Hundreds of thousands of people from Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia waited outside the Belgrade Church of Gathering last Thursday to pay their last respects to Serbian Orthodox Church Patriarch Pavle.
Pavle, 96, died on November 15. He was laid in state over the next four days where the faithful and followers honoured him.
His funeral was preceded by a liturgy in the Church of Gathering and a service in the Temple of Saint Sava. A crowd of more than 600,000 gathered for the service, which was led by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.
"People of Serbia, begin weeping, sobbing bitterly and expressing your sorrow according to his merit," Bartholomew said. He stressed that Pavle was a theologian of broad knowledge, a merciful, peaceful man of open views.
Serbian President Boris Tadic, who attended the funeral, recalled the patriarch's words: "Let us be humane and never respond to the evil of others with evil within ourselves."
"I believe I share the opinion of Serbian citizens when I express my gratitude to his holiness Patriarch Pavle for having always existed and still existing before all of us, with his deeds and words to always be humane," Tadic said.
After the 40-day period of mourning, the Serbian Orthodox Church will elect a new patriarch. The new church head will be chosen from three candidates -- bishops with the most votes from Synod members. Envelopes containing the candidates' names will be placed into the Gospel Book and the new patriarch will be chosen by "the Holy Spirit", as a selected priest removes the envelope with the name of the new patriarch.
When he became the patriarch 19 years ago, the former bishop of Raska and Prizren was a surprise. Pavle arrived at the helm of the church in 1990, at a time when its power was diminished after the long period of communist rule and when the wars in the former Yugoslavia were just beginning.
"I am said to be leading the Serbs into a war for the preservation of Great Serbia. However, if the preservation of Great Serbia requires crime -- I refuse it, may Great Serbia be gone. If the preservation of little Serbia requires crime -- again, I refuse it, may little Serbia be gone. If the preservation of even a single Serb requires crime -- again, I refuse it, may all of us be gone," he said.http://www.setimes.com/cocoon/setimes/xhtml/en_GB/features/setimes/features/2009/11/20/feature-01