assure you of our prayers and our willingness to assist the Serbian Orthodox Church, and the other churches, in the present difficult situation as well as in the long term.

With regard to humanitarian relief to all in need, Action by Churches Together (ACT), which is acting on behalf of the WCC and the Lutheran World Federation, is already in Kosovo. In the coming days and weeks ACT will establish cooperation with the Serbian Orthodox Church.

In order to discuss with Your Holiness, and with the bishops and clergy, other ways in which our organisations can be of assistance, and to gain a better insight into the situation, we are planning to send a WCC/CEC delegation to Kosovo next week, from 29th June to 1st July. We hope that Your Holiness will bless this initiative and will receive the delegation in Peç.

Yours ever in Christ,

                                                         Konrad Raiser                          Keith Clements
                                                         General Secretary                    General Secretary
                                                         World Council of Churches       Conference of European Churches