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Nikolai (Velimirović) / Николај (Велимировић); (December 23/January 5, 1880 - March 5/March 18, 1956). Serbian bishop and an influential theological writer (and political emigrant at the time of the Communist diaspora of Josip Broz Tito in Yugoslavia). He has strongly supported the unison of all Orthodox churches and has established particularly good relations with the Anglican and Episcopal Church.

As stated by the Archbishop John (Maximovitch) of Shanghai and San Francisco and the Orthodox theologian Alexander Schmemann, Nikolai Velimirović is one "of the great theological writers," and "for all the people of Orthodox religion he is an epitome for the Orthodox spiritual quality." Simultaneously the bishop Nikolaj holds an important position among those who have rendered the Orthodox religion eternal in America.

Nikolaj Velimirović was born in the small village of Lelić in Western Serbia. He attended the Seminary of St. Sava in Belgrade and graduated in 1905. He obtained doctorates from the University of Berne (1908), while the thesis was published in German in 1910, whereas the doctor's degree in philosophy was prepared at Oxford and defended in Geneva (Filozofija Berklija - Berkeley's Philosophy, in French) in 1909. At the end of 1909 he entered a monastic order. In 1919, then Archimandrite Nikolai was consecrated Bishop of the Monastery Zica of the Serbian Orthodox Church.

In April 1915 (during WWI) he was delegated to England and America by the Serbian Church, where he held numerous lectures, fighting for the unison of the Serbs and South Slavic peoples. At the beginning of 1919 he returned to Serbia, and in 1920 was posted to the Ohrid archbishopric in Macedonia, where in 1935, in Bitola he reconstructed the cemetery of the killed German soldiers.

During the Second World War in 1941 Bishop Nikolai was arrested by the Nazis in the Monastery of Žiča (which was soon afterwards robbed and ruined), after which he was confined in the Monastery of Ljubostinja (where, on the occasion of mass deaths by firing squad, he reacted saying: "Is this the German culture, to shoot hundred innocent Serbs, for one dead German soldier! The Turks have always proved to be more just..."). Later, this "new Chrysostom" was transferred to the Monastery of Vojlovica (near Pančevo) in which he was confined together with the Serbian patriarch, Gavrilo Dožić until the end 1944.

On December 14, 1944 he was sent to Dachau, together with Serbian Patriarch Gavrilo, where some sources, especially the standard Orthodox Church references, record that he suffered both imprisonment and torture.[1]

After the War he left Communist Yugoslavia and immigrated as a refugee to the United States in 1946 where he taught at several Orthodox Christian seminaries such as St. Sava's Seminary in Libertyville, Illinois and St. Tikhon's Seminary and Monastery in South Canaan, Pennsylvania (where he was rector and also where he died) and St. Vladimir's Seminary now in Crestwood, New York (associated with Columbia University). He died on March 18, 1956.

On May 19, 2003, the Holy Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church recognized Bishop Nicholai (Velimirovic) of Ohrid and Zicha as a saint and decided to enter him into the calendar of saints of Holy Orthodox Church (March 18 and May 13).

Alleged Anti-Semitism[]

Although recently canonized as a saint by the Serbian Orthodox Church, some of his writings are viewed as controversial. Nikolaj Velimirovic was allegedly anti-semitic and he supposedly approved of the holocaust. (See Bishop Nikolaj Velimirovic: Addresses to the Serbian People--Through the Prison Window. Himmelsthur, Germany: Serbian Orthodox Eparchy for Western Europe, 1985, pp. 161-162).

Others regard his address from Dachau as having been under duress[2][3] and point to the lack of other anti-semitic statements in the rest of his large corpus of writings. He is recorded variously to have said that the Jews "crucified Christ," but such a statement is historically no different from that in the Bible or what Christians have been saying for centuries, which is more an allegation of historical fact rather than the racism which is the heart of anti-semitism.

Partial bibliography[]


God, bless one who enters this home,
protect and keep one who exits it,
give peace to one who stays in it.

External links[]

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