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.
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!