Patriarch Pavle Dies

Update November 27, 2009 – This post generated a lot of comments which surprised me. Some people called me on my understanding of the Serbian Orthodox Church. I don’t have a fact-checker or the time often to verify everything I write. The comments did inspire me to do a bit of reading and I learned that the Orthodox church prides itself on being the most “original” of all of the Christian sects. Although the Serbian Orthodox Church is not the “official” church of the state, it is so closely tied with politics and the Serbian ethnic identity, that is the de facto official church. All of the political parties are lobbying for their candidate to be named the next Patriarch. 

Few of my Belgrade friends attended the funeral and procession. A couple went to pay their respects at the wake. It seemed to me that most people attending the funeral were from smaller towns and outside of Belgrade where religious sentiment is stronger. I think it was good to see that many people gather for a decent man. I love the pagentry and tradition and am following the naming of a successor. I am an atheist so this whole event does not have any religious or deeper meaning for me. 

In regards to Pavle’s legacy. It would have been tough to stop the war. I can’t think of any religious leader, besides maybe Ghandi that did stop a war. I think the media is a bit harsh in that respect in judging him. It is my hope that his successor give a message of tolerance and honesty for the people of the Balkans. It would be good for the church to work to heal Bosnia and relations between Serbia and Croatia instead of whether the country moves towards the EU or Russia. 

The big news this week in Serbia is the death of the Patriarch Pavle. Pavle (Paul) in English is the name taken by Gojko Stojčević and he was the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church. Like the Pope to the Catholic, the Patriarch is the supreme leader of the faith. He was 95 years old and his death comes after a long illness – the last two years he was in the hospital. 

Pavle died on Sunday and the country declared three days of mourning. People are lined up to pay their respects to the open casket in the cathedral in downtown Belgrade. The funeral will be at St. Sava’s Church on Thursday and the burial will be at the Rakovica Monastery located in the southern suburbs of Belgrade. The BBC reported on his legacy.

Serb interests

Pavle was a respected theologian and linguist, known for personal humility and modesty.

After the fall of communism and rise of Serb nationalism, the Church regained a leading role during his rule.

At the beginning of the Balkan wars that followed the dissolution of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s, Pavle said – according to Serbian state television: “It is our oath not to make a single child cry or sadden a single old woman because they are of another religion or nation.”

But critics accused him of failing to contain hardline bishops and priests who supported Serb paramilitaries against Catholic Croats and Bosnian Muslims.

After those wars, Pavle became more directly involved – openly criticising Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, after he lost Kosovo following Nato’s intervention.

Since then, the Serbian Orthodox Church has strongly supported the Serbian government in its efforts to stop Kosovo’s independence drive.

“Kosovo is not only a question of territory, it is a question of our spiritual being,” he said after Kosovo’s declaration of independence.

The Serbian Orthodox Church is the official state church. For a long time, it was suppressed by the Turks, Austro-Hungarians, and most recently, the communists. Pavle was the 44th Patriarch and the church officials will announce when a successor will be named. At least 40 days must pass before one can be chosen. Most Serbs I know are not that religious, although because the church is so strongly tied to the state, I feel people support the church out of patriotism. This is so different from my home country of the USA, where there is a clear boundary between the church and state, and no one church is officially sanctioned. The Orthodox Church is the Byzantine side of Roman Catholicism and when they split from the Pope, the orthodox churches in the various countries split into their own administrative units instead of maintaining a single head like the Catholics. 

I hope to get a chance tomorrow to go downtown and see the faithful and take some photos. I am working Thursday, so doubt I’ll get a chance to go to the funeral. I am not a believer or member of the Orthodox Church, but I respect the historic significance of the position and his passing. It will be interesting to see who will replace him.

I also think the Serbian Orthodox priests look holy with their long beards, black robes, and hats. 

The Patriarch Pavle Visits Monasteries in Kosovo in 2005

7 thoughts on “Patriarch Pavle Dies

  • Wow! I’m amazed by amount of wrong informations in this text. Where did you get them from???

