Serbia’s Patriarch Pavle (1914-2009)

Serbs lining the Belgrade streets to view the body of the late Patriarch Pavle at the cathedral church

Serbs lining the Belgrade streets to view the body of the late Patriarch Pavle at the cathedral church

BELGRADE (Reuters) – Patriarch Pavle, who headed the Serbian Orthodox Church during the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s as Serbs warred with neighbors of other faiths, died on Sunday, a top church official said.

Pavle, 95, died at a special apartment in Belgrade’s Military Hospital where he had been treated since 2007 for various ailments, Bishop Amfilohije, 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 Tadic said in a statement. “There are people who bond entire nations and Pavle was such a person.”

Thousands of mourners flocked to churches throughout the country after Pavle’s death was announced. The government ordered three days of national mourning until Wednesday.

Critics say Pavle failed to contain hardline 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 Milosevic.

More here.

Radio Srbija’s biography of the patriarch here.

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew issued a statement:

We repeat the timely words of the Serb poet M. Betskovic about the late Patriarch: “None in this noisy era spoke so softly and yet was heard so widely as he. None spoke less and yet said more. None in our delusional age confronted truth with such calmness as he.”

May his memory be eternal!


  1. His memory be eternal.


  2. George Michalopulos :

    Indeed. I have a feeling that he will be glorified someday.

  3. George: I have a feeling the Serbs will move on this quickly. Everything written about his asectisism is true.

    I got to know him well during our reunification process. The first time I met him was in Belgrade in 1990 for unification talks. On the third day, we finished our day’s session with lunch. Me and another fellow decided to take a stroll downtown to see some sights. On the way back to our lodgings at the Patriarchate at around 5:30 p.m. we were on a side street about five blocks away. On the corner was a small grocery/convenience store. We were about half a block away when we saw this little diminutive figure approximately 4’ 10” tall and weighing no more than 100 pounds dressed in a raisa with a black kamilavka coming out of the store carrying a brown paper shopping bag. We realized who it was and couldn’t believe he was coming out of the shop alone and walking on a dark side street. We ran to catch him and it took nearly two blocks to do so. He was 76 years old then.

    When we caught up to him I said, “Your Holiness, where have you been”. He said that because we were his guests, the diet was too rich these last several days, therefore he ate little at the table with us, and he wanted to get some wholesome fresh vegetables to eat. I said “Your Holiness, you are the patriarch. You should not be walking the streets by yourself, especially such a dark street. You need an escort.” He replied, “Brother Nikola, since I have been patriarch these last several months, it’s like I’ve been in jail. Please don’t let anyone deny me of this pleasure of walking.” We walked with him back to the patriarchate talking as three life-long friends would do on a stroll.

    He truly spoke little but always said a lot and that is no contradiction. He was usually last to speak, living the words of St. Ignatius to the Ephesians: “The less a bishop speaks, the more he ought to be revered”. He did not act with rashness and always sought consensus and compromise. Sometimes that got him into trouble. Events got out of hand during the war, especially with some of the clergy, but he always preached love of the Spirit and service to your brother though he was constantly harassed and occasionally severely beaten by the Muslims while he was Bishop in Kosovo.

    He harbored no ill will to anyone, did not rule as an “imperator/bishop” and, when he spoke in council, all bishops from all factions immediately went silent.

    In this day and age, he was a unique hierarch. May his memory be eternal. Vecna mu pamjat.

    • Nick,

      I heard the same type of stories when we met with Bishop Longin a few months ago up in Libertyville.

      There were about 6 people at the lunch table, and when the talked turned to Patriarch Pavle, it was obvious that he was absolutely revered. He was given full credit by the people present for the unity of the Serbian Dioceses here in America. I remember hearing that Patriarch Pavle’s credibility among the Americans was very high, since he had been the only one to recognize the bishop here (?). Didn’t quite understand the story.

      I also seem to remember hearing a story about the patriarch riding buses, all alone, late at night. What an incredible role model.

      May His Memory be Eternal!


  4. George Michalopulos :


    what a contrast. Stories such as this humbles me.

  5. His hands were translucent.

  6. What struck me when reading the brief biography of the newly departed Patriarch was the image of him riding public transportation with everyone else. Indeed, if anyone deserves the title Green Patriarch its the Patriarch who rides public transit. The response of the people to this leader is remarkable. Holiness and fidelity can truly change hearts and cultures.

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