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22.11.2020. - 14:53

Address by the President of the Republic of Serbia at the funeral of Patriarch Irinej

"One period is over. Only the earthly one. The time of the Patriarch of wisdom and love, the time of reason, the time of the one who so closely corresponded to the description from Paul's epistle to the Hebrews: Brethren, it was fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, blameless, unstained, separated from sinners.
 
His Holiness, Serbian Patriarch Irinej, closed his eyes as he lived. In peace, with himself, God, with the church and people.
 
In peace with his own life, dedicated to God, from his childhood in Vidovo near Čačak, from the first visits to the monasteries in Ovčar- Kablar gorge, education at the seminary in Prizren, the Faculty of Theology in Belgrade, to monasticism and ordination as a bishop, when he endlessly loved Niš, up to the time he was elected Patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church.
 
That life had clear goals: God, love and Serbia. And no less than that, the entire Serbian people, wherever they lived.
 
And his God was the God of reason, the one who forgives, the one who understands, the one who loves. God of all of us, the one who does not divide, but unites, the one who teaches us and who protects us.
 
And love was the basis of his every faith, greater - as with every true Christian - than anything else because he knew well that faith and hope are impossible without love, without a heart that surrenders to both God and people.
 
And his Serbia was precisely the one he created himself. A Serbia of peace, a Serbia that understands, a Serbia that gathers, that wins with work and wisdom, a Serbia that does not know how to hate and has no need to hate.
 
The Saint Sava Temple he wanted so much and which he finished, is the temple of that and such Serbia.
 
And he kept building it, thus building up all of us. He gathered us, around it, to be gathered in it. He believed that his greatness was not only in the dimensions, in the magnificence, in the divine mosaic, but in the communion that this holy temple symbolises, to which it summons.
 
In many ways, he was also our temple — congregating, wise, full of grace and love. In front of him, our spiritual father, we were not divided. There was no mockery, envy, malice and hatred in front of him.
 
And we were able to understand, just as much as he understood. And to forgive, as much as he forgave. To love, everyone, as much as he loved. To believe in a joint Serbia, no less than he believed. And the belonging to the Serbian nation that he put above everything.
 
His Holiness, Serbian Patriarch Irinej, closed his eyes and surrendered his soul to God, with only one wish, with one single bequest, for all of us who remained:
 
That we never destroy his temple, his dream.
 
That we remain what he created, dedicated to God, love, Serbia and Serbian nation.
 
To believe, to love and to do that together, gathered in the temple of wisdom and peace.
 
It is an outstanding obligation, for those of us who always found it easier to divide than to gather, to quarrel than to make peace, to hate each other, instead of loving each other, to take revenge, instead to forgive.
 
And we destroyed many temples before he convinced us to build this one.
 
Whether we shall, taught by his wisdom, preserve it - is no longer a question of decency alone, but also a question of our further survival.
 
Shall we know how - without him, without his soothing hand and calm words - to remain one, in his and our temple, without any malice, trusting each other, understanding and forgiving?
 
When so many times His Holiness claimed that it was possible, I believed him. You trusted him, every man in this country trusted him.
 
Therefore, I believe in that even today. I believe his teaching will remain. That we will continue to build temples and Serbia. That we will have the wisdom, common goals, the same faith and the same love.
 
When a boulder separates from the mountain, an eternal void remains in its place, which even centuries cannot fill. One can only remember the place where that boulder stood, where it rose, and the size it had while marking the entire landscape. Such rare boulders as Patriarch Irinej adorn the mountain and the people in which they emerged for all times, even when they are physically uprooted. They are remembered for the earthly traces they left in their work, for the splendour of their personality, for the admiration they stirred in everyone lucky enough to see and meet them.
 
In simple terms, Patriarch Irinej left behind a work worthy of admiration.
 
1. He did not finish - he essentially built this most beautiful and not only Orthodox but Christian temple in the world. We have been here together numerous times, and I know how long he waited for the day when the temple will be completed, how much energy and love he invested in it, and I - I am ready to say that if it weren't for him, we would have been building this temple of ours in the decades to come. He is the one who said about this temple that it is the new Saint Sophia, that it will be the most important gathering place of Orthodox believers in the entire world. He loved Russia, was infinitely grateful to President Putin for his support in the construction of this temple, and believed in the closeness of our peoples.
 
