Nikolaj Velimirovic.

Religion and nationality in Serbia online

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AA 000 819 549 7









i !















Pronounce " s

as "sh" in "ship"
as "ch" in "church"

ditto (softer)
as "ts" in "cats"
as "j" in French "jour"


No apology is needed for placing this remark-
able little pamphlet within the reach of the British
public ; for it deals with a subject which deserves
closer attention at the present time and strikes a
highly original and sympathetic note. Its author,
Father Nicholas Velimirovic, is a monk of the
Serbian Orthodox Church, and has already at an
early age won a reputation in his native country
as a preacher and a profound theologian. He
represents in its best form the new spirit which is
awakening in the Serbian Church and from which
many expect a serious movement of internal
reform. His aim is to emphasize the great work
performed by the Orthodox and Catholic clergy
in kindling the flame of national feeling among
the Southern Slavs, alike in free Serbia and
Montenegro and in the unredeemed provinces of
the Dual Monarchy. The tribute of an Orthodox
monk to the memory of a great Catholic bishop
is in keeping with the concluding appeal for
Christian charity and unity.

The translation is by Miss Fanny S. Copeland.


Jtim 15, 1915.








(1815— 1915)

" Sve za Vjeru i za Domovinu."
("All for Faith and Fatherland.")


" Love first, and then logic," says Dostoievsky.
" First we understand, and then we can love," is
the watchword of ancient paganism.

The first of these watchwords leads to Christian
humility and to general good ; the second to
worldly pride and general evil.

Five years ago I wrote in the Guardian upon
the reunion of the Churches. The underlying
idea of my article was the above-mentioned
quotation from the great Russian thinker and poet.
I subsequently read the controversy between
Charles Kingsley and Cardinal Newman— the
controversy on soul and logic — and I became still
more confirmed in my belief that love, and not
logic, must play the leading part in the reunion
of the Churches. In other words, let us be united
first in practical matters, in our daily, useful
dealings with society and humanity, let us more
frequently join hands in the charitable work in
which we both share ; for this will lead us to
tolerance, and tolerance in its turn will build
the bridge towards the finding of a common
logical ground.

To-day I see with pleasure the Roman Catholic
and English Churches in England working to-


gether in the same grand patriotic and national
cause, united by the same inspiration, the same
desire, and the same prayers.

The dogma that divides them hes three hundred
years behind them, but the love that unites them
in the same labours is with them now. And I
see with joy how the representatives of both these
Churches in England are united in sympathy and
love towards others — towards ravaged Belgium
and sorely stricken Serbia. The Bishop of Lon-
don is president of the Serbian Relief Fund, Car-
dinal Bourne has permitted lectures on behalf of
the Serbians to be given in Westminster Cathe-
dral, and himself honoured these lectures by his
presence. Divided in dogma, these two great
Christian Churches are nevertheless united in
work. Considering all this, I to-day insist more
strongly on my thesis, that all Christian Cliurches
have sufficient logical ground in common, on
which they may range themselves side by side
in the same work, the same mission, and the same
charity. The differences in their points of view
concerning transcendental formulas, unrealizable
in life, can reasonably take a second place.

The Jugoslav Ideal.

A proof of the above may be seen in the life
of a whole nation throughout several centuries.
I mean the Jugoslavs — Serbs, Croats, and
Slovenes — who arc one and the same nation in
language, in blood, in destiny, and in their
aspirations, and who to-day as one man desire
to shake off the Austro-Hungarian yoke, and
to build u]^ a single undivided State with


free Serbia and Montenegro. The proof alluded
to consists in this, that in the great national
struggle for national union and freedom
which Serbia has now waged for a hundred
years, her people have risen superior to all
divergencies of creed between the Orthodox and
Catholic Churches, and have held fast only to
that which unites, not to that which divides in
religion .

