The Paraclete – Target of Persecution
|Liturgy at The Paraclete, after which Bishop Akakije and the clergy served a Moleben for the Defense of the Church Against Persecution by Heretics and Apostates|
Persecution of the STOC in Ralja
In 2011, the STOC bought a property in the village of Ralja and named it “TheParaclete,” in honor of the All-Holy Spirit. The Church planned a modest complex for the property, which would serve as an administrative center for our episcopacy and spiritual center of the Serbian TOC. That year, on the Feast of Pentecost, the patronal feastday of The Paraclete was celebrated in a large tent, in which the Divine Liturgy was served, with a large number of the faithful and guests in attendance.
|First Liturgy at The Paracletee|
|The faithful attending the first liturgy|
At the end of March this year (2012), while the winter cold was still beating back the onset of spring, a small cell was built – or, rather, slapped together – with trunks of acacia which had been cut on the property, in which Hieromonk Maxim, a brother from the Kostunichi monastery, settled with the blessing of Bishop Akakije. Due to lack of financial resources, at first there was planned a small addition to this original hut, so that catacomb Liturgies could begin, in order to bring the grace of the liturgical Church life into Belgrade and the surrounding area as soon as possible. When some unexpected donations arrived from our Serbian brethren in far-off Australia, however, it was decided, spontaneously and without any detailed plan, to create next to the already-existing hut a separate, larger cottage of wood. This separate cottage was envisioned as a temporary church in which all the services would be held until we had greater financial means, along with the necessary documents (building permission, connection for running water and electricity, etc.) for the construction of a large brick cathedral.
|Construction of a separate, temporary wood building|
This construction went very quickly and successfully, and as the work progressed, new donations arrived, so that the originally-planned simple wood building was enriched by aluminum windows and doors, insulation, gypsum panels, an external Styrofoam façade, etc. During construction, on The Paraclete’s patronal feast of Pentecost, a hierarchical liturgy was served in the half-finished church, which many faithful attended, along with interested locals from Ralja village, whose presence at our event angered the priests of the nearby “official” parish. The final product of this amateur building project was, for all of us, really, unexpectedly grand, as, it should be mentioned, for most of the work the primary workers were our believers – amateurs.
|Hierarchical Liturgy in the half-finished church|
|Bishop Akakije at the Liturgy at the partly-finished church at The Paraclete|
At that time, no one had in the least thought that the local government would demand a building permit for this sort of modest structure located outside of the village, far from any sort of urban planning. Still, because the finished structure turned out to be unusually attractive and substantial, there was a bit of fear that the official church could start asking the local government questions about its legality, as the “official” clergy of Ralja and Sopot was already fairly perturbed by the presence of True Orthodox Christians in the Sopot district.
|The final appearance of the wood structure with Styrofoam siding, on the occasion of the visit of the First Hierarch of the Russian TOC, His Eminence Archbishop Tikhon|
Meanwhile, some benefactors appeared who offered to build, completely at their own expense, a solid brick building of about fifty square meters. A plan was drawn up, we were given permission for the location, and, around the first of October, we registered a request for a building permit, which the local government is obliged by law to grant within eight days. Due to – as it turned out, justified – fears that the “official” church would sooner or later register an accusation with the government about the wooden church, we wanted to register it as an auxiliary building for the brick residence, thus legalizing all of the buildings and securing them from the anticipated attack from the official church. Since the chilly days of fall had already begun, our God-loving benefactor was worried that Fr. Maxim’s hut was not adequate for surviving the winter, and he insisted that the building of brick building begin as soon as possible. As the issuance of the complete documents for building permission was already in process, hoping, that the permit would be granted quickly, we began the work on the foundation for the new project. The trenches for the foundation were dug, and workers were hired to lay the grid and pour the concrete slab.
|Preparations for the pouring of the foundation of the brick residence|
During the second week of October, it was conveyed to us by our acquaintances in the Sopot government that, by order of the official church’s Bishop Jovan of Shumadia, the office of the local governor, Mr. Zika, was occupied by many – more than ten – aggressive priests who insisted that an “illegal” structure at The Paraclete be demolished, and that nothing at all should be permitted to be built there in the future. “These people [i.e., the True Orthodox] must be cleaned out of the place!” rang out their strident demand aimed personally at the local governor. By the way, it is worth mentioning that none of the locals can remember that anything within the governance of Sopot has ever been demolished by order of the government, even though many houses and outbuildings throughout the entire territory are entirely illegal, and no one considers this a matter of any importance.
After these ultimatums and – for the governor – intimidating visit of these priests, the machinery of the government, manipulated by the Sergianist-ecumenist false church, was set in motion, the thick, dark clouds of persecution came to hover ominously over the previously quiet and peaceful Paraclete. The heretofore kind and attentive municipality officials became reticent, nervous, disagreeable, and even rough. Days and weeks went by, and the building permit was not given. It turned out that everything had been stopped by a directive from the authorities. Upon our requests for an explanation as to what was happening with our building permit, we were given unclear, unpleasant, and nervous responses which culminated in the outright refusal of the municipality officials to give us a confirmation that the documents required for receiving a permit had even been submitted, which would be necessary for registering a complaint. We found that we had come up against an impenetrable wall.
