11th SEPTEMBER 2001
11th March 2004
Give Them, Lord, Eternal Rest!
Let us pray to the Lord!
O God of spirits and of all flesh,
who hast trampled down death and made powerless the devil and given life to thy world:
Do thou, thyself O Lord, give rest to the souls of thy departed servants in a place of brightness, a place of verdure,
a place of repose,
whence all sickness, sorrow and sighing have fled away.
Pardon every sin which they have committed, whether by word or deed or thought;
for Thou are good and lovest mankind,
for there is no man who liveth and sinneth not,
for thou only art beyond sin, and Thy righteousness is to all eternity and Thy word is truth.
For Thou art the Resurrection and the Life and the Repose of thy departed servants, O Christ our God,
and unto Thee we ascribe glory, together with thine Father, who is without beginning, and thine all-holy, and good and life-giving Spirit,
now and ever, and unto ages of ages.
This reflection on the deaths of seven Trappist monks in Algeria was written on May 27, Memorial Day, 1996 by Dom Bernard Johnson, abbot of the Trappist monastery in Conyers, USA.
As I look out the window of my office here, I see that our flag is at half mast. I am not sure of the protocol for this, but I know it represents the feelings of the monks of this monastery as we try to grasp the meaning of the brutal murder of our brothers in Algeria.
We will have a special memorial Mass on Wednesday, May 29 for these brothers and also there will be a planting of a tree in their memory. The Abbot General of the Cistercian Order, together with Dom Armand Veilleux, former abbot of Holy Spirit Monastery in Conyers and now Procurator General of the order, will go to Algiers in order to be present at a memorial service. There the archbishop of Algiers will preside, assisted by the special envoy of the Holy Father, Cardinal Francis Arinze, president of the Pontifical Council for dialogue with non-Christian religions.
These brothers--Christian, Celestine, Paul, Bruno, Luke, Michael and Christopher--were profoundly dedicated to their vocation to be a Christian contemplative presence in the predominantly Muslim country of Algeria, a country that has suffered so much from civil and political strife since its independence from France. All of these brothers, one of whom Christian, the superior, was a very close friend, were French and came from three different monasteries in France. It was the only way to keep the monastery--an abbey--viable. No local vocations were ever possible. Thus a very special call from the Lord was necessary to live the Cistercian life in poverty and solitude.
The brothers were deeply loved by the neighbors, poor farmers who looked to the brothers for comfort and support. They all worked hard in a cooperative that provided food for all concerned. Ironically the monastery had been founded in 1935 by monks from a flourishing monastery in Bosnia, but for many years it remained a French enclave. Only the present community really made serious efforts to integrate themselves in the Algerian scene, Christian among Muslims, but above all in solidarity with the poor Algerian people.
The brothers for some time have been living on the edge, but they were unanimous in their proposal to stay in the monastery, to be a presence of peace and love to all without exception. We will probably never know what transpired during those two months of captivity, but we can only agree with our Abbot General when he said that these brothers have left an incredible witness, that of the Gospel lived to its fullest and the witness of the Beatitudes. Only a word and an attitude of pardon and love of our enemies can open up to us a future. These sentiments are echoed in the letter that the Holy Father sent to the order through our Abbot General on Pentecost; in it Pope John Paul says that the brothers of Our Lady of Atlas followed Jesus Christ to the point of giving up their lives and the Savior will bring to fruition the generous friendship that the brothers showed to the Algerian people for many years, a friendship that brought them to give up their very lives.
In the long history of the Cistercian Order there have been many tragedies caused by wars and persecutions. In this century alone there have been martyrs in Spain and in China but there is something very close to the heart in this terrible tragedy of our brothers in Algeria. Once again to cite the Holy Father's words...May the maternal tenderness of Mary be a comfort to all who have been wounded by this event.
In conclusion may I ask the prayers of all who may read this short notice, prayers for the families of our brothers (the four mothers who live in France have formed a beautiful support group), prayers for the Algerian people, for the Christians of the Church of Algeria who have already suffered so much, and also a prayer for those who have done this terrible deed. Of course, also prayers for the brothers themselves, but we somehow feel very secure about their presence in the Kingdom. As the youngest of the group wrote in his short poem composed in January...