That the Orthodox Church is the best spiritual
medium of the national ideal is known throughout
the world. The Serbian Orthodox Church has
been this throughout the history of Serbia, from
the days of St. Sava, her founder and organizer.
St. Sava, the son of King Nemanja — the most
famous of the Serbian kings and founder of the
Serbian State— succeeded in setting upon it the
seal of Orthodoxy for centuries to come. If the
father endowed the Serbian State with a body,
the son gave it a soul. And later on, when the
body of the Serbian State was destroyed by the
Turkish invasion, the soul lived on through the
centuries, and suffered, and nothing remained
unconquered in this soul but her faith, and the
tradition of the freedom of the past. The monas-
teries were centres of trust and hope. The priests
were the guides of the people, upholding and
comforting them. The Patriarchs of Ipek were
in truth patriarchs of the people, and, like the
patriarchs of old, true representatives of the
people and their protectors. When the tyranny
of the Turks and Albanians overstepped all
bounds in old Serbia, and the nation was in
danger of being exterminated, the Patriarch'


Arsen Crnojevic transferred thirty-six thousand
Serbian families across the Save into Syrmia and
Slavonia. CathoHc countries were considered
brother-lands in which these exiles could find
shelter. In the eyes of the people both Orthodoxy
and Catholicism were subordinate to the one name
— Christianity, and contrasted under this single
name with cruel and bloodthirsty Islam.

In 1804, on the ev^e of the Serbian revolt
against Turkey, priests were present at the secret
gathering in Orasac, and the leadership of the
rising was offered to one of them, Prota Atanasije ;
when he refused, it was offered to Karageorge,
Both before and during the rising the Church
suffered great hardships. Many priests were im-
paled near Stambulkapia in Belgrade, among
them Iguman Paissi and his deacon Avacuna.
In 181 5, at the beginning of the second rising,
another Iguman, Melentije in Takovo, blessed
Prince Milos, encouraged him, and accompanied
him in battle . And when the Serbian forces gave
way before the Turks at Ljubic, this same Melen-
tije himself seized the drum and restored the
courage of the soldiers. From this he was called
" the Drummer," and this nickname clung to him
ever afterwards, even when he became Metro-
politan of Serbia.

The Catholic Clergy as National Leaders.

It is less well-known that the Catholic clergy
in Jugoslavia have also proved themselves both
nationalist and patriotic, but it is nevertheless an
historical fact. In the struggle with the Turks the
Catholic clergy followed in the steps of their


Orthodox brothers, and on countless occasions
sacrificed themselves for the nation. Several
Ban-Bishops of Zagreb (Agram) organized the
defence of Croatia against the Turks ; many
Roman Catholic priests in Croatia, sword in hand,
defended their country against the enemy, such as
(in the sixteenth century) the Canons Jurak and
Fintic, and (in the seventeenth century) Frater
Lika ImbriSinovic in Slovenia and Father Marko
Mesic in the Lika district of Croatia ; and there
were Franciscan monks who languished in Vene-
tian dungeons because they dared to defend their
country. It is still less known that through the
whole of last century both Churches, the Ortho-
dox as well as the Catholic, carried on an active
propaganda for Jugoslav freedom and union, but
this also is a fact.

In the eighteenth century the consciousness
of the Identity of the Southern Slav nations began
to awake, whether under Turkish, Hungarian,
German, or Italian rule. A Catholic priest from
the Dalmatian islands, Don Andrew Kacic, com-
posed poems in imitation of the Serbian national
poetry. Dositej Obradovic, an Orthodox monk,
after acquiring a wider culture in his travels
through all Europe, including Great Britain,
began to write in the popular tongue. Lukian
MuSicky, an Orthodox Bishop, was also devoted
to the Serbian and Slovenic cause. Ivan Raic,
the Orthodox Archimandrite, wrote a history of
the Serbo-Croats in the Serbo-Croatian tongue.
Sundecic, an Orthodox priest, was read by all
Jugoslavs in preference to many finer authors,
simply because he, too, was inspired by the idea


of national union, and because he went so far
in his identification of Serbs and Croats that he
had one of his books printed in Roman and
Cyrilhc characters side by, side, and some others
in Roman characters only, and this although
he was an Orthodox priest. Valentin Vodnik,
a Slovene Catholic monk of Napoleon's time^
was also inspired by the idea of a union of all
Jugoslav peoples in one State, which was to be
called Illyria, and Napoleon also had this idea.
In 1 8 1 I Vodnik wrote his hymn to " Illyria
Resurrecta," by which he hoped to influence
Napoleon to create the Jugoslav State.

" Napoleon said : ' Arise, Illyria. . . .'"

