I seldom ever post Church news stories, but since I feel such a great debt to the Serbian Orthodox Church, I wanted to post this about their Patriarch, +PAVLE, who just fell asleep in the Lord. What a great man of God he was! May his memory be eternal!
The Patriarch was born Gojko Stojcevic on September 11 1914 at Kucanci, a village which was then part of the Austro-Hungarian empire but is now in Croatia. After attending the Fourth Male Gymnasium in Belgrade, he studied at a seminary in Sarajevo. During the Second World War he took refuge in a monastery at Ovcar, and then returned to Belgrade, where he briefly worked in the construction industry. In 1946 he became a monk at Blagovestenje monastery in Ovcar, taking the name Pavle (Paul). For 11 years he lived as a monk at the Raca Monastery in , and from 1950 lectured at the Prizen Seminary in Kosovo. From 1955 to 1957 Pavle studied Orthodox Theology at the University of Athens, where he discovered a particular gift for liturgics – he was later to become one of the most prolific liturgical writers in the Serbian Church.
On completion of his studies he was elected Bishop of Raska-Prizren (the diocese includes former Yugoslavia: in 1989 he had been beaten up by a group of Albanian youths in Kosovo, receiving injuries that required three months' hospital treatment.), remaining in that post for 33 years until his election as Patriarch on December 1 1990. Pavle had by this time experienced at first hand the hatred that was to consume the
The Milosevic regime was to lose the support of the Patriarch and his Church, and Pavle made efforts to find common ground between the various opposition groups. Traditionally the Church remained outside politics in Serbia, but at a synod meeting in June 1999 – after NATO had ended 11 weeks of air strikes [FJ: These are the air strikes that made it necessary for us to evacuate from Banja Luka, Bosnia] – it called for Milosevic to stand down. Six months earlier, in a sermon in Belgrade, the Patriarch had declared that the struggle for Kosovo, where Albanians outnumbered Serbs by nine to one, would be decided as much by demographics as by the outcome of war. "Who has the most sheep in the field, that is his field," he said, adding: "Multiply yourselves." Following attacks by the Albanian population, some 80,000 Serbs had fled Kosovo – out of a population of around 200,000 – and Pavle urged the remaining Serbs to stay in the province. "If this trend is not stopped immediately," he said in June 1999, "the ethnic cleansing of Kosovo will be complete." Pavle remained popular among his flock, who admired his humility. He was said to make his own shoes, and tended to use public transport – he did not like to travel by car, saying: "I will not purchase one until every Albanian and Serbian household in Kosovo and Metohija has an automobile."
The Patriarch supervised the first official Serbian translation of the New Testament, which was published in 1984.[FJ: And what a great translation it is. I have had the privilege to read much of it. The language is elegant but modern and uncomplicated]
Patriarch Pavle had been suffering from ill health since last year, and although he was nominally still head of the Church, his duties had been carried out by Metropolitan Amfilohije of Montenegro.