Sunday, 22 November 2009

In memory, Serbian Patriarch Pavle (1914 - 2009)

His Holiness, the now late Serbian Patriarch Pavle (Photograph © RTS)

His Holiness the Archbishop of Peć,
Metropolitan of Belgrade and Karlovci,
Serbian Patriarch Pavle

11.9.1914 - 15.11.2009

This article I dedicated to Serbian Patriarch Pavle the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church ('Srpska Pravoslavna Crkva'), who died this Sunday in his ninety-fifth year of life, and was laid to rest on Thursday.

Serbian Patriarch Pavle was born Gojko Stojčević in the village of Kućanci near Donji Miholjac in the region of Slavonia in Croatia, and was one of two sons born into a farming family. He was born before any Yugoslavia existed in the western Balkans, in a time in European history when Austro-Hungary, which still existed back then, was waging war against neighbouring Serbia following the famous - or infamous - assassination of its crown prince and heir and his wife in Sarajevo, Bosnia. One European country after another took sides in this conflict, and thus ensued the Great War, or World War One, which consumed Europe for four years.

Gojko and his younger brother Dušan had a tough start to life, losing both parents when they were both very young: their father Stevan travelled to America for work, but died of tuberculosis upon his return home, an infection he sustained during his time working there; their mother Ana later re-married and bore three daughters, but sadly died upon the birth of their third sister. Following the loss of their parents, they were left to their paternal aunt, who raised them along with her own daughter Agica, their first cousin.

Then another world war raged throughout Europe. For two of those war years, he took refuge in the Ovčar monastery in western Serbia. His brother Dušan was not so lucky; their home village found itself located within the borders of the fascist "Independent State of Croatia" ('Nezavisna Država Hrvatska'), and Dušan, like many unfortunate people at that point of time, was himself murdered by the evil Ustaše.

Following the end of that war, he took his monastic vows and gave himself the name 'Pavle' after St Paul in the New Testament. He rose through the ranks of the Orthodox clergy, from hierodeacon to hieromonk, then from protosyncellus to archimandrite, and then being elected to the office of Bishop, serving his post in Kosovo for over thirty years.

Patriarch Pavle, from smedia.rsFinally in 1990 and right on the cusp of war, Pavle was elected to the highest office of his church, attaining the title of Archbishop, thus becoming the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church. And it was during this turbulent period of Balkan history characterised by war and war crimes, that he found himself in the company of various Serb wartime leaders, reviled throughout the world for their notorious actions against non-Serb civilians in the republics that had secceeded from Yugoslavia. This was also a period of "isolation" for Serbia, being outcast as a "pariah" state by the international community, because of its leaders' involvement in the bloody wars in the neighbouring ex-Yu republics. This period, that consumed a whole decade, brought economic sanctions that crippled Serbia's economy, and moral meltdown that has corrupted Serbian society to its core.

Many of those same non-Serb victims of those Serb leaders' catastrophic policies against them, are critical of the late patriarch - and in turn, critical of his entire church - for at all associating with those people who ruined their lives, and even giving them support at the beginning of the war period.

On the other hand, that same patriarch also shared in the company of Serbia's anti-Milošević opposition, and stood alongside hundreds of thousands of people in the massive anti-government protests in Belgrade of 1997. On a number of occasions, he had openly confronted Milošević over many of his failed policies.

Apart from politics, Patriarch Pavle led a very humble existence according to his Orthodox Christian faith. He was called by many a "Saint that walked, or 'Svetac koji hoda', as he didn't drive a car, preferring instead to travel from one place to another on foot. And whenever asked why he didn't own a car, his famous reply was, "I will not purchase one until every Albanian and Serbian household in Kosovo and Metohija has an automobile!"

In the background of all the turmoil in the Balkans and the lowlives responsibile for all this mess, Pavle was one of very few people in the public eye who were truly genuine; what you saw was what you got from him, and there was absolutely no pretense about him.

Here's something the late patriarch once said in response to criticism about him. And what you're about to read is something that you've never heard from any of those Serbian nationalists and never will hear!