This poor Slovene monk had to pay dearly
for his ideals. Cruelly persecuted by the
Austrian authorities and cast from one prison
into another, he finally died in 1819. And when
the Croat, Ljudevit Gaj, in the 'forties of last
century, arose with his " Illyrian " — this was only
another name for the Jugoslav ideals of to-day
— he was enthusiastically welcomed and sup-
ported by the Catholic theologians of the
seminary in Zagreb, who thenceforth became
the most active champions of his ideals.

During the first forty years of the nineteenth
century the idea of a united Jugoslavia so far
materialized that the Orthodox Patriarch of
Karlovci (Karlowitz) could install Jela^id, the
celebrated Ban of Croatia, with the unanimous
approval of all the Croatian Catholic clergy.

The following is a still more striking example
of patriotism before clericalism. In 1848 the


Catholic clergy of the diocese of Zagreb met
in conference and passed a resolution including
the following provisions : —

1. The union of Serbs and Croats.

2. Toleration of creeds.

3. The use of the Old Slav tongue in Divine
service in the Jugoslav Catholic Church.

The Catholic priest Racki, one of the most
eminent Jugoslav historians, was a great cham-
pion of these ideas of reunion, and endeavoured
to introduce the " Cyrilitza " (Cyrillic alphabet)
anions: the Croatians.


Austrian Reaction.

The reaction of 1849 brought with it a brutal
suppression of all national agitation and aspira-
tions in Austria-Hungary. Austria artificially
created different nationalities in her provinces,
and called into existence the Dalmatians,
Croatians, Slavonians, Istrians, Carniolians, etc.,
as separate nationalities, even as — after the occu-
pation of Bosnia — the new nationality of the
" Bosnians " immediately arose in the world.

But the Austrian terror only succeeded in
awakening the Jugoslav national consciousness in
all these provinces, which are inhabited by one
nation, homogeneous as the inhabitants of
Northern and Southern France. And thus the
Austrian plan of converting geographical con-
ceptions into historical, national, and religious
conceptions was frustrated. This was very
clearly shown after the first Austrian defeat.
One result of the battle of Solferino was the
revival of the old agitation. The enlightened


Prince Michael, who at this time ascended the
Serbian throne, was not only an enthusiast for
Jugoslav ideals, but strove actively towards
their realization. At his own expense he sent
many Slovenes, Croats, and Bulgarians to college
for their education, thus preparing an entire
generation for the realization of his plans — even
the Bulgarians ; for they, too, as represented
by the best of their nation, were at one time
enthusiasts for the Jugoslav cause.

In Slovenia the Catholic clergy were the
strongest representatives and champions of the
same cause. Among them Antun Askerc and
Don Simon Gregorcic undoubtedly distinguished
themselves above all others. Both were poets ;
the former was the greatest Slovene composer
of epic and ballad poetry. " My muse is a
Spartan," he said. " In one hand she holds the
sword, and in* the other a torch." Simon Gre-
gorcic was the greatest lyrical poet of his nation.
His most beautiful poems are patriotic songs.
In contrast to the warlike A§kerc he was a
gentle -souled optimist, a pure anitna Candida.

Two Great Bishops.

But above all the divines of Southern Slavdom
the Orthodox Prince-Bishop of Montenegro,
Peter II, Njegos, and Strossmayer, the Catholic
Bishop of Djakovo, tower as the mightiest cham-
pions of national union.

In all his writings Njegos gave eloquent
expression to his grief and bitter disitress that
religious tradition could break up a nation into
separate fragments, each sick and unhappy with-


out the other. In short, the sum of his
experience is this : —

"Be a Serb and believe what you believe."

Further on he says : —

" Do not ask how a man crosses himself, but
whose the blood that warms his heart and
whose the milk that nourished him."

Njegos did not speak thus from a lack of
reverence, but rather because of his heartfelt
piety. He conceived religion as a force for
unifying, not for disuniting, and it grieved him
to see in his country ever}^iere the destructive
results of religious discord. To-day the illus-
trious Bishop of Montenegro is equally beloved
by Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes. This was made
evident in Zagreb on the ist of March, 19 14,
on the occasion of the centenary of his birth.
On that day Zagreb was gay with Serbian flags,
and at a solemn gathering lectures about Njegos
were delivered by a Slovene, a Croat, and a
Serb, successively. Catholics and Orthodox alike
jointly celebrated their national hero. The
Austrian authorities were plunged in conster-
nation by this unexpected manifestation of
brotherly solidarity between the very elements
among whom they were unceasingly endeavour-
ing to promote discord.

