Patriarch Pavle Remains Church Leader

12 November 2008 Belgrade - The Serbian Orthodox Church Synod has rejected Patriarch Pavle`s request to step down, unofficial sources told B92.

The Synod did not vote on the Patriarch?s request. Instead, it decided that he should remain the Church`s leader for as long as he is alive.

On October 8, Patriarch Pavle asked the Synod to be relieved of his duties due to his health condition. The Patriarch has been hospitalised for over a year due to a series of ailments associated with old age. He is 93 years old.

Archbishop Amfilohije has been acting on the Patriarch?s behalf during Pavle`s hospitalisation, and his powers were extended at yesterday`s meeting of the Synod.

At the meeting, the Patriarch`s plea was debated for almost the entire day. When the Bishops left the Patriarchy building, no one commented on the Synod`s decision.

Mirko Djordjevic, a religious affairs expert, told B92 that the Synod needed to work transparently, as is the case in other Orthodox churches. He added that the patriarch`s request to be relieved of his duties last month should have been made public.

“If there is such a plea, then, why hasn`t it been made public? A mistake was made at the outset by not publishing the plea, because it`s not a specific act regarding the church, nor is it a dogmatic type of a document,” Djordjevic said.

“Much more interesting is the other part of the news, whereby Amfilohije, who is now head of the Synod, will receive wider authority. The problem is that he has had maximum authority since the Synod`s May session,” he said.

The Serbian Orthodox Church is one of the autocephalous or independent Orthodox Christian churches, ranking sixth in order of seniority. It is also the second oldest Slavic Orthodox church.

According to official data, it represents over eight million Orthodox Serbs throughout the world.

After World War II the Serbian Orthodox Church was suppressed under communist rule. It was revived in the late 1980s during the demise of Yugoslav communism and the rise of rival nationalist movements.

Patriarch Pavle supported the opposition to former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic in the early and mid-1990s.

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