NIS – By awarding the Order of St. Emperor Constantine in Nis, in front of about 15,000 people, the central ceremony marking 1,700 years since the Edict of Milan was over. The manifestation was held in the temple of the Holy Emperor Constantine and Empress Helena, where the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew said that the act is the source from which was derived the proclaimed principle of respect for religious freedom. The Edict, he said, was a turning point in the history of humanity, freedom and life.
“This is not just a ceremony of Serbia and Serbs, this is a ceremony and celebration of Orthodox Christianity, which is still being persecuted in some parts of the world, because of the hate and paganism of modern haters of Diocletian,” said Bartholomew, whose message was translated by Bishop Irinej of Backa.
He said that the Orthodox Church walks through the history forever “learning that we keep everything that Lord commanded us,” and that its priests, like Jovan Bishop of Ohrid, are being persecuted because they respect the canonical order and “do not allow to be involved in non-canonical, by various state officials of the supported pseudo-church.”
The ceremony was attended by the highest state officials, President Tomislav Nikolic, Prime Minister Ivica Dacic, Minister of Education Tomislav Jovanovic, President of the Republic of Serbian Milorad Dodik, and Crown Prince Alexander and Princess Katherine. The delegation of the Catholic Church was led by the Vatican Cardinal Josef Tomko, and manifestation was also attended by Belgrade Mufti Muhamed Jusufpahic, Serbian Army Chief Ljubisa Dikovic and many other distinguished guests. Although announced, President of Montenegro Filip Vujanovic did not attend the ceremony.
The Orthodox Church paid respect to Constantine with liturgy served by Patriarch Bartholomew, and concelebrated by Jerusalem’s Patriarch Teofilo, Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia Kirill, Archbishop of Cyprus Chrystostomos, Archbishop of Athens Jeronim, Metropolitan of Warsaw and All Poland Sava, the locum tenens Archbishop of the Orthodox Church of Czech Republic and Slovakia Simeon, Arcbishop of Tirane and all Albania Anastasios and large number of priests with lower ranks.
The liturgy ended with communion and sermon of Ecumenical Patriarch.
“What is a soul in the body, these are Christians in the world. All the achievements of the civilizations are the achievements of Christianity: philanthropy, the responsible state, social justice… However, this world is a world of enslavement, reality is persecution under the exuse of freedom. The human conscience suffers violence, heresy and apostasy get stronger. Our brothers are persecuted today as Archbishop of Ohrid Jovan, because they do not consent to engage if pseudo-church organizations,” said, among other things, Bartholomew.
At the end of the liturgy Patriarch Irinej said:
“Today we mark and celebrate a great historic event which changed the face of the world, which divided the world into two eras.”
The end of the celebration city government welcomed with a relief, knowing that they have taken on a great responsibility. And that it was not easy for them, speaks the remark of one of those responsible for the organization of the event: “The year goes by, the Edict of Milan never.”