His Holiness, Irinej, Serbian Patriarch, celebrated the Hierarchal Divine Liturgy at the Cathedral church of Christ the Saviour in Banjaluka, on the occasion of the Patron Saint-day of Republika Srpska – Saint Stephen the Archdeacon.
His Holiness was concelebrated by Their Graces Bishop Jefrem of Banjaluka, Hrizostom of Zvornik-Tuzla and Atanasije of Bihac-Petrovac. After the Divine Liturgy the Patriarch blessed the slava cake. The service was attended by President of Republika Srpska Milorad Dodik, Prime Minister Zeljka Cvijanovic, President of the National Assembly Igor Radojcic, ministers of the Republic, deputies of the parliament, as well as Minister of Justice and Public Administration of the Republic of Serbia Nikola Selakovic.
Wishing a happy Patron Saint-day, the Patriarch greeted the Serbian people’s representatives “who are courageously and firmly holding aloft the flag of their people” and said that he is praying to God for them to lead their people the way God likes.
He added that the Holy Protomartyr and Archdeacon Stephen courageously witnessed the name of Christ, full of grace and the Holy Spirit, successfully conducting his apostolic mission.
“He testified not only in words, but by his life and his blood. Republika Srpska, the Serbian people and all Christians celebrate this great and sacred name, and by celebrating him, we hope for his aid, which is great and powerful,” the Patriarch said.
The Patriarch said that the Lord gave many and great gifts to Orthodox Christians, and those who were given much, will be also asked to give much.
“This area has suffered much – much blood of innocent people was spilled –, but we believe that even though we are before great temptations, the Lord will not abandon us. The sufferings are great, but the glory is also great by which the Lord rewards His holy martyrs,” the Patriarch said.
He sent the message to the Serbian people to remain true to their Lord and faith, stressing that they cannot find a better faith than this, as it is the “whole truth, and God is with it.”
The Patriarch said that both Republika Srpska and Serbia need unity in everything that is good, stressing that a great number of political parties should exist only if they are searching for the shortest path to the general good, but otherwise they are detrimental to the people.
The celebration of the Republika Srpska Day and Patron Saint-day will resume with a solemn academy at Banski Dvor and a reception by Republika Srpska President Milorad Dodik at the Government Building.