Respected citizens of the Republic of Macedonia,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Among the numerous lessons, sermons and hagiographies left to us by Clement of Ohrid, the first one is the general lesson for an apostle, martyr or saint. Teaching us how to celebrate the feasts of the saints, Clement teaches us that we primarily need to take and follow the example of their purity, their good life and their pleasing to God.
As a modest, self-sacrificing and humble man, he certainly did not write this lesson for himself. Writing it, he had in the sight of his heart all the great people of faith that he himself admired. Clement has not dreamed that one day the grateful people will apply his lesson to celebrate him personally.
But, what has made Clement of Ohrid worthy that his words are applied today?
What are his works that he obliged us with so much?
Each deed can be compareed with a grain of wheat. The grain can be eaten and we will feel satiated for a short while or it can be planted and we will be provided with food through its fruit for a long while. But, the seed will produce fruit only if it falls on a fertile soil, irrigated from the pure spring of life-giving water.
As for the seed, the deeds need two things to continue to give rich fruit.
First, it is necessary to leave a written trail or a legacy that will contain the basic principles and values of the work. This written trail is a kind of map to help the followers remain on track.
Second, it is necessary to invest in the next generation of followers along the way.
Why is this important? If we have a letter or a legacy and we do not have a new generation, that letter will end up on the crumbling shelves in some dusty library. But if we have pupils and no written trail, no map in their hands, they can easily deviate from the path traced and get lost in some dark labyrinth of hopelessness, and the original message will be distorted to its opposite. Only when these two principles are merged into one can we expect the deeds to be further expanded with exponential growth. From one grain, ten, from ten, a hundred...
Consciously or not, Sts, Cyril and Methodius applied this very principle in spreading their work. They compiled the alphabet and translated the Bible into the Old Church Slavic language. That is the written trail, the covenant, the map. But, at the same time, they raised a generation of dedicated followers, including Clement of Ohrid, to persistently continue on their path.
This second generation of students through the Ohrid Literary School educated a third generation of 3,500 students. And those 3,500 students were scattered all around Slavdom and educated and baptized millions. Thus, they contributed to the educational, spiritual and moral elevation of the Slavic peoples.
During this 2016 we have had a unique opportunity to remind ourselves of this great spiritual, educational and cultural journey of Slavism through the life and work of our great national teacher - St. Clement of Ohrid.
Ladies and gentlemen,
As President of the Republic of Macedonia I have had the honor to be the patron of the celebrations honoring St. Clement. The year was enriched with numerous gala academies, conferences, competitions, concerts and exhibitions which fittingly marked the memory of the great popular saint and educator.
These ceremonies reminded us that Macedonia is a biblical country, through which Christianity came to Europe. A country where the apostles walked, a country which bore numerous church fathers, thinkers and officials of the early Church, whose voice was heard far and whose work was an example to many.
We talked about our churches and monasteries, which are full of frescoes of the Macedonian saints and martyrs, whose life stories were encouraging for many.
We reminded ourselves of our spiritual centers, which have been a safe haven for centuries for the persecuted, a home for the homeless, a spring for the thirsty and food for the hungry.
We were present in our spiritual and cultural capital - Ohrid, where once there were 365 churches, one for every day of the year. It was the center of the Ohrid Literary School, whose students became the teachers of the Slavic world!
Therefore we are called the first Christian nation in Europe!
Therefore we are thought to be the teachers of the Slavdom and educators of the uneducated!
We have an incredibly rich spiritual and cultural heritage hardly any other people can take pride in.
Yet, the greater our heritage is, the greater our responsibility is.
The more we have inherited from our ancestors, the more we have to leave to our descendants.
The more we have, the more is expected of us.
And we have a lot, thanks to St. Clement as well.
As a preacher and teacher, he instilled the thirst for truth in people; he established faith and developed the habits of the heart. He encouraged rejection of all malevolence, wrath, anger, slander, greed and shameful deeds, and promoted love of peace, humbleness, sobriety, love for the poor, hospitality, fasting, cleanliness. He encouraged help for each other ... to manifest zeal for good deeds, brotherly love, restraint.
Once he said: "To be reborn with goodness and purity, and our life to be worth in our holiness, not only by name to call ourselves Christians! Once we try a spiritual feat, we will compete in goodness..."
These are just few of the many teachings of St. Clement that we have metaphorically received by breastfeeding, through the habits instilled on us by our parents. These are the teachings that have been passed from older to younger, from teachers to pupils. Patience, endurance, kindness, hospitality and other habits of the heart survived in us for more than a millennium. The habits of the heart are exactly what make peoples who they are. Rare are the individuals like Clement who continued to live through the character they have instilled in people.
St. Clement of Ohrid is founder of our language, which, along with the faith, gave us the creative freedom at the times when we were politically enslaved. It gave us spiritual power at the times when we, as a nation, were physically weak and unprotected.
When we were divided, enslaved and persecuted, the one thing that protected us was Macedonian language. It is therefore said that Macedonian language is our only complete homeland we bear with us and within us, wherever we might be - in slavery or in freedom, in our homeland or abroad. As an instrument of truth, language helped us protect ourselves from the lies of propaganda that aimed to disunite, assimilate and denationalize us.
And how do we, the proud heirs of Clement, treat what is left to us?
I must notice that it seems that the words, which from the time of Clement served for mutual encouragement and edification, have lost their meaning. The language, as our only complete homeland, is in a serious crisis.
The tree planted that our teachers planted more than a millennium ago whose fruit provided for many generations, is today untrenched, unwatered and unpruned... And that tree is our treasure from the past. Despite this wealth in our hand, by communicating wrong words and values, it appears that today we are nevertheless sinking in the misery of seriously fractured interpersonal relationships.