My friends, we must be very clear:
I belong to Him and I am on His path,
I am going towards my full Paschal truth.
March 18, 2004
Statement of the Extraordinary Session of the Holy Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church
Yesterday's and last night's unrest, which took place throughout the southern Serbian Province of Kosovo and Metohija, represents the continuation of organized Albanian terrorism against the Orthodox Serbian population, now in existence for several decades, against that which is considered both a Serbian and world cultural heritage, as well as against other non-Albanian inhabitants in this area. Terrorism and violence, which became especially manifest in the burning of the refectory of the Monastery of the Patriarchate of Pec in 1981, have continued and continually existed since 1999, culminating in that same year with the NATO bombing and the expulsion of several hundreds of thousands of Serbs and other non-Albanians, which would give increase in strength and intensity.
The results of that unheard of violence are to be seen in the several thousands of men, women and children who were kidnapped and murdered, villages and settlements with Serbian inhabitants that were burned, looted and endangered properties of the people as well as of the Church, and the destruction and damaging of more than 115 monasteries and churches. And all this has happened since this province has been under the immediate protectorate of the International Community.
The climax of everything is this recent, obviously planned in advance, unthinkable pogrom, which has been in process over the rest of the Serbian people and their centuries lasting shrines. More than fifteen of the most significant churches and monuments of culture from 14th to 19th centuries, starting with the monastery of the Holy Archangels and the Mother of God church of Ljevish in Prizren, to the 17th century Saint Nicholas Church at Belo Polje, have been burnt down and destroyed within a day. Some ten people were killed, the remaining Serbian settlements throughout Kosovo and Metohija are being burned and destroyed, Decani Monastery is being shelled, and the monasteries of the Patriarchate of Pec and Gracanica are endangered.
For every reasonable person it is evident that here we are dealing with pre-planned total ethnic cleansing and destruction of all cultural and spiritual traces of the presence of the Christian Serbian people on the territory of Kosovo and Metohija. Additionally, the representatives of the International Community, KFOR and UNMIK, by their actions or non-actions, from 1999 until the present day contribute, voluntarily or involuntarily, to the definitive extermination of Orthodox Christian peoples from their centuries-long hearths and homes, and to the destruction of their cultural and all-Christian shrines of Kosovo. Our country, contrary to Security Council Resolution 1244, has not been allowed to defend its own people and a part of its territory, while those who on behalf of defending human rights and freedoms have taken over the protectorate and responsibility, by their passivity actually contribute to the escalation of unheard of terror in the heart of Europe.
For this reason, the Holy Synod of Bishops appeals to the authorities of the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro, as well as to the Government of Serbia, to do everything within their power to protect the people from extermination and from the ultimate expulsion of the Serbian people from Kosovo and Metohija.
We turn to the European Union, USA, Russia and the United Nations, crying out that they urgently end this pogrom and terror, for the sake of God and for the sake of human dignity.
We also call upon on Albanians in Kosovo and Metohija and upon their leaders to stop this insanity, for their own sake as well as for the sake of their future. We remind them and also ourselves of the all-human experience, that violence, injustice and hatred have never brought any good to anyone.
Finally, we call upon all of our people, that they in these extremely difficult times double their fasting and prayer for their salvation and redemption, for peace among us and all over the world. We should not allow ourselves, for the sake of any interest of this world, to commit anything that would be unworthy of the People of God, anything inhuman. During this turbulent time one should avoid any form of senseless and foolish revenge, such as that which certain imprudent persons committed against mosques in Belgrade and that in Nis. We should defend ourselves from evil and evil-doers, but not in an inhumane way or that, God forbid, we commit an evil or brutal deed in the way of evil-doers. O Lord, help all, and also us and our enemies, as peace, freedom and justice are necessary for all, both for us and for all peoples and nations.
and Son of God, The Father,
with The Holy and Life Giver Spirit
have Mercy on us and protect us from the Antichrist!
ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN COMMENT
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