Metropolitan Amphilohije in Argentina
Metropolitan Amphilohije first came to Argentina about 10 years ago, accompanied by several priests, one hierodeacon and one nun. The first Saturday of the visit, the entire delegation of the Serbian Orthodox Church came to our Resurrection Cathedral for all-night vigil and participated in the service.
For several years before this, the Serbian community in Buenos Aires built a small but very beautiful church, yet church life grew slowly. Priests had to be sent from Serbia, but the small parish could not support them. Vladyka Amphilohije finally resolved the problem. They say that he obtained help from Serbs in the USA, where he traveled personally. There are a good number of wealthy Serbs living there, and Vladyka Amphilohije’s authority is so well-respected among Serbs that no one could refuse him.
Metropolitan Amphilohije immediately established a legal structure for the new diocese, appointing a diocesan council and all other officials as required by church law. A large hall was built next to the Serbian church where some 200 persons could gather for lunch, as well as a residence for a bishop on the second floor.
Church life flourished. There are two old Serbian churches in disrepair in the Argentinian provinces. Vladyka visited them personally and helped reestablish church life there as well. In one of the provinces, he visited the local governor and received a significant subsidy to restore the Serbian church.
In Buenos Aires he found among the local Serbs a candidate for the priesthood, who had already graduated from Holy Trinity Seminary in Jordanville, NY. He took him to a monastery in Montenegro, where soon thereafter he ordained him. Today he serves at the Serbian church in Buenos Aires, and in one of the provincial churches.
Vladyka often visited Buenos Aires, where he not only served with the local clergymen but also spoke at the trapeza luncheons that followed. The author of this note often translated his sermons and speeches from Serbian to Spanish. It was very inspirational, for I believe without a doubt that I stood beside a contemporary Apostle. Vladyka knew all the ancient classical languages and more or less all contemporary tongues as well. But he did not speak Spanish. Whenever I hesitated in translating something from Serbian to Spanish, Vladyka would whisper the correct word to me. He paid special attention to the translation into Spanish of Church Slavonic, Russian and Serbian words for “universal.” The proper word is “Catolico,” for we are the “Orthodox Catholic, that is Universal, Church.”
Vladyka played the psaltery [ancient stringed instrument] well with a bow, and sang old folk songs. The entirety of the epic Serbian tales were sung to the sound of the psaltery. Incidentally, the Serbian national epos is considered the finest after the ancient Greek Iliad and Odyssey. They say that the German poet Goethe studied Serbian in order to read the classics in the original, first of all the tale of the preference of Holy Serbian King Lazar of the “Heavenly Kingdom” to that of earth on the eve of the legendary Battle of Kosovo in the 14th century. The memory of this historic selection is marked every year during the Vidovdan holiday, June 15/28 according to the Orthodox calendar.
Metropolitan Amphilohije took a strong stand against schismatics who had once been part of the Russian Church Abroad in South America. He personally dissuaded some Montenegrans from attending gatherings held at the churches the schismatics seized, explaining the grave sin of schism which is not washed away even with the blood of martyrdom. He pointed to our Resurrection Cathedral as a reliable church to pray in aside from the Serbian church. They later spoke about this themselves.
Vladyka felt that the Orthodox Slavic world must unite. More than once he expressed his opinion that there should be “a common Government Union stretching from Vladivostok to Cetinje, from the Adriatic Sea to the Pacific Ocean,” while preserving local autonomies. In this regard he adhered to the legacy of the great Montenegran Saint Petar Njegos that no Montenegran should ever forget or betray “their mother Russia.” This legacy was of such great importance, that he even vowed “condemnation,” that is, the withdrawal of his blessing from anyone who dared go against Russians.
In addition to his exceptional love for the Slavic peoples, Vladyka Amphilohije’s heart was open to people of all nationalities. With pastoral love and great respect he met with Latin Americans, praising them if they adopted Orthodox Christianity. He would talk about the great potential of Latin America as a harvest-field for the preaching of true Christianity. That is why he paid special attention to the Serbian Church in South America. His visits, his words and legacy, his entire saintly image as a man of God will forever remain in our hearts.
Eternal Memory to our dear and unforgettable Metropolitan Amphilohije!
Pod yuzhnym Krestom, [“Under the Southern Cross”], the church bulletin of Resurrection of the Lord Cathedral in Buenos Aires, November 2020.