St. George Free Serbian Orthodox Church (Forrest, Australian Capital Territory)
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St George Free Serbian Orthodox Church, in Forrest, Canberra, Australia, is a parish in the Holy Synod in Resistance's Diocese of Sydney and New South Wales, and is currently served by Fr Dragan Saracevic.
Founding and Hiatus (1955-1992)
St George Free Serbian Orthodox Church was formed in 1955, served by Fr Dusan Popovic. In 1963, the church experienced some unspecified difficulties, during which time a group of former Yugoslav Royal Military officers registered the 'Free Serbian Orthodox Church St George, Inc' organisation with the ACT government, an organisational structure that continued until 1992.
The parishioners acquired land in the suburb of Forrest, built a church building, a hall which they call to this day 'Serbian Centre Draza Mihailovic', and a monument to Cetnik (Royal Yugoslavian Armed Forces) General Dragoljub 'Draza' Mihailovic, the first of its kind anywhere in the world.
The First President of the Church-School Community (in 1955) was Vojislav Miletic, who, together with his wife Jelena, became a major benefactor to St Sava Monastery in Elaine, Victoria.
The interior of the church was painted by Czech artist Karl Matzek in the 1970s and 1980s, primarily in the Western mural style.
Serbian Patriarchate (1992-2008)
During the early 1990’s, the Church was fortunate to be recognised amongst the Australian Capital Territory's Heritage Listed sites and remains a civic icon of Canberra to this day. Fr Jakov Jovic served the church from 1992, and was succeeded by Fr Stanisa Ostojic in 2004.
In August 2006, Bishop Milutin removed the antimension from the altar of St George's. It is reported that this is due to the church's connection to the Serbian anti-communist freedom fighter Draza Mihailovic: a plaque carrying a dedication to Draza appears at the entrance to the church along side the monument to this Serbian World War hero. At an unknown date, the antimension was replaced. Fr Nikola Bilic succeeded Fr Stanisa as the parish priest during this year.
In 2007, the church was blessed with the restoration of the frescos that line the ceiling and walls. These frescos have become drawn many tourists to Canberra to the church, sharing in the beauty of Serbian Orthodoxy depicted in these fresco’s whilst learning about several significant events that shaped our Serbian Orthodoxy. Fr Nikola Bilic concluded his service during this year, without immediate successor.
Holy Synod in Repentance (2008-present)
In March 2008, Bishop Irinej removed the antimension from the altar for the second time in two years, authorising for chains to bar the main gates. It is reported that this is due to a dispute, variously between the property trustees and/or with the majority of regular parishioners.
Following this dispute, the parish broke away from the Serbian Orthodox Diocese of Australia and New Zealand (New Gracanica Metropolitanate), and reverted to its original name of St George Free Serbian Orthodox Church. During 2009, the Parish faced the decision to be amalgamated into the newly formed Organisation established by Bishop Irenej or to seek acceptance elsewhere.
Choosing the latter option, the Parish has been accepted into The Holy Synod in Resistance, an Old Calendar Church based in Greece, receiving a blessing from the St. Cyprian and Justina Monastery, Greece. The current parish priest, from 2009, is Fr Dragan Saracevic.