2. Patriarch Irinej is credited with renewing the culture of remembrance. He was the one who gathered us together, as a true Saint Sava's spiritual knight, around the struggle and sacrifice of our people. We have been ashamed for years, we have been silent about the suffering of our people, we have hidden the facts from the people, from ourselves, for fear of political sanctions, until Irinej, His Holiness, changed that. Thanks to him, more than anyone else, today we are proud to talk about the Košare heroes, who get their streets, boulevards, monuments. We are not ashamed of them, as it was the case until recently, but we are proud of their deed. For six years now, with his blessing, we have been marking the NATO aggression, not the 'campaign' as some have bequeathed to us, and we are not afraid to tell the truth to the entire world, fighting for peace and friendship even with those nations that took part in that aggression. Patriarch Irinej blessed the eternal memory and the annual holding of a joint commemoration of Serbia and Srpska on the occasion of the terrible crime committed against the Krajina people, against the heroic Serbs from Krajina. That is why each year, with tears and endless sorrow, we mark the suffering of our people in the 'Storm'.
 
3. More than anything, he renewed the spirit of unity and togetherness of the Serbian people. He did not separate Serbia and Srpska from one another. He was a native of Čačak who was loved and respected by all Serbs from across the Drina river. Thanks to his engagement, requests and prayers, there were no altercations and quarrels between Serbs east and west of the Drina. We have guarded and cared for each other like never before in our history, while not jeopardising anyone. He was worried about the fate of our people in Montenegro, and with that concern, he went to the paradise settlement. He did not accept, and on that issue he was uncompromising, the division of our people and our nation according to AVNOJ's seams, although he respected each of the so recognised, newly created states.
 
4. However, his biggest concern was Kosovo and Metohija. Here as well, including that issue - although he spent part of his life in Prizren - he acted rationally and with a calm mind, looking for ways to preserve, or at least not recognise the independence of Kosovo, understanding the difficult reality and all the historical mistakes we made. However, he also believed into the growing strength of the Serbian state and, sometimes, somewhat naively, its power to convince the world that only a just and equitable solution is right for Kosovo and Metohija. He respected the Western world and was confident that one day that world would understand the Serbs and accept at least part of our arguments.
 
5. Irinej was a great patriarch. He reconciled and united the divided church in America and fought for the return of the confiscated property. He established a partnership with the state, saying that "the state should do its job, and the church its own." By doing so, both the state and the church grew stronger, fortuitously for the people. He established a dialogue with the Vatican and convinced Pope Francis that Stepinac was not a saint. Renovated churches, monasteries, seminaries shall remain behind him, and the church's ever stronger charitable work, from soup kitchens to helping the sick. The Temple of Saint Sava, the dream of nine Serbian patriarchs and Belgrade metropolitans, from the times of Metropolitan Mihailo, the dream that lasted for 125 years - is now completed. He has something to come out with before Saint Sava, Saint Prince Lazar and before his predecessors. And we, both the people and the church, will need a lot of wisdom to preserve what he left to us.
 
Such a Serbia can be represented both in heaven and on earth. And while he is selflessly doing it in the higher spheres, here on earth, only we can do that.
 
Less than that would be dishonourable. More than that is close to impossible. The Patriarch gained tremendous respect and all-embracing love of his people by continually working with Serbian Patriarch Pavle, constant readiness to sacrifice, deeply aware of the teachings of the holy fathers that without great sacrifice there is no great love, and without great love, there are no great deeds. It was this love that raised dozens and dozens of ruined shrines from the ashes, and erected new temples from the foundations, crowning the faith with this magnificent temple in which our grandfather, our Patriarch, gathered us today, to send him with solemn sorrow to the Kingdom of Heaven, where he has been awaited with joy by St. Simeon and St. Sava, St. Vasilije and St. Peter.
 
Thank you, Your Holiness, our father, for every word you have taught us, for the love you have instilled in us, for the wisdom we have followed.
 
Serbia will remain on your path, aware that every other course is the path of doom, faithful to your work, your temple, gathered around your ends.
 
It is our obligation, it is our condition, it is our common desire, divided from today and still the same, in heaven and on earth.
 
Eternal rest and memory to you, who was our teacher, the person who gathered us together and our father", said President Vučić.
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