Voices from Russia

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Pavle Dies

Filed under: biography,Christian,Orthodox hierarchs,religious,Serbia — 01varvara @ 00.00

Patriarch Pavle of Serbia

Patriarch Pavle Stojčević of Serbia (1914-2009), who died today in Belgrade. Vechnaya Yemu Pamyat!

Patriarch Pavle, who headed the Serbian Orthodox Church during the break-up of Yugoslavia in the 1990s as Serbs warred with neighbours of other faiths, died today, a top church official said. Pavle, 95, died at a special apartment in Belgrade’s Military Hospital where had been treated since 2007 for age-related ailments, Bishop Amfilohije Radović, the acting head of the church’s Holy Synod, said in a statement. “The death of Patriarch Pavle is a huge loss for Serbia”, President Boris Tadić said in a statement. “There are people who bond entire nations and Pavle was such a person”. Although nominally still head of the church until death, Pavle had given up its day-to-day running in 2008 as his health deteriorated. Hundreds of mourners flocked to the main Saborna Crkva church in downtown Belgrade after the announcement of his death.

Pavle was born Gojko Stojčević in 1914 in Kućanci, a village then in the Austro-Hungarian empire that is now in Croatia. In 1957, he became bishop in charge of Kosovo, by then home to an Albanian majority. He openly spoke of the hardships faced by the province’s minority Serbs, and on one occasion in the 1970s was attacked and beaten. The fate of Kosovo remained top of his agenda after he became patriarch in 1990, when growing tensions between Yugoslavia’s Orthodox, Catholic, and Muslim faiths were leading toward the communist country’s violent break-up.

Critics say Pavle failed to contain hard-line bishops and priests who stoked Serb nationalism against Catholic Croats and Muslim Bosnians and publicly blessed paramilitaries who committed war crimes in Croatia and Bosnia. After the war, he became more vocal in politics and openly criticized the policies of Serbian President Slobodan Milošević. After Milošević’s ouster in 2000, Pavle’s focus shifted back to Kosovo, by then a United Nations protectorate, patrolled by NATO, following the end of a 1998-99 conflict.

A modest man who often preferred public transport to a chauffer-driven car and who cobbled his own shoes, Pavle was popular among most clergy members and the faithful. However, critics said Pavle allowed the church to slip into nationalist policies and failed to mend ties with Orthodox churches in neighbouring Macedonia and Montenegro. He also played a pivotal role in the church’s opposition to the pope’s desire to visit Serbia.

Pavle’s death clears the way for top clergy to appoint a successor after a period in which they suffered division on how to proceed during his illness. A secret vote at a conclave attended by at least two-thirds of the 40 Serbian bishops will elect his successor. It remains unclear who will replace Pavle. Analysts say moderate bishops may be willing to trade the position for more influence in the Holy Synod among hard-line bishops opposed to pro-Western policies of the current Serbian government. Since 2008, hard-line Metropolitan Amfilohije Radović, who divides his time between Belgrade and Montenegro, has served as acting church leader.

15 November 2009


As quoted in Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty


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