Lottery system to chose next Serbian Orthodox patriarch

November 17, 2009


(Photo: Prelates pay respects to Patriarch Pavel, 15 Nov 2009/Ivan Milutinovic)

If U.S. voters elected their president in the same way the Serbian Orthodox Church chooses it patriarch, they could have seen Ralph Nader, Ross Perot or other third place finishers taking up residence in the White House. That’s because the Church, in a move originally aimed at thwarting Communist authorities, uses a system that incorporates a lottery within the election by church elders to choose a leader.

The Holy Synod of Bishops, the Church’s top executive body, will use that system within the next three months to elect a successor to Patriarch Pavle, who died on Sunday. Pavle headed the Serbian Orthodox Church during the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s as Serbs warred with neighbours of other faiths.

pavlePavle, 95, died at Belgrade’s Military Hospital where he had been treated since 2007 for various ailments. As his health deteriorated, although nominally still head of the church until death, Pavle had given up its day-to-day running in 2008 to Bishop Amfilohije, who is seen as a Serb nationalist on issues such as Kosovo.

(Photo: Patriarch Pavle, 24 March 2001/Ivan Milutinovic)

The Holy Synod of Bishops will first convene the Holy Assembly which will then decide to initiate the proceedings of electing a new patriarch in a so-called Apostolic Vote.  “At least two-thirds of  metropolitans, active bishops, candidates for bishops who run dioceses for more than five years must attend, and those absent may delegate power of attorney to another participant,” said Jovan Janjic, a Belgrade-based analyst with the weekly NIN magazine.

Each member of the assembly votes for  the three candidates and the vote is repeated until the selection is narrowed to three. After balloting, names of the  three top candidates with more than 50 percent of backing are put in three sealed envelopes. “It all becomes a lottery then,” Janjic said.

The names of the three candidates are placed inside a Bible and after a holy service, a specially selected monk who prepares for the task through fasting and praying, takes the envelope from the Bible, shuffles the three names and pulls out one.  The presiding bishop immediately takes the envelope, opens it in plain view of others and announces the name of the new patriarch.

amfilohijeThe so-called “Apostolic Vote” was introduced in 1967 as a move tailored to curb the  influence of  Communist authorities in the former Yugoslavia on the appointment of patriarchs. At the time authorities said the Holy Spirit should lead the hand of the monk therefore excluding allhuman interference. This voting system dates back to 1917 when the Russian Orthodox Church used it to pick Patriarch Tikhon, its first leader after the patriarchate was restored following a 200-year suppression.

(Photo: Bishop Amfilohije, 15 Nov 2009/Ivan Milutinovic)

The Russian Orthodox Church did not use this method in January when it elected its new patriarch, Kirill, in a secret ballot with multiple candidates.

Insiders say the lobbying and politicking between the candidates and their supporters is as fervent as in a U.S. or European style election campaign.

Three bishops — hardline Montenegrin Amfilohije close to nationalist parties, moderate Irinej from the northern Serbian Backa diocese and another moderate Grigorije from the Serb region of Bosnia — are the key contenders. According to sources from the Holy Patriarchate, Amfilohije and Irinej are the two top candidates as they can muster backing of at least 15 bishops each. Grigorije, considered modern and pro-European, has  the backing of several younger bishops,  as well as from rank-and-file clergy and faithful.

“We may speculate as long as we want and it is clear that the three are the most popular. But at the end it is the Apostolic Vote that decides. And there are always dark horses in this race,” the source said.

In 1991, Patriarch Pavle was chosen after nine rounds of voting as a monk picked him over two other candidates including Amfilohije.


(Photo: Candles for Patriach Pavle at Belgrade’s Saint Sava Church, 15 Nov 2009/Marko Djurica)

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Posted by FaithWorld » Blog Archive » Lottery system to chose next Serbian … | Drakz News Yugoslavia | Report as abusive

It looks like the man who ispired criminals is dead. See for your self. es/stories/Patriach_Karadzic_Mladic.bmp[  /QUOTE]

Posted by Inocent Civilian | Report as abusive

“Innocent Civilian”, shame on you! Is nothing sacred for people like you? You try to spin everything, even the death of a Holy Man, to fit your political agenda. That is truly sad!All Christians mourn the loss of Patriarch Pavle, servant of Christ.

Posted by Trinity | Report as abusive

Dear Inocent civilian, you’re either not an innocent civilian, but ignorant civilian, or you have mean intentions. Whichever of the two, it is completely improper to throw lies like that…if you know nothing about that saint person, please don’t leave horrible comments like this one…do some research first! Shame on you!

Posted by forgive them… | Report as abusive

“That’s because the Church, in a move originally aimed at thwarting Communist authorities, uses a system that incorporates a lottery within the election by church elders to choose a leader”.Reuters, Reuters, Reuters.. who educated you? Lottery is in the New Testament you fools.. Check choosing of the Apostle after the suicide of Judas (Acts 1,26). You journalists could not report a pink elephant if you saw one could you?

