Patriarch Irinej Awarded Honorary Doctorate

11 September 2015 • On-Campus

Metropolitan Tikhon presents the honorary doctorateMetropolitan Tikhon presents the honorary doctorate

Read the full text of the Patriarch's address

On Friday, September 11, 2015, the Board of Trustees and Faculty of St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary bestowed a Doctor of Divinity degree, honoris causa, upon His Holiness Irinej (Gavrilovic), archbishop of Peć, metropolitan of Belgrade-Karlovci, and patriarch of Serbia.

“Ever since its inception, St. Vladimir’s Seminary has worked hand-in-hand with the Serbian Church,” said St. Vladimir's Dean, the Very Reverend Dr. John Behr, after welcoming the standing room only crowd. “We have long had a Serbian Hierarch on our Board of Trustees, and some of our most beloved faculty members have been from the Serbian Church, especially our beloved former Professor of New Testament, Veselin Kesich.”

“It is His Holiness’ lifelong commitment to the discipline of theology, to teaching and research, while pastoring his flock, working to bring peace after many years of conflict, and to ensuring that the spiritual and cultural treasures of the Serbian Church remain a living and powerful witness, that we celebrate this evening,” concluded Father John.

After the bestowal of the Doctor of Divinity degree, honoris causa, His Holiness offered a brief address, titled, “Theology as a Hope for the Future of the Church."

The Patriarch delivers his address in the Metropolitan Philip AuditoriumThe Patriarch delivers his address in the Metropolitan Philip Auditorium“True theology—through patristic and liturgical foundations—offers a vision of cosmic transfiguration,” remarked His Holiness. “We cannot train theologians without opening up their eyes to all aspects of existence, and this cannot be done without a sound theological foundation. The Holy Eucharist demonstrates that the Church exists for the whole of creation and not just for itself; therefore, seminaries should be open to all human concerns of everyday life.

“The Church is the work of God in history: within itself, it must be a reflection of the Triune God,” His Holiness continued. “The Church receives the tragic, sinful experiences and failures of men. In order to save the world the Church must pass through the reality of death. This is what real saints do; without this, there is no salvation.

“It is important today to move from mimicking tradition and recycling theology to opening our ears, so that we may hear what the Spirit says to the Church. All of this was the task of Father Georges Florovsky, Father Alexander Schmemann, and Father John Meyendorff,” he said further. Patriarch Irinej then exhorted the crowd to “remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God; consider the outcome of their life, and imitate their faith” (Hebrews 13:7).

His Holiness also recalled the long relationship between St. Vladimir’s Seminary and the Serbian Orthodox Church. “Serbian students look upon St. Vladimir’s with admiration; it is one of the most important seminaries in the theological world.” He also praised the members of the Serbian Orthodox community for their board service to St. Vladimir’s, including Alex Machaskee, Executive Chair of the Board of Trustees.

Distinguished guests with the Patriarch, Dean, and ChancellorDistinguished guests with the Patriarch, Dean, and ChancellorIn his closing statement, His Holiness noted, “Theology in our times must continue to bear witness to the mystery of Christ, the transformation of the salvation of the world, and the catholicity of the Church.”

Patriarch Irinej presented the seminary with an icon of the recently canonized American-Serbian saints, St. Mardarije and St. Sebastian of San Francisco. “Our younger generation can take the example of St. Sebastian, born in San Francisco,” His Holiness said. “He opened new avenues of dialogue for the Church and the world, and demonstrated that any child in this country can achieve holiness.”

In response to Patriarch Irinej’s remarks, St. Vladimir's Chancellor/CEO, the Very Reverend Dr. Chad Hatfield, said, “Thank you for reminding us of the close ties between St. Vladimir’s and the Serbian Orthodox Church.” Father Chad then presented His Holiness with a rare gift: a copy of the famous “Fond du Lac Circus” photo. The photograph, taken in 1900 at the consecration of Reginald Heber Weller as Bishop Coadjutor of Fond du Lac, includes three North American saints: St. John Kochurov, Missionary to America and First Hieromartyr, under the Bolshevik Yoke; the newly canonized St. Sebastian of San Francisco; and St. Tikhon, Patriarch and Confessor of Moscow and Enlightener of North America.

The historic “Fond du Lac Circus” photo presented to Patriarch IrinejThe historic “Fond du Lac Circus” photo presented to Patriarch IrinejAt the conclusion of the academic convocation, His Beatitude The Most Blessed Tikhon, primate of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) and President of the seminary, said, “We give thanks to God for the great witness that you and your Church have offered to the universal Orthodox Church throughout the centuries.

“We pray that the Lord will continue to strengthen you as you continue to be the witnesses of the resurrection in a world that is filled with darkness, suffering, war, and persecution,” His Beatitude continued. “And, we pray that you will continue to be an inspiration to all of us.”

St. Vladimir's Executive Board Chair Alex Machaskee escorts Patriarch Irinej and other guests upon arrivalSt. Vladimir's Executive Board Chair Alex Machaskee escorts Patriarch Irinej and other guests upon arrivalSpecial guests in attendance at the Academic Convocation included:

His Grace Bishop Mitrophan (Kodic), bishop of the Eastern American Diocese of the Serbian Orthodox Church in North and South America

His Grace Bishop Maxim (Vasiljevic), bishop of the Western American Diocese of the Serbian Orthodox Church in North and South America

His Grace Bishop Justin of Zhicha

From the Faculty of Orthodox Theology, University of Belgrade: Professor Predrag Puzović, Dean; Professor Bogoljub Šijaković, Professor of Philosophy; Assistant Professor Marko Vilotić, Assistant Professor of Philosophy

Professor Dejan Ristić, Serbian Orthodox Seminary of Prizren

Archimandrite Hilarion of the Monastery of the Holy Archangels Gabriel and Michael in Draganac, Kosovo, Serbia

Father Slavisa Sanjic from Paris

Mirjana Zivkovic, Consul General, Republic of Serbia

Listen to the audio on Ancient Faith Radio
View the photo gallery by Jasmine Yedigarian
View the photo gallery by Glen Mules

Patriarch Irinej Address, Sept. 11, 2015 (PDF)101.51 KB