"Some have accused me of calling upon the Serbian people to destruction, to this misfortune and war, only so a Greater Serbia could be maintained. I have told them, and I repeat this to all now - if a Greater Serbia had to be maintained at the price of something inhumane, I would not agree [to it]. I wouldn't agree to even a small Serbia being maintained at that price. If the last Serb had to be maintained at the price of something inhumane, and if I had to be that Serb, I would not agree to it. For us, it would be better that we cease to exist as a people, rather than for us to exist, to biologically survive, as criminals and non-humans!"
(My translation; original Serbian at Blic Online)

Personally speaking, I believe in the existence of soul, that there is life after death, and I believe in some kind of universal energy that could be called God. I am not a member of any church and don't practice any specific faith. Nevertheless, I do agree with the fundamental tenets of Christianity that are compassion, forgiveness, non-judgmental attitude and humility, and I believe the world can never have enough of them!

What inspires me most about Patriarch Pavle, which I have mentioned above, was his character, which exuded humility and modesty according to fundamental Christian beliefs, and also his wisdom, which promoted decency and honesty in all people.

A lot of my fellow Serbs following the simultaneous collapse of Communism and the rise of Nationalism, today consider themselves "big Serbs", or 'veliki Srbi', and even "great Orthodox folk", 'veliki pravoslavci'. (Let's not get dragged into the whole "heavenly people" ('nebeski narod') idea!) Pavle not only knew those things better than a lot of Serbs, he was fundamentally a true Christian, who understood what he believed in and knew what he was talking about!

Serbian Patriarch Pavle at the Peć monastery in Kosovo, 2006 (© of people in the Balkans and elsewhere round the world, regardless of religion, are overly proud and full of themselves in their personalities. Pavle, on the other hand, was a humble human being in his soul and full of decency in his heart, both of which characteristics manifested themselves in his modest way of life and in his interactions with people. This example of his can be followed by everyone of any religion or none whatsoever!

Of course, Pavle served as patriarch during the toughest period of Balkan history since World War Two. So much religion and nationalism combined was shamelessly branded about and used to fuel hatred and create a climate conducive of war and all its horrors by some of the most cynical individuals you can find anywhere on this earth! Contraversially, the late patriarch had on a number of occasions shared company with such people.

Patriarch Pavle at prayer, picture from frmilovan.wordpress.comWhat was so disastrous about those disgraceful leaders, who had been put into positions of power and responsibility, was that they decided the destinies of millions of people. And because of the nature of their policies, they brought them pain and misery and turned their lives upside down!

Yet, had any of those same leaders of the turbulent 1990s had even a tenth as much wisdom and honesty inside them - let alone humility! - as Pavle had inside him and exuded for all to see throughout his service to God and people around him - and like I mentioned above, they themselves had been in his presence more than once! - the whole history of western Balkans during that time as we know it would've turned out completely differently!

I've been hearing quite often how his passing is a loss to Serbia, to the church, and a loss for other reasons. But in my opinion, that someone like him lived amongst us in our tumultuous part of the world for all that time that he did, represents the greatest gift to all of us and the greatest blessing that we could've received at such a time. And now, that his soul has ascended from this earthly plain and has started its new journey in the next life, his memory here will remain a blessing and constantly provide a gift for future generations of people from the former Yugoslavia and beyond!

His life and presence in one was a gift and inspiration to all of us, Orthodox, Catholic, Muslim or whatever! In life, he was known as a "living saint", or 'živi svetac' in our language. Now he really is one!

Vječna ti slava i fala patrijarše - počivaj u miru božjom!


Anonymous said...

"if a Greater Serbia had to be maintained at the price of something inhumane, I would not agree [to it]."

Alan, you refer to Pavle's wisdom and his honesty. He was either an unaware saintly fool, saintly perhaps but inexcusably oblivious to what was happening around him, or he was wise and dishonest, aware that in blessing and defending unrepentant murderers in order to advance the interest of his church he was colluding with some of the most monstrous criminals of the last century. He can't have it both ways.

Srebrenica Genocide said...

He was humble, I agree. But he was not a Saint. If he was a Saint, he would have know better.

Here is what Serbian journalist Vesna Peric Zimonjic says about Patriarch Pavle:

"Patriarch Pavle came to "the throne" in 1990, before the wars started. Neither Pavle, nor his church and priests did much to change the direction of aggressive and hard-line nationalism.

The SPC [Serbian Orthodox Church] priests blessed the cannons that shelled the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo for three and a half years from 1992 as well as the Kalashnikovs used to kill Muslims around Srebrenica in 1995, according to video taken at the time.

Priests have also played an active role in Serb volunteer units that committed numerous war crimes in Croatia and Bosnia, with the mantra of 'defending the Orthodox Serbs from being eradicated by Catholic Croats and Muslims.'

