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Serbia: Text Of Bishops' Statement Opposing Annulment Of Elections

Prague, 2 January 1997 (RFE/RL) - The following is an RFE/RL translation of the statement faxed to us this evening by the Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church following an emergency meeting in Belgrade. The church leaders made the statement after meeting today in the first day of a two-day synod in Belgrade to discuss the country's political unrest. Some 30 bishops attended the meeting called by church leader Patriarch Pavle.

Text of Statement

"The synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church, at its emergency session held in the building of the Serbian Patriarchate in Belgrade, on Saint Ignatius Day and Saint Danilo Archbishop of Serbia Day, December 20, 1996 (Translator's Note: old calendar) or January 2, 1997, devoted to considering the latest tragic events in Serbia.

In view of the whole situation that has evolved since November 17 in which the ruling regime has drastically trampled the will of the people expressed in local elections, the Holy Synod considers:

1. That this is not an issue of mere political or party partisanship, but above all it is an ethical and existential question for our nation.

2. The Serbian Orthodox Church expects that reason will prevail, that reality will be accepted and the will of the people and dignity will be recognized; we pray with great patience to the Lord, the Prince of Peace that Christ's peace will prevail among Serbs.

So far it has not come to this, following several weeks of large peaceful demonstrations in the streets of Belgrade and other cities and towns across Serbia, facing the regime's forces who are trying to smother the free expression of the will of the people. The blood of innocent victims, as that of Abel (Translator's Note: as in the Biblical Cain and Abel), crying for help from heaven, call on the synod to speak out.

The Serbian Orthodox Synod in the sharpest terms condemns the falsification of the people's votes, the suppression of political and religious freedoms (banning religious instruction in schools, the expulsion of Saint Sava from Serbian classrooms, the non-restitution and destruction of property confiscated from the church)..... the mistreatment of clergy and believers who want to express aloud their disagreement with the suppression of people's freedoms, and especially the beating up and killing of people on the streets of the once free Belgrade and all of Serbia.

The Holy Synod condemns the authorities who not only disregarded the election outcome, but trampled over our glorious and tortuous history, centuries, the national memory, honor, dignity, the cyrilic alphabet, spiritual and national values and shrines, gave away the Western Serbian lands (Translator's Note: the Krajina), taking the nation and the state to a total collapse, and giving the people a begging stick, putting us at odds with the whole worlds and now trying to mislead and bloody us just in order to hold onto power. For this, the Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church, as the centuries-old guardian of the things people hold sacred, energetically and openly brands and condemns such conduct by the ruling regime. The Holy Synod is convinced that only respect for democratic principles and human rights and recognition of the results of the November 17 elections can bring hope in a better future and a peaceful life to the entire Serbian people and the other citizens of Serbia."

(The text concludes with Christmas and New Year's greetings and is signed by, among others, the Serbian Patriarch Pavle, the metropolitans of Zagreb-Ljubljana, Montenegro-Coast, American Midwest, Novaogranica and Dabrobosna and the bishops of Zice, Sumadija, Sabac-Valjevo, Buda, Nis, Zvornik-Tuzla, Srem, Banja Luka, Slavonia, Canada, Upper Karlovac, Dalmatia American East Coast, Banat, Backa, Britain-Scandinavia, Raska-Prizren, Zahum-Hercegovina, Bihac-Petrovac, Baranja. The remainder of signatures on the fax are illegible.)