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Priest seeks intervention over 'unsanctioned' sacking

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  • Bill Samsonoff
    http://www.theage.com.au/national/priest-seeks-intervention-over-unsanctioned-sacking-20081103-5h0n.html Priest seeks intervention over unsanctioned sacking
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 3, 2008

      Priest seeks intervention over 'unsanctioned' sacking

      * Kate Hagan
      * November 4, 2008

      A SERBIAN Orthodox priest is taking Supreme Court
      action to stop his congregation from sacking him
      and evicting his family from the parish residence.

      In a letter to Father Nedeljko Milanovic in June,
      the executive board of the Saint King Stefan
      Decanski Church told him his presence was "no
      longer acceptable" and he had three months to
      vacate his church, school and residence.

      In an affidavit filed with the court, Father
      Milanovic said he was a casualty of the board's
      decision to secede from the church hierarchy in
      Serbia and its nominated bishop in Australia, Irinej Dobrijevic.

      Father Milanovic, a supporter of the
      Serbian-appointed bishop, was "respectfully
      reminded" to leave, in a letter from the board's
      solicitors on eviction day, September 30.

      When he refused to do so, saying his dismissal
      had not been sanctioned by the bishop,
      electricity to the parish residence was cut off.
      The church had already been locked three weeks
      earlier, leaving parishioners to gather around
      the gate to pray on Sundays. On October 12, the
      stand-off turned ugly. The board had appointed a
      new parish priest, John Smelic, who was due to
      celebrate his first liturgy. Mr Smelic said in an
      affidavit that after preparing for the service,
      he was praying when a man came in and yelled:
      "What are you doing?" and tried to remove him from the altar.

      His assistant, Toma Banjanin, 81, said a group of
      men in the church told him and Father John to
      leave, shouting: "Out, out, you are defrocked, we want our priest Milanovic."

      "I told them to leave Father John alone, that
      they are committing sacrilege by disrupting the
      service, and I have come in peace to Sunday
      prayer," Mr Banjanin said. "One answered: 'I
      don't know you, I never saw you in my life you old monkey.' "

      Church board secretary Milos Vujatov said about
      12 police arrived, some with riot gear, to break
      up an angry mob of about 50 "strangers to the parish" in the church grounds.

      Mr Vujatov said a former parishioner threatened
      to kill him, and about a week later he found a
      wooden cross bearing his name in the church
      grounds — "a well-known Serbian message that I will be murdered".

      In the Practice Court late last month, Justice
      David Byrne ordered the church to allow Father
      Milanovic to remain in the parish residence, and
      the priest not to enter any other church
      buildings, before a trial scheduled for next week.
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