Statement of Murska Sobota Bishop, Peter Štumpf, on Election of Metropolitan of Zagreb and Ljubljana, His Holiness Porfirije Perić, as Patriarch of Serbian Orthodox Church

18.2.2021 Murska Sobota Ekumenizem, Škofija Murska Sobota
Foto: Klavdija Dominko

The new Patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church, His Holiness Porfirije, is a great friend of Murska Sobota Diocese

On Thursday afternoon, February 18, 2021, a piece of very gratifying news came from the headquarters of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Belgrade. The current Zagreb-Ljubljana Metropolitan Porfirije Perić had been elected its new Patriarch, succeeding the late Patriarch Irenej.

This joyful news piece was not a great surprise; as we know, the new Patriarch Porfirije is a man of deep faith, theological thoroughness, broad humanistic insight and dialogical kindness. As the Metropolitan of Zagreb and Ljubljana, he also liked to come to Murska Sobota. He first visited us on Sunday, January 31, 2016, when he celebrated the Holy Liturgy in the Murska Sobota Cathedral in the presence of Catholics and mostly Orthodox believers. In a pleasant conversation, he told me that day he had always felt very well in Slovenia because Slovenes are an open, well-meaning and hospitable nation. He was very grateful to the Catholic Church in Slovenia to understand Orthodox brothers and sisters in all major Slovenian cities and other places. In Rakičan, in the Church of Mary, we also made it possible for Orthodox believers in Pomurje to celebrate the Holy Liturgy there from time to time. This ecumenical gesture made the Metropolitan very happy, and he was very grateful to the Diocese of Murska Sobota.

As a sign of hospitality, episcopal brotherhood and friendship, Metropolitan Porfirije invited me to attend the solemn academy on Saturday, January 26, 2019, at the SNG Maribor Theatre, on the 800th anniversary of the independent Serbian Orthodox Church and the 600th anniversary of the birth of Serbian Princess Katarina Kantakuzina Branković, married to Count Ulrik II of Celje.

On the 100th anniversary of the unification of the Slovenes of Prekmurje with their native nation, the diocese of Sobota wanted our friend, the Metropolitan Porfirije, to come to the Holy Mass in Beltinci on Saturday, August 17, 2019. As the Metropolitan was the chairman of the Executive Committee for the celebration of the 800th anniversary of the Serbian Orthodox Church's independence, which was then held in October, he further expressed doubts about whether he would come due to the abundance of work. However, he postponed his work, and therefore, for the first time in the history of the Beltinci parish, an Orthodox Metropolitan attended a Catholic service.

The Evangelical Bishop MA Leon Novak and I planned a meeting of the Christian Churches' leaders in Slovenia on our society's ethical issue. It took place at the Ordinariate headquarters in Murska Sobota on Tuesday, February 25, 2020. The Metropolitan Porfirije also responded to the invitation. Unanimously we agreed on respect for human life from conception to natural death, the importance of a father, mother and children as a family for the future of Europe and Slovenia, the incompatibility of euthanasia with the gospel view of human life and the need to close shops on Sundays and holidays. Although Metropolitan Porfirije was in a hurry to Belgrade after the meeting, he took his time, together with other representatives of the Christian Churches in Slovenia, sat at a table, and receive hospitality in the Murska Sobota parson's house.

Last Christmas, the Metropolitan Porfirije wished me, "(…) May joy, dear Bishop and Brother in Christ, fill the souls and hearts of all Christians, especially your (Murska Sobota) diocese. This way, we will all be able to glorify the name of God, forever and ever."

"Dear, new Patriarch of the venerable Serbian Orthodox Church - a good friend of the Church in Slovenia, as well as the diocese of Murska Sobota and me personally - Your Holiness Porfirije, with a joyful heart the Diocese of Murska Sobota and its bishop thank the good God for appointing you as the supreme shepherd to your venerable people. Slovenians and Serbs have historically built many bridges of friendship, cultural, economic cooperation and human affection. With your appointment to the Serbian Patriarch's venerable seat, the Holy Spirit communicates to us to strengthen further the Golden Bridge of closer Christian brotherhood, prayer, joyful cooperation, and the search for new ways to walk together on the path of faith.

May the Heavenly Mother Mary protect, encourage, strengthen and preserve you among your venerable nation for the long service of a shepherd in the Church, at the head of which is your venerable predecessor St. Sava.

Your Holiness, Patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Porfirije, is always welcome in Murska Sobota.

Murska Sobota, February 18, 2021

Msgr Dr Peter Štumpf SDB, Bishop of Murska Sobota