Soon a civil inspector visited The Paraclete, who measured all of the structures, and, as a result of the inspection, surprisingly, expeditiously – within a few days – a warrant for the demolition of all the structures was issued, even the foundation for the brick building, for which we should have been granted building permission long ago. Such a sudden transformation of the heretofore peaceful and extremely tolerant municipality into an aggressive, unscrupulous, and deadly weapon in the hands of the official church directed against us True Orthodox Christians shocked us all, and not only us but the local inhabitants, who still cannot believe what is happening.
Meanwhile, Fr. Maxim found himself in several very unpleasant situations in Sopot. One priest of the official church from Sopot came up to him in street, verbally abused him, and insultingly threatened him. On another occasion, at a building materials warehouse, an extremely violent, hostile man, with the quiet support of several people present, interrogated him as to whether he was subject to Bishop Jovan, and, upon receiving a negative reply, threw him out of the place with threats that he would beat him up if he saw him again in the Sopot area.
In the last week of October this year, on the day on which we celebrate the newly-canonized Saint Catherine of Lesna and Hopovo (15 October OS), a Hierarchical Divine Liturgy was served at The Paraclete, after which Bishop Akakije served the Moleben to Our Lord Jesus Christ which is sung in cases of the persecution of the Church by heretics and apostates.
|Hierarchical Liturgy in the finished structure at The Paraclete, on the feast of our Venerable Mother Catherine of Lesna and Hopovo, after which the Molben Against Persecution was sung|
We place all our hope in the Lord, wait for further developments, and beg you, our respected readers, to prayerfully support a course of legal action, and, if necessary, be prepared to put up a passive physical resistance if the local municipality attempts to demolish The Paraclete.
The Editors of the SerbianTO Blog
Remark: The Serbian TOC cannot be registered with the government bodies of the Republic of Serbia as the official SPC monopolizes the rights on the word “Orthodox.” That means that not one religious group can register under a name which includes that word. Accordingly, as registration is impossible, it is impossible for the Serbian TOC to build structures with the shape and external marks of a church. This is why the Serbian TOC is forced to camouflage all is present and future legal churches to look like ordinary houses.
October 30 2012
God help you!
A small criticism, (well-intentioned), for which I hope you will not blame me:
If it was known that the STOC is not registered and that because of the conditions of the SPC it will not be able to register as a religious group, it shouldn’t have ever begun any kind of building before it received the papers necessary (building permit), since the enactment of a new law on urban planning and construction. It is no longer possible as it was before to build something and then to submit a demand for legalization; rather, before everything one must be given the building permit, and then one can begin building. As it is, you have only given them and argument that they can submit a demand for demolishment (as a permit does not exist), and it is known that the STOC is a thorn in the side of many and that they are only waiting for a chance to hurt you. They have the power and strength (as they demonstrate) to do so, so that only all-merciful God can stop them!
God save you!!
God help you!
Anonymous is right when he says that we should have given over all of the necessary documents and been patient until we received a permit before beginning any kind of construction work.
We were aware of that from the very beginning as for the main brick building this procedure is being prepared.
The problem occurred when we moved beyond construction with acacia pillars and ordinary boards… No one for a moment thought that such a literally thrown together, hurried construction would require any kind of documentation.
In the same way was planned the building of this temporary church, just in greater dimensions. And as the brothers from the editorial board say in this text, the materials used for the building of this temporary church changed with the arrival of monetary help. In the place of acacia pillars, fir, in place of boards, wood panels… insulation, gypsum, façade… and thus we got, completely unexpectedly and unplanned, a very serious construction. Only when it was finished was it clear to us that we would have a problem because if its impressive appearance.
So that’s how it happened and that’s how this omission happened, that is, the mistake which the ruthless SPC with the help of the government authorities could make us pay for dearly.
Naiveté, carelessness, relaxedness…
Surely such an omission will not happen again regardless of what results turn out from this drama. May God help us, and may He enlighten the SPC persecutors and soften their weapons the municipality officers so that this tragedy does not take place…
Sadness seizes me when I think that in Serbia exist such militant evil, and that in the official church. I think that this is the greatest tragedy of our people, as the salt which should sanctify and enlighten the people has lost its savor. Artemije and his unfortunate “Artemeites” are also a tragedy, and the little STOC is still too small and unknown among the people. Well, it is what it is. We get what we deserve, and because we have sinned greatly and still sin, what we have is by the great mercy of God. I followed on The Paraclete site how this little church budded from nothing, with so much effort and enthusiasm of our church brothers gathered around His Grace Bishop Akakije. Every new stage of progress in the construction gave me joy. I myself put in a small donation for the church. It’s hard for me to believe that the SPC would be so evil as to make an edict for its demolishment. We are frustrated enough, and after this possible sacrilegious demolition of the church took place, we would be even more frustrated. God forbid one or the other! I wish that I could be there if the demolition, God forbid, were attempted so I could protect the holy place with my own body, but my distance from my beloved homeland doesn’t allow it. I would like to encourage everyone, especially our Honorable Bishop, and all of St. Sava’s faithful in Serbia, not to worry if the church is demolished, because we’ll build it again. We from the diaspora will help as much as we can for the new church be raised again to the glory of God and shame of all the apostates from St. Sava’s faith. Be strong, brothers and sisters, and don’t give up. With this commentary I call on all of those who are able to help the eventual construction of a new church that that could be begun to be planned already. As far as I can see, The Paraclete is a very important place for the entire STOC and we have to support it.
Your Unworthy Brother in Christ,