Today's media report that Vladika Artemije has returned to Kosovo and Metohija and served Liturgy at the Duboki Potok Monastery. As I indicated in my message of November 12, Vladika had written to his brother Bishops on October 13 stating the canonical basis for his authority over the Eparchy of Ras and Prizren and the uncanonical nature of the actions taken against him earlier this year. Now, with his return to Kosovo, with the support of the Serbian National Council of Kosovo and Metohija led by Milan Ivanovic and Dragan Velic, and he has resumed effective exercise of his episcopacy.
As will be noted further below, little has appeared in the English-language media that is not completely slanted by "yellow" anti-Artemije perspective. One partial exception is today's article "Bishop's Followers In Two Kosovo Monasteries," from B92. While also including the slant found elsewhere, it also carries some of Vladika Artemije's own words about the current situation:
"We are gathered here to lay a new foundation, to bring back order, peace and unity into the Raška-Prizren Eparchy, which has been going through a Golgotha for the past nine months."
"We have not separated from anyone, we are no schismatics, and we are not creating anything new. We are simply striving to maintain what our glorious forefathers and ancestors have left us," said Artemije.
The bishop said that he expected new attacks against him and the monks loyal to him, but that he felt no fear.
"Every new beginning is difficult, every awakening comes from the desert, and this is one of those deserts of ours, where we are gathered now. Instead of in the church, in the temple of God, we are here at this narrow table, because those who have the power have ordered that we cannot enter the church," said he, and compared today's service to those held by early Christians.
"Temples are certainly consecrated places for religious service, but in a predicament even the Roman catacombs were holy places. Let us guard our faith and unity with the Holy and Apostolic Church, and then God will bless our homes, our villages and towns, our Kosovo and Metohija, and our whole country," Artemije said.
Vladika Artemije's simple and direct statements should be compared to the following "yellow" tirades (emphasis added in italics): "A former Serbian Orthodox Church bishop in Kosovo has broken into a monastery to hold a liturgy despite his retirement, openly clashing with the church leadership. The dispute between ex-Bishop Artemije and the church leaders reflects the divisions between the moderates and the hardliners. Artemije is staunchly anti-Western and conservative." [Associated Press, "Ex-Kosovo bishop breaks into monastery [sic!] to hold liturgy disobeying Serbian Orthodox church," Nov 19]
"The divided Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) came under further pressure Friday from a renegade bishop, who occupied a Kosovo monastery on Friday and performed a service in defiance of the church's orders, local media reported. . . . In February, the SPC forced Bishop Artemije into retirement, stripping him of authority over the Kosovo eparchy because of his questionable business dealings and 'inability to govern.' Concerned that Artemije and his supporters from the church's radical wing could scupper a fragile unity in the church the SPC leadership also banned him from holding services. . . . Accompanied by a group of radical monks who support him, Artemije on Friday entered the Zubin Potok monastery in northern Kosovo and performed liturgy, directly challenging the SPC. With its assembly still in session, the SPC had yet to respond to Artemije's move. The SPC is divided over several important issues, including relations with the Vatican, ties to renegade Orthodox churches in Macedonia and Montenegro and how services should be performed. [Deutsche Presse-Agentur, "Disgraced Kosovo bishop launches mutiny against Serbian church," Nov 19]
So there we have it: Far from "simply striving to maintain what our glorious forefathers and ancestors have left us," in Vladika Artemije's words, his actions are those of a "disgraced" "renegade" "former" Bishop supported by evil Serb "hardliners" and "radicals," like Milan Ivanovic and Dragan Velic, who, like him, are "staunchly anti-Western and conservative," and oppose "moderates" with respect to "relations with the Vatican, ties to renegade Orthodox churches in Macedonia and Montenegro and how services should be performed" -- also, it hardly needs to be added, opposing Western policy on Kosovo.
The above comparisons make crystal clear the truth of the conclusion to my last message:
All we can say for sure at this juncture is the following: First, that the uncanonical and invalid attempt to discredit and remove Vladika Artemije – which any simpleton can see has, literally, nothing to do with allegations of supposed misconduct and everything to do with trying to eliminate a pillar of the Orthodox Church and the Serbian nation – continues unabated and indeed is intensifying. Second, that this attempt is politically motivated and includes collaborators both inside and outside the Church. Third, that its aim is further to demoralize the Serbian Orthodox Church as the last bastion of the national spirit uncorrupted by the ill wind blowing from Washington and Brussels and to remove the most important impediment to the West’s contemplated “final solution” to Kosovo and Metohija.
Vladika Artemije has now "called out" those behind the efforts to remove him at the behest of anti-Church and anti-Serbia agendas. The big "impediment" to Washington's "final solution" for Kosovo is back! We all need to watch closely and with a critical eye their reactions. Most of all, we call on the Christian Serbian people of Kosovo and Metohija to protect Bishop Artemije from the inevitable next stage of provocation: an effort by NATO, EULEX, or "KosovA" police to remove him forcibly.
James George Jatras
Director, American Council for Kosovo