Bishop Strossmayer is probably better known
to the Western world than the Vladika Peter. He
was that great Bishop who so distinguished him-
self as a Catholic divine and orator at the Vatican
Council in 1870. Equally great in his broad
religious views and in his national ideals, Stross-
mayer was in very truth a God-sent blessing


to his people. A son of the people, he lived
and worked for his people. Everything great
that Croatia to-day possesses in the way of
national and cultural wealth is bound up with
the name of Strossmayer ; everything was
created, revived, or amended by him.

But he was not unaided in his efforts and his
ideals. He had the unfailing support of the
entire Catholic clergy of Croatia at his back —
as the fiery defender of true Catholicism in Rome ;
as leader of the propaganda of liberation for
all Jugoslav lands from the Austrian yoke, and
the union with Serbia under Prince Michael ; as
the founder of the Jugoslav academy in Zagreb,
or as the tireless builder-up, stone by stone.
of the material welfare of the Croatian people.
He was in constant correspondence with Prince
Michael, with Michael, Metropolitan of Belgrade,
and with Gladstone. His political ideas were
readily accepted by the Serbian Prince, and his
love of peace and religious toleration earned him
the friendship of the Orthodox Metropolitan,
His broad-minded culture and sincere sorrow for
his people deeply touched Gladstone, who, as
is well known, did his utmost to help the cause
of Jugoslav freedom.

Strossmayer's generation and that which
succeeded him, whether clergy or laity, fully
appreciated his teaching. Nor did the Austrian
Government fail to understand it, and they strove
by every means in their power to uproot or to
destroy the seed sown by the Bishop of Djakovo.
Bui this seed germinated and sprang up in the
field, tall and green, till both Germans and Mag-


yars contemplated this dangerous crop with rage
and envy. They inaugurated new terrors, new
tortures, new inhumanities, new calumnies.
Serbia was represented as the black plague-spot
of the earth. But these calumnies were not
well received by the Austrian Slavs. Then —
especially since 1894 — Austria began her Clerical
propaganda ; but this also failed to influence
the souls of the Croats and Slovenes. Various
attempts were made to supersede the Serbo-
Croat language by the Magyar ; but this only
roused such vehement opposition that even those
who had learnt Magyar from interest or curiosity
ceased to use it. Then the Magyar Government
endeavoured to influence the elections in Croatia
in an anti-Slav sense by new political com-
binations, i.e. by an arbitrary redistribution of
the electoral districts ; but so far from being
successful, this measure only resulted in a coali-
tion between Serbs and Croats, who, under the
influence of Austrian and Magyar intrigue, had
hitherto always voted separately. This coali-
tion has, in fact, during recent years been the
dominant factor in Croatia.

The Legacy of Strossmayer.

Strossmayer died in 1905, but his physical
death only meant the resurrection of his ideals.
Austria-Hungary rejoiced over his death, but her
joy was short-lived. In 1908 Austria burdened
her conscience with a further crime — the annexa-
tion of Bosnia. Instantly it became evident that
Strossmayer still lived — indeed, that he was more
than ever alive. For the annexation of Bosnia


was a blow that fell equally upon Zagreb
(Agram), Ljubljana (Laibach), Trieste, and all
Dalmatia, no less than upon Serbia and Monte-
negro. The harvest that Strossmayer and Njegos
had sown was now ripe. Austria saw with
sorrow that her prisons were too small to con-
tain an entire nation ; but she herself w^as a
dark dungeon for the Jugoslavs, irrespective of
creeds, for at this juncture she discovered that
she could reckon as little on the Catholic clergy
as the Orthodox.

Several Bishops sided with their clergy in the
national struggle. Thus Ucellini, the Catholic
Bishop of Kotor (Cattaro), translated the " Divina
Commedia " and dedicated his translation to the
Serbo-Croat nation, and because of his wish to
introduce the Slav tongue into the liturgy, Arch-
bishop Dvornik had to fly from his native town
of Zadar (Zara) in Dalmatia to Constantinople,
where he died. The Catholic clergy of Dal-
matia especially distinguished themselves in this
struggle against Austria, and in Zadar, where
Archbishop Dvornik had lived and worked,
another priest, Don Jure Biankini, preached
Nationalism with religious fervour.

