Eternal Memory: +Patriarch Pavel of Serbia

   BELGRADE, SERBIA -- His Holiness, Patriarch Pavel, the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church died  today, Sunday Nov 15, 2009,  in a Belgrade hospital after receiving Holy Communion, the church announced. He was 95.

The patriarch had suffered from poor health for several years and was frequently hospitalized.

 Pavle took over the leadership of the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) in 1990, amid upheavals over the bloody break up of Yugoslavia, the fall of communism and rise of Serb nationalism.

His rule saw the church take a prominent role in the country, with religion back on the curriculum in Serbia's schools after more than 60 years of enforced atheism.

The majority of Serbia's population of seven million people are Orthodox Christians.

President Boris Tadic said the patriarch's death was an - irredeemable loss for the entire Serbian nation.- His death is also my personal loss - Tadic was quoted by Beta news agency as saying.

Serbian Prime Minister Mirko Cvetkovic said the Orthodox church and Serbian nation had "lost a wise head... a spiritual leader we could be proud of both as a nation and as a state."

The Serbian government held an extraordinary session and proclaimed three days of mourning starting from Monday.

Church bells were set to toll every hour throughout the country, while Serbian state television switched from its regular programme to tributes to the deceased patriarch.

 A coffin with the body was brought to Belgrade's main cathedral where it was displayed to followers coming to pay tribute.

 According to state TV, the Holy Synod, the church's top body, was expected to hold an extraordinary meeting later on Sunday to proceed with funeral preparations.

 The president of neighbouring Montenegro, Filip Vujanovic, and the prime minister of the Republika Srpska, the Serb-held entity in Bosnia, Milorad Dodik, whose nations share the Orthodox faith and the church , sent letters of condolences to the SPC.- "I express a sorrow for the death of his holiness patriarch Pavle who served God, church and the people in the most difficult times" - Dodik wrote.

Highly appreciated by the faithful for his simple lifestyle and personal humility, Pavle has often been referred to as the "saint who walks."

May His Memory Be Eternal!

(Adapted from Article in Javno)