The SPC under Pavle has failed to distance itself from the Srebrenica massacre - where 8,000 Muslims were killed - or any other war crimes committed by Serbs who claimed to be devout Orthodox Christians."

Since I am an Atheist, I find this fact also worth of attention:

"Critics of the SPC, stress that the church is too conservative, too turned to traditional values and ways of life that have nothing to do with modern life.

'The church says women belong to homes, they are here to bear children, take care of family, be modest and humble and without any influence whatsoever on the everyday modern life,' sociologist Zorica Milenkovic told IPS."

Balkan Ⓐnarchist said...

Owen and Daniel, you've both made valid points to which I will attempt to respond!

Owen, you explained that the late patriarch couldn't be both "honest" and "wise", as being one of which meant he couldn't be the other. What I was referring to in my article dedicated to him was his essential honesty and wisdom, i.e. he was as a person an honest and wise man. And I do believe that if us Serbs had leaders who had at least a fraction of his overall honesty and wisdom, things would be very different for everyone there!

Dan, I also think the SPC hasn't done enough to condemn the crimes of Serb nationalist leaders of the 90s, let alone bring its flock to confront and denounce their ex-leaders' crimes! I personally believe that for many Serbs, the idea that their fellow Serbs could lead such wars in the ways that have been reported and cause the kind of carnage that has been witnessed by many is still too difficult to comprehend, let alone accept. Perhaps Patriarch Pavle also found himself in precisely that same moral dilemma. Nevertheless, I hope the future patriarch of the church will commit himself to helping his fellow Serbs deal with the recent past in a much more open and conciliatory way, playing an active role doing so. Of course, I hope that whoever succeeds Pavle will do that, 'cause only God knows if he will!

Anonymous said...

No, Alan, I meant what I said. He never condemned what his disciples did. Either he was honest - he didn't know that the price of Greater Serbia was something beyond inhumane - or he was wise - he knew better than that to let on that he knew.

He knew or he didn't know. He was wise or he was foolish. Either or. Because he gave his blessing to two men who brought unthinkable suffering to hundreds of thousands of people. They never repented. He never apologised.

Lucky for him he died before the Archdiocese of Dublin did. How would Pavle's Church have coped with the comparison? How many acts of child abuse and murder did he and his clergy encourage the perpetrators in? I think the score in Bosnia and Croatia renders Dublin pretty insignificant.

Excuse me being unconciliatory on this occasion. Pavle's Christianity had precious little to do with Jesus Christ.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, that "did" in "the Archdiocese of Dublin" did was meant to refer back to "apologised" - not to "died" (excuse me for stating the obvious)

Balkan Ⓐnarchist said...

Owen, I remember the late Patriarch Pavle, following the release of the video of those "Scorpions" killing those young boys from Srebrenica at Trnovo, condemning all crimes committed upon innocent people on all sides during the wars. It was an official statement from him and his church, if I remember correctly.

Of course, that's not the same as calling upon a particular nation to repent for its leaders' sins. But let's think about the kind of person Pavle was and also the circumstances that shaped his way of seeing the world, which is shared by many other Serbs today. And since Pavle was a Croatian Serb like me, let's remember what happened to people like us during WW2 and also those who caused such suffering to occur.

As you know, the Ustaše committed some of the worst crimes against humanity in the last century on mine and Pavle's people. His own brother was one of many victims of their campaign just for being a Serb. For Serbs from Croatia and Bosnia, those awful events have shaped the way they see themselves and their Croat neighbours. But then, fifty years later, another set of wars was waged and raged on, which has shaped the way a new generation of Croats et al. see themselves and their Serb neighbours. So you see, it doesn't surprise me that people where I come from think that these wars have turned their whole world, including their sense of morality, upside down!

I don't wish to excuse anyone or engage in relativism here: a lot of things that have happened should never have happened; conversely, a lot of things that should've taken place obviously haven't done so. The wars should never have happened, and all the terrible things that took place should never have taken place, and that's how I'll always think. But since all of those things have befallen us in the ways that they have, I agree that more should've been done to encourage Serbs, who lived through the recent wars, to openly speak about the wrongs that their fellow Serbs did without feeling like they're betraying anyone, and to also distance themselves from such people. But, of course, such a deep, cathartic process hasn't occurred, and that is disappointing.

