Moderate elected as Serbian patriarch

As crazy as this sounds (especially coming from me) maybe having a moderate church leader who is open to dialogue will help the people of Serbia. Ultimately, if the people benefit, that’s all that really matters – the ends justify the means. Having the church involved in government policy is ever a good thing, although this is commonplace in most countries throughout the world; even in the United States where a separation of Church and State was clearly the intent of our Founding Fathers. Nevertheless, religion just seems to creep into government; there are many special interest groups and lobbyists pushing for it continuously. And unfortunately, those of us who don’t care for religion are not nearly as vocal and fanatical as the opposition.

As a side note, leaving the selection of what seems to be an important position for the people of Serbia to a “lottery-like draw” doesn’t sound like a very smart way of choosing a leader. We’ll just have to wait and see what the future holds for Serbia and its people. TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Associated Press

By DUSAN STOJANOVIC, Associated Press Writer Dusan Stojanovic, Associated Press Writer Fri Jan 22, 10:53 am ET

BELGRADE, Serbia – Irinej Gavrilovic, a moderate who recently called for better ties with the Roman Catholics, was chosen Friday as the new head of the influential Serbian Orthodox Church.

Irinej, 80, was picked as the new patriarch in a lottery-like draw among three candidates who were initially chosen in a secret ballot by 45 Holy Synod bishops.

Irinej — the 45th Serbian patriarch — is considered a compromise candidate after a power struggle within the influential church between hard-liners and liberals over who would succeed Patriarch Pavle, who died last November after a long illness.

The 7-million-member church, whose influence rose during the Balkan wars in the 1990s and the surge of nationalism in Serbia, now has a major role in the country’s policies.

Irinej’s election signals that the church will stay neutral in the Serbian government’s attempts to join the European Union and other Western institutions. The hard-line clergy say Serbia should instead opt for stronger ties with its traditional ethnic and religious ally Russia.

Irinej said in a recent interview that he would not oppose a visit by the Roman Catholic Pope to Serbia — one of the rare European countries the pontiff has never visited. The hard-liners have opposed the visit because of a historic schism between the two churches.

Religion analyst Mirko Djordjevic described Irinej as “a man of dialogue,” and said his election was “good news for the church and the public.”

“He is one of those people in whose biography no one can find a single extremist statement,” Djordjevic said.

Pavle, highly popular among seven million Serbian Orthodox Church followers because of his modesty and humility, died Nov. 15 at the age of 95 after a long illness. He led the traditionally conservative church through its post-Communist revival.

The church said that among the three bishops shortlisted in the lottery-like draw were Amfilohije — an anti-Western hard-liner known for his ultranationalism who led the church for most of Pavle’s two-year hospitalization — and another radical, Irinej Bulovic.

Bishop Irinej Bulovic said after the election “we should all be thankful that we chose the new patriarch so quickly, and in such a harmonious and a miraculous way.”


Associated Press writer Jovana Gec contributed to this report.

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