    Now, the truth goes like this:

    – “The Serbian Orthodox Church is the official state church.” – There is no such a thing as official church, or state’s religion in Serbia. Majority of Serbs are Orthodox Christians, thats why it’s so common, but not official.

    – “..the church is so strongly tied to the state..” – again, fail. It’s so strongly tied to the people, not the state. And since 80+% of people are Orthodox Serbs… you keep getting it wrong 😀

    – “The Orthodox Church is the Byzantine side of Roman Catholicism and when they split from the Pope, the orthodox churches in the various countries split into their own administrative units instead of maintaining a single head like the Catholics” – again, wrong. I’ve seen this before. I think it was you, comparing Shia Islam and orthodox Christianity. Anyway, Orthodox Christianity isn’t/wasn’t part of Roman Catholicism, but of Christianity. Ox.Chr. didn’t split from Pope, but it split from us! Before the Great Schism (go google it!) there were Christian churches, like they are today in Ox. Chr. The Pope ruled just one part of Christianity, like any of the Patriarchs. So, if you didn’t get is so far, the church in medieval times was organized as orthodox church today. All Patriarchs were equal, like all Apostoles were equal. But then, some smart ass wanted to be more ‘equal’ than others, so he started stories that ap. Peter was ‘more equal’ than other Apostoles, which is nonsense. The thing is, such story was popularized in west, as an excuse for splitting Christianity in two!
    So, there were Christians, then Pope split from them and now we have Orthodox Christians (who continued to run Christianity as in medieval) and Roman Catholicism (which later split in many other branches).
    All Orthodox Churches didn’t split from Byzantine, they were formed such. That’s how it works. Roman Patriarchy was formed as such too. Only its boss got called Pope somehow. The Byzantine Orthodox Church or its Patriarch wasn’t supreme… like ‘man between God and everyone else’.
    In the end, from our standpoint, all churches on west are considered as heretic, including Rome.
    I’d suggest reading history first, then posting it in blogs 😉
    One more thing – history is very very very important here, in Europe, unlike in your home country. Keep that in mind, might help you 🙂

  • I have to tell you that I decided to write a comment while reading the first sentence below the BBC article also, only to find out that Obelix beat me to it 🙂
    Although I don’t like his tone, facts he stated are valid and important.
    People in Europe, specially in this parts, don’t have in their minds some distinguishing mark where history ends, and present begins. We live our present parallel to our past; our decisions are heavily influenced by history.
    So, I’m sorry for the harsh response, but understand that by changing one’s past (even unintentionally) you’re denying and insulting his present. And people here are still a bit touchy about that 🙂

  • Obelix, don’t be so harsh to Bill. Yes he put a lot of mistaken informations but that’s how he understood. I want to say that it’s unbeliaveble how Bill is interested in our culture and history. It’s not usual that a foreigner is so interested in something that is not his background and Bill god to the smallest details and writes it on his blog so other people could understand something about Serbs that they can’t see on tv or read in newspapers. That’s why I like to read Bill’s blog and Bill – keep up the good work!
    About Obelix post – that’s the truth about Orthodox church. The word “Orthodox” itself describes what kind of church is that.
    And Partiach Pavle was a living saint!
    About article form BBC – I just want to say that Pavle was strongly against the war. I think if in last 1000 years there was a single man in world who did not commit a single sin ih his life I was Pavle for sure. I think we will never have a Patriarch as good as him anymore.
    Bill here you are some articles about Pavle:

  • I didn’t think to be harsh and I don’t think that reply was harsh, but anyway, if you felt uncomfy with it Bill, I apologize. The truth is, I’m known as trigger happy by some Brits, but they take it as fun part of my personality and enjoy it and I enjoy their, even when we swear at each other, but guess that’s how Brits have fun 🙂 Or how my (these) fellow Serbs softened and take everything too serious. lol!

  • I am really interested in your opinions about the death of Patriarch Pavle, and his funeral service…
    A wast amount of people here think that the mockery was made about that whole think, and I really am interested in what people that are not from this region think:::>
    Please update your post…Tnx in advance

  • This is a bit off topic, but (I can’t think of any religious leader, besides maybe Ghandi that did stop a war.) my first idea was Pope Leo I.

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