I think it will take a long time until us Serbs can collectively distance and completely divorce ourselves from our former leaders' flawed and failed ideology, and to likewise condemn them for the reasons for which they should be condemned. And that's why I don't think it was down to Pavle to bring us Serbs to that moral stage, especially considering the historical distance from the recent wars. Arguably, he should've tried to, but hopefully, the next patriarch will make it his duty to do something about that in the next decade.

Anonymous said...

Alan, I know I don't have any arguments with you, and I do understand what you've been trying to say about Pavle as a man. However when the institutional structure of a religion has abandoned the tenets of faith in order to preserve and consolidate itself - whether it's the Serbian Orthodox Church or the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin - then it's the men who head the hierarchy of the institution (and I say men, because they fight to the last hem of their cassock to make sure it's not women) who must assume responsibility for the terrible damage their institution has inflicted on humanity.

Milan I. said...

Sam said...

WOW good article and Alan again I enjoy your work.but I agree with others. But me who is part Bosniak/Bosnian Croat.I Don't see him as a Saint at all..NOT EVEN CLOSE!!!!.I understand your a Serb and he is part of your faith.and I respect that.but I don't have any respect for a man who has blessed war criminals and blessed so many soldiers who went to fight in Bosnia and Croatia.He is nothing different from the Catholic priests who blessed the Nazis during WW2.He knew exactly what was was going on in the 90s and wanted a Greater Serbia at any cost.But I agree on the fact that he is a Croatia Serb who went through the war,and he was a victim to a Genocide to his people and does feel hate towards the others.Just like many Bosniaks and Croats have hate towards the Setbs.from the recent Genocide in the Yugoslav wars..but he has blood on his hands just as much as Milosevic and Karadzic(hope I spelled his name right?)....PEACE&LOVE!!

Anonymous said...

I like your vision, because we are the same ethnic group with only different religions

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Unknown said...

Thank-you for your article !

I think many misunderstand the role of the Church, and also a patriarch.

The Church is to receive sinners, and to encourage their growth. To bless a person - even a soldier - is not to show assent to what the person does. If that were the case, the Church in blessing and praying for people would by now have assented to all sins.

The Church is not an organ of political statements - of any kind. This neutrality remembers that the Church is to serve persons of all political views.

If the Church refused to pray for sinners, and to serve sinners, what then would be the value of the Church ? It would be altogether empty !

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Anonymous said...

that is a bane pavle being a "true" christian. this implies tacitly that he may have not been a bit serb, velikoserb, hater of catholics, supremacism, fascism, serbianism. bozh

Anonymous said...

lauding any christian is odious to me. praising a great criminal mind like pavle, a pope, mullah is too much for my stomach.
what is anarchic about these people: the owners of people? bozh

Anonymous said...

"if a Greater Serbia had to be maintained at the price of something inhumane, I would not agree [to it]."

this the first time i read this quote. when had he said that? w.o. qualifying it with when-where-two whom he said that, i cannot accept it as valid! tnx bozh

Anonymous said...

why wldn't pavle condemn crimes on all sides? that, to me, is justifying aggression but condemning what happens there after.
but he did not, or did he?, condemn long sieges and bombardment of bosnian cities; nor the fact that serbs had the tanks, artillery, etc., and bosniaks very little of at the crucial time. tnx bozh

Anonymous said...

obviously, alan wld never miss an opportunity to reassert the fact that ustasha killed serbs.
and only because they were serbs!

however, many serbs were not innocent. i do not know % of serbs from rural croatia or even cities and towns who wanted even in '18 to purify their holy lands and attach them to holy serbia and on the way slay thousands of muslims and croats, but to deny this fact, is much out of order.

no, most serbs were not innocent at all. they wanted to destroy croatia. having failed to do that, they assert even in 2005 or 2010 all they wanted was peace.
but those ustashe just did not want it. there is no such entity as innocence, truth, etc.

apodictically, or of absolute certain or necessary truth, there was a political solution available for the noble state [all croats shld be proud of the fact that it had been croats who pushed for it more than any other people], but serbia rejected it.
obviously seeking an honest dialog, give and take, enlightenment, calling for outside help, was not an option for top serb class.
as it prevents for all time a greater serbia. tnx bozh

Balkan Ⓐnarchist said...

