In Serbian church, choosing between tradition and modernity


From Deutsche Welle | Read article in context. By Mark Lowen, Deutsche Welle

Belgrade -- The election on Friday of a new patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church is anything but certain, since membership of the church's highest council, the Holy Synod, is divided among those who prefer a reformist path and those who hew to tradition.

Patriarch Pavle, the Church's beloved leader since 1990, died last November, two years after asking the synod to relieve him of his duties due to illness. But his death has left a power vacuum, with many interest groups within and outside of the Church vying for influence over the selection of his successor.

"There are many more than two wings," one of the synod's younger bishops, Fotije, told the DPA news agency. "We have bishops 80 years old, educated before World War II and with huge experience. Then there are bishops under 40, also well educated in era of digital communication."

How far from the far-right?

Inside the dramatic white facade of Sveti Sava Cathedral in Belgrade, a crowd of Serbian Orthodox followers are enjoying the afternoon service. Dedicated to St. Sava, the Serbian Orthodox Church's 13th century founder, it is one of the oldest church buildings of its kind in the world. Worshippers are surrounded by ornately painted interior walls.

Patriarch Pavle celebrating a Serbian Orthodox liturgyBildunterschrift: Gro├čansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: Patriarch Pavle, shown in this archive photo, was extremely popular with Serbs

But just outside this cozy scene, members of far-right ultranationalist group Obraz are attending a service as well, gathered around a bonfire. They're known for inciting violence and threatening anyone they perceive to be an enemy of Serbian culture - a list which includes ethnic minorities, gays and lesbians, and the politically liberal...

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Religion NewsRichard Potts