Then came the Balkan wars. From these wars
Serbia three times emerged victorious — against
the Turks, against the Bulgarians, and against
the Albanians. In Austria-Hungary the Jugo-
slavs looked upon Serbia's war as their war,
and felt the Serbian victories as their own.
Although themselves in servitude, they never-
theless contributed to these victories. Numerous
doctors, nurses, volunteers, medical stores, and


money were sent by the one brother-nation to
the other, and Austria found herself compelled
to close her Serbian frontier by a cordon of
soldiers. But all in vain ! Hearts were full
to overflowing, and love waxed stronger than
ever. Then came the World-war. All ties
between Austria and her Slav subjects were
broken. Austria's declaration of war on Serbia
was in many respects also a declaration of war
to the Jugoslavs in Austria. Arrests, whole-
sale hangings, and shootings became the order
of the day. All Orthodox and Catholic Bishops
were placed under police supervision. Nikodim
Milas, Orthodox Bishop in Dubrovnik (Ragusa)
suffered such gross ill-usage at the hands of the
police that he died within a few days.

The Southern Slavs under Austrian

In Dalmatia, Croatia, Istria, and Carniola the
prisons were filled to overflowing with Catholic
priests. So far as voices from Dalmatia have
been able to reach us, we learn that Ivo Sepa-
rovic. Ante Antid, Mate Skarica, and Ivo Lutic
have been imprisoned in Dalmatia, and in Istria
the following priests who are also national
delegates : Luka Kirac, Anton Andreji^ic, Sime
Cervar, the canons Santic, Zavladal, Mandic,
Matic, and two Franciscans ; in Carniola fifteen
priests of the Slovene Clerical party. About
ten of the leading men of the nation — journalists,
artists, and writers — both Catholic and Orthodox,
fled to Serbia, England, Russia, and America;
They fled but to repeat the smothered cry of


tens of thousands of their brothers in Habsburg
prisons. And this cry is all the more terrible
because it rings through the twentieth century,
as terrible as the cry that rang through the Cata-
combs and the Circus Romanus nineteen centuries
ago. It is the cry of the priests of Christ, who
preached the Way of Truth before God and man,
the despairing cry of the martyrs of the nation,
who are giving their life for the salvation of
the people ; the cry of the shepherd whose flock
is being harried by the wolf ; the cry of noble
and enlightened men who open their eyes in
vain to behold the light, for around them is only
darkness : they open their mouths, but instead
of bread, iron is placed upon their lips ; they
stretch forth their trembling hands, seeking the
cheerful warmth of the fire, only to find instead
the cold stones and mildew-covered walls of a
dungeon ; they cry for help, but their cry falls
dead upon thick stone walls, and returns like
an echo into their hearts. But, as Njegos
says : —

" From their blood will spring flowers
For some far-off generation."'

Religion as a Unifying Force.

The great fact, to which I have alluded at
the beginning of this article, is the fact of the
unifying influence of religion in the history of
Jugoslavdom during the past century, and
especially during the tragic happenings of the
present war ; Orthodox and Catholics found
themselves united in the self-same practical
work — in this case in one and the same idealistic


struggle for nationality and in common suffering.
In this common struggle and suffering they have
realized that they are brothers, and were amazed
to think that religion could even for one moment
have divided them. They were amazed to think
that such abstract details of religion as the dogma
of the filloque, could divide them, brothers, who
shared so much common ground in their beliefs
— the belief in the Trinity, belief in the Saviour,
in immortality, in righteousness, in one Apostolic
Church, in the Sermon on the Mount, in the
beauty of self-sacrifice for others, and in suffering
for what is good and ideal.

It may be objected that this may be so in the
day of trouble, but that all may be different
to-morrow, with the return of peace. For even
in the early days of Christianity there was no
division in the Church because of the common
suffering, but as soon as persecution ceased, the
spirit of sectarianism crept into the world.

On this point I venture to say that history will
not repeat itself ; what has been will never be
again. No sacrifice of blood and human life has
ever been made without causing a great stride
in history and a great change in human life.


Online LibraryNikolaj VelimirovicReligion and nationality in Serbia → online text (page 1 of 2)