Hey Bozhidar,

"obviously, alan wld never miss an opportunity to reassert the fact that ustasha killed serbs.
and only because they were serbs!

however, many serbs were not innocent. i do not know % of serbs from rural croatia or even cities and towns who wanted even in '18 to purify their holy lands and attach them to holy serbia and on the way slay thousands of muslims and croats, but to deny this fact, is much out of order."

It seems to me that you're suggesting that I revel in "reassert[ing] the fact that ustasha killed serbs". Except I don't, and neither do I deny Serb support for Greater Serbia.

My family history: On my mother's side, my great-grandfather and his father-in-law, my great-great-grandfather, were massacred in their village by Ustaše in August '41. Many of their cousins and in-laws were likewise murdered at the same time. As far as I know, none of them were supporters of Greater Serbia. In fact my grandfather, the son-in-law of my great-grandfather mentioned above, fought for the Partizan side. Other relatives were also Partizans (on both my mother's and father's side), whereas there were others who fought on the Chetnik side (some on my father's side), and a couple of them were forced to fight for that side, i.e. not out of choice! Not to forget that a couple of them even switched sides! Families were divided, and yet they all suffered the same!

Those were terrible times, Bozhidar. And then we have this stupid war in the '90s, that could've been avoided altogether! Looking at all this history, it's no wonder that I choose to be both an Anarchist and a Pacifist! And believe me when I say, that I hope neither war ever happens again!

Balkan Ⓐnarchist said...

As for the late Patriarch Pavle, who this article is about, I believe that he was a good man in his heart and soul. However, I do wonder what went through his mind when he was witnessing what was going on around him, and whether he was even aware of what the Serb leaders of the war years were planning to do. To be fair on Pavle, he was only a man and not all-seeing God, but neither was he a fool nor an ignoramus.

Anonymous said...

IT is my wont not to call people names. i do not talk about what a person IS nor what events ARE-- i try to describe what person said or did.
similarly, events ARENT-- events happen and if one wants to be enlightening, one describes them and only thereafter concludes and later offers a solution.

and i do not often split people [at least in my thoughts] into croats or serbs or into humble and nonhumble, honest and dishonest, nazis and nonnazis, wise and unwise, etc., humans.

in this connection, u'd note that ?all MSM columnists, posters, pols, clergy, experts reverse the natural order and thus sane evaluation: describe events first of all, then conclude and offer possible solutions.

velesrbs and velecroats stay away from describing events. instead they jump to the conclusion; such as that bosnia, to croats, belongs to croatia and to serbs that bosnia belong to serbs; while always positing a tacit conclusion: solve everything thru warfare.

meanwhile not seeing the fact that the wider and the longer a look [positing descriptions] is, the saner and wiser a person is.

btw, "is" in above statement is auxiliary and not of identity.
add to all this, that they never proffer or hunt for a single causative factor-actor for what happens, and one can see what that type of unsane thinking leads to.

i assert that all wars are waged for land and everything that is in it or on it; its people may or may not be wanted.
case in point: israel or world jewry in palestina and panserbs in bosnia, croatia, and kosovo.

however, jews still may lose it all. serbs will also lose bosnia and kosovo. bosnian wholeness will be restored; becoming like switzerland one day.

regarding ustashe: one cannot know that they all have committed crimes. this evaluation may be true for chetniks, as well.

most croat'n soldiers under paveliches command must also be considered innocent just like most serb soldiers in '90-95 and '41-45.

ustashas organization may be described as an organization were a terrorist organization which via help from italians and germans carried out mass murder and expulsion of serbs from bosnia.

as far a is know it had few members.
i am being told that even eugen kvaternik, paveliches right hand man, and other ustasha leading members were bitterly disappointed when they learned what kind of a deal pavelic made with fascist italy.

as already noted, partizani have 'sufficiently' avenged serb, croat, jewish, and romas deaths by slaying possibly at least 60 k croats

the guiltiest escaped and died in peace. all guilty ones are dead now.

but veleserbs wanted more blood and more land! and, they lost. so let's drop this justification for setting up or calling such regions serb homelands.


Balkan Ⓐnarchist said...

"velesrbs and velecroats stay away from describing events. instead they jump to the conclusion; such as that bosnia, to croats, belongs to croatia and to serbs that bosnia belong to serbs; while always positing a tacit conclusion: solve everything thru warfare."

I noticed that too, Bozhidar. No wonder we are where we are today! And if that doesn't serve as justification for a world without borders, I don't know what does!