We celebrate the day of our great teacher, but we do not respect his teachings. We celebrate his work with our words but we deny it through our deeds.
We call ourselves the teachers of Slavdom and yet we have brought ourselves to the miserable position to be taught lessons by others.
As a nation and society, we turned away and headed outside of the path traced and we spiraled into the labyrinth of hopelessness.
As if the foretold the first shall be the last and the last shall be the first has become truth in our case.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Every year, the word that best reflects the situation in the world is chosen. 2016 is marked by the word "post-truth". That does not mean that truth no longer exists, but that it is no longer so relevant. We are witnessing the blurring of the space between information and manipulation, because now information is manipulative. In such conditions, many people doubt the existence of objective truth. Without truth that will guide people in life, they are condemned to live false lives.
This alarming global situation inevitably is reflected here in Macedonia. Some of our printed and electronic media and social networks very often abound with lies, spins and sensationalism, especially during the political crisis and pre-election campaign. In our debate programs there is more shouting than conviction, more monologues than dialogues. To fight with such constructed perceptions and imposed prejudices is like trying to forge mercury. At a time when the poisonous suspicion hovers over the Macedonian society, citizens feel dizzy from the numerous interpretations and manipulations.
It is true that during the elections, every vote counts. But, as St. Clement of Ohrid would say, "Is there any good if a man gains the whole world but loses his soul?" Because every lie, slander and offence is nothing but a seed of personal and collective hatred and intolerance. And exactly the intolerance contributed to the deepening of this deep political crisis.
Therefore I call the early parliamentary elections to be implemented with dignity, as befits a country with 25 years of democratic experience. So far we have repeatedly shown that we have institutional and democratic capacity to organize and conduct free and fair elections.
Therefore, in these last days, in these last hours of pre-election, I call on all political parties, both ruling and opposition, for a responsible behavior.
Only the responsible behavior will create an atmosphere in which the citizens will certainly know that the vote of every one of us is really worth.
Only the responsible behavior will encourage the citizens to go out and cast their ballots for the program and party they truly believe in.
Only the responsible behavior will create conditions for unanimous recognition of the will of the people.
Only the responsible behavior on December 11 will mark the end of the political crisis and the beginning of national reconciliation in the Republic of Macedonia. Indeed, we need reconciliation more than ever before.
There is no other way to attain national interests except through national reconciliation.
There is no other path to the future of young people in Macedonia except through national reconciliation.
There is no other path except the path of reconciliation.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The celebration of St. Clement on the 25th anniversary of Macedonia's independence is an opportunity for catharsis and purification of the Macedonian society from all intolerance piled up in the past quarter century.
Therefore, let us take this opportunity to re-acknowledge the beauty and joy of life. Let us leave behind the intolerance and hatred of the past and focus on the present and future of our children.
But we should know that when we step on the path of reconciliation, we will inevitably face two obstacles set by ourselves.
The first obstacle for moving forward to a better life is the excess of criticism.
The second obstacle is the lack of self-criticism.
To overcome these obstacles, we need to remember the forgotten lessons of St. Clement. In them we will find that the cure for criticism is encouragement, and for lack of criticism and self-righteousness is humility.
St. Clement would probably have been thrilled by the capacities and capabilities of our education, but not by the level of our upbringing.
He would have been fascinated by the confidence, courage and social activism of young people, but would advise them to channel the enormous potential of their generation to achieving lasting values rather than ephemeral virtual illusions. Illusions that deprive them of the irreversible time.
He would have reminded us that tradition is the living faith of the dead while traditionalism is the dead faith of the living. He would have indicated that the role of the church is to help people reject the deceptive traditionalism and embrace the true, life-giving tradition.
He would have asked us to stop separation and alienation. Because it is a luxury that many larger, more numerous and more powerful nations cannot afford.
Although the same sun shines above us, although we breathe the same air, even though we live on the same Macedonian soil, we perceive the political opponents as enemies. We do not accept an opinion different from ours. Exclusion governs our relations.
It is time we leave behind the divisions and unite to finally begin to live in peace, progress and prosperity.
However, there is a paradox. The best way to move forward towards the goal is to return on the path we turned away from. It is the path shown to us exactly by St. Clement of Ohrid more than a millennium ago. Yet, the road sign that can help us is hidden precisely in his name - Clement or Clementia, which in Latin stands for mercy or clemecy.
St. Clement of Ohrid got his spiritual name in the year 868 by the Roman Pope Adrian II, in honor of St. Clement of Rome, whose relics were brought by his teachers, St. Constantine - Cyril and Methodius in Rome.
St. Clement of Ohrid insists on mercy in almost each of his messages, including the lesson I began my address with. There, he reminds us that mercy is the only sacrifice acceptable to God.
Why is mercy important? Mercy will help us reconcile, unite together and heal the wounds inflicted in the past two and half decades. Mercy for our closest, our neighbors but also to our opponents will help us build a just Macedonian society, which relies on two values - peace as care for the welfare and dignity of the citizens, and the truth, as a prerequisite for justice.
In the written records and teachings of St. Clement, we have the map that can lead us to the goal. But, to continue the work, we need to invest in youth.
Vaclav Havel once said that the only policy that is worthy to be called policy focuses on serving the community and those who will come after us. The responsibility of our generation is to invest in the next generation that will continue on the path traced, and will reap the fruits of the work that was planted more than a millennium ago. Only if they follow this truth, they would live their life in fullness.
St. Clement, we are immensely grateful to you.