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Serbian Patriarch Irinej — January 2010

BELGRADE — The Elec­toral Syn­od of the Bish­ops of the Ser­bian Ortho­dox Church (SPC) met today in Bel­grade and elect­ed Bish­op Irinej of Niš as the new patriarch.

Met­ro­pol­i­tan Amfilo­hi­je and Bish­op Irinej of Bac­ka also made it to the last three after the ini­tial vot­ing to elect the new spir­i­tu­al leader of Ortho­dox Serb Christians.

The new­ly elect­ed patri­arch told Tan­jug that his appoint­ment was the will of God and the Ser­bian Ortho­dox Church Elec­tion Assembly.

I have been elect­ed for this hon­or­able and dif­fi­cult duty with the help of my fel­low bish­ops, who will bear this bur­den and all prob­lems that come with it togeth­er with me,” Irinej stat­ed after the election.

Irinej Gavrilovic was born in 1930 near Cacak, in cen­tral Serbia.

He attend­ed Ortho­dox sem­i­nar­ies in Prizren, Bel­grade, and Athens, and served in the Ostrog monastery in Mon­tene­gro, and lat­er in Prizren as the head of the SPC sem­i­nary in that town.

Irinej was appoint­ed as the bish­op of Niš in 1975.

The new patri­arch will be enthroned on Sat­ur­day, Jan­u­ary 23, in Belgrade’s Cathe­dral Church.

He will replace Patri­arch Pavle, who passed away on Novem­ber 15, to become the 45th head of the Ser­bian Ortho­dox Church.

His Holi­ness Patri­arch Pavle’s suc­ces­sor was elect­ed by a ran­dom pick­ing of a paper with the name of one of the three can­di­dates who won most sup­port when the 37 bish­ops voted.

Pre­vi­ous­ly, media spec­u­lat­ed that bish­op of Zvornik and Tuzla Vasil­i­je, Met­ro­pol­i­tan Amfilo­hi­je, Bish­op of Bac­ka Irinej and Bish­op of Zahuml­je and Herze­gov­ina Grig­ori­je were the favorites for the Church throne.

The new head of the SPC was cho­sen by what is known as the apos­tolic vote.

Church expert and jour­nal­ist of dai­ly Poli­ti­ka Milenko Pešic said ahead of the pro­ceed­ings at the Patri­ar­chate today that three can­di­dates must win over 50 per­cent of the cast votes before going through to the last round.

The apos­tolic vote means that the can­di­dates’ names are put in sealed envelopes, the monastery’s archi­man­drite then sum­mons the Holy Spir­it and picks an enve­lope. Such elec­tion pro­ce­dure was intro­duced sim­ply to pro­tect the Church against exter­nal polit­i­cal influ­ences of the state, which was against it [the Church]. Many have been chal­leng­ing the elec­tion pro­ce­dure because it does not exist in any oth­er auto­cephalous Ortho­dox church,” Pešic explained.

There were many con­tro­ver­sies sur­round­ing the elec­tion of the patri­arch regard­ing the influ­ence of dif­fer­ent lob­bies with­in the SPC, but also the role of the state and politics.

There have been reports about alleged pow­er strug­gles between bish­ops of the “Bosn­ian” and “Ser­bian” lob­bies, as well as that gov­ern­ment will in fact have the final say in the election.

NIN week­ly jour­nal­ist Jovan Jan­jic said that respon­si­bil­i­ty for cre­at­ing such an atmos­phere is shared by the media, some bish­ops, but also the state itself.

You can rec­og­nize the hand­writ­ing of the bish­ops who would per­haps like to reach the SPC throne. It is pos­si­ble that there is some polit­i­cal influ­ence in it. I think that the gov­ern­ment had to pro­vide all the nec­es­sary con­di­tions for the elec­tion of the patri­arch. As for is there lob­by­ing or should I say cheer­ing – I think it’s there. Although I do not believe that it will be a key fac­tor in decid­ing, espe­cial­ly if the cur­rent elec­tion pro­ce­dure remains,” he said.

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