Posted by Predrag Mandich | Report as abusive

Predrag Mandich, your concern for both my education and the fate of pink elephants is noted, but it would be useful for our conversation here if you also showed the same concern for a few basic facts. Of course the lottery is in the New Testament, otherwise this would not be called the “Apostolic Vote,” the name we used in this post. But if the roots of this voting method go back two millennia, please explain why the Serbian Orthodox only introduced it in 1967, i.e. during the Communist period? Any why did the Russian Orthodox, who traditionally had their patriarch chosen by the tsar or elected in open ballots, opt for the lottery system in the revolutionary year of 1917? And then not use it in 1990, when Communism was on its last legs, or earlier this year for Patriarch Kirill’s election? Were they less faithful to the New Testament in all the time before that? Did they think it was more “apostolic” in 1917 but less so in 1990? What made them change?

Posted by Tom Heneghan | Report as abusive

Tom,I wish people educated in the west would actually try to learn about and understand other cultures. The reason the Serbian Orthodox Church didn’t use it (lottery system) for so long is that the Serbian Patriarchate was abolished by the Ottoman Turks for 500 years until it was restored in 1920. If you look back prior to that time period, the lottery is exactly how the Patriarchs were chosen. Subsequent to 1920 we had WWII and the Communist takeover and its pressure on the Church that the Church finally got rid of in 1967.As for the Russians, I can’t explain that, but one needs to understand the history of the Church and State in Russia. That relationhsip almost remind one of the the Byzantine Empire where the Church and State were very closely related. Regarding communism, the Church had to survive while under communism. Certain economies were necessary.

Posted by Bosko | Report as abusive

Tom,Also, as Serbian Orthodox Christian, I find it offensive when you call Metropolitan Amphiloje “hard line”. What does that mean? It has negative connotations. The man is very spiritual and if he’s “hard line” it’s because he’s so devoted to God and his people. He is also revered throughout the Orthodox World, especially in Greece and Russia. So how could this be hard line. He in fact, helped heal the split in the Russian Church.That being said, is the pope hard line? Was Pius XII hard line when he help the Croatian Ustase escapte via Vatican ratlines? That would seem hard line to me.Again, lack of knowledge about cultures and bad reference point is what I’m chocking this up to. I can’t believe that you’d be personally trying to discredit him, but these days who knows?

Posted by Bosko | Report as abusive

Maybe the US should pick a patriarch for us. They seem to have their noses in everything else in our region and around the world. Also about the comment left by so called innocent civilian I pity you. Its comments like that all Serbian people find disgusting. Patriarch Pavle is a servant of God a true Christian like all other Orthodox Christians.

Posted by Milan | Report as abusive

Bosko, Reuters is an international news agency and you can’t assume all its journalists are “educated in the west.” In fact, the information in this blog came from Serbian and Russian journalists who were not educated in the west. They were aware of the New Testament background to this lottery system and used the term “apostolic” to describe it. In their blog posts, however, they have focused on the modern use of this voting method. If it’s clearer to say “the modern use of the lottery voting method,” then we’ll do that. But we would be taking this method out of context if we didn’t mention the reason why it has been used in the context of communist countries.As for “hardline” to describe Amfilohije, this is not questioning his spirituality or devotion to God. This blog focuses on religion in the public sphere. His nationalist views are an important issue, given the negative role that hardline nationalism has played in the recent history of ex-Yugoslavia. Religion and politics are intertwined here and there have been many cases of where self-professed Christians — Catholics and Orthodox — did not heed the commandment to love their neighbours as themselves. We cannot overlook the political views of a prelate who could take over the top post in the Church.This same approach from the perspective of religion in the public sphere was behind the description of Grigorije as modern and pro-European. It says nothing about his faith or devotion to God, just about his views on important public issues.Was Pius XII hardline or softline? He can be — and is — called softline on Nazi Germany, because he did not speak out as forcefully as he could have. It then seems strange to turn around and call him hardline for helping the Ustase escape to South America. A negative adjective is in order, but I’m not sure the hardline-softline dichotomy is the best way to depict his policies.

Posted by Tom Heneghan | Report as abusive

Reminder: we can only publish comments in English.

Posted by Tom Heneghan | Report as abusive

Amfilohije is tough to evaluate, but he is a patriot, which I see as only positive thing, since he is also devoted to God; if he insists on Kosovo and Metohija as integral part of Serbia, that only speaks about his patriotism, and he IS a Bishop of Serbish Church. How can any Serbish Bishop give up on Kosovo, when Kosovo is a place crucial for our Christian identity, to say at least?Other mentioned Bishops, Grigorije and Irinej, are valued as ‘moderate’ because they are ecumenists, “pro-European”. Irinej, for example, kissed a hand of the Pope, which is, from Orthodox point of view – only and nothing but the heresy; what Grigorije does is not for a public talk, and besides, I don’t want to take our dirty loundry out.I think that is symptomatic that candidates that are true keepers of Orthodox faith, like Artemije of Raska and Prizren and Nikanor of Banat, aren’t mentioned. Entire medias in Serbia are now the tool for ecumenization of Serbish Orthodox Church. May God be in our help!

Posted by Marko Bozic | Report as abusive

Hold on here. It’s good to praise a holy man who has died, but I cannot understand why some posters are praising this Orthodox patriarch, then attacking a Pope from the past? Is that a charitable attitude?

Posted by Philip Lynch | Report as abusive

“Pavle headed the Serbian Orthodox Church during the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s as Serbs warred with neighbours of other faiths.””…where self-professed Christians — Catholics and Orthodox — did not heed the commandment to love their neighbours as themselves. We cannot overlook the political views of a prelate who could take over the top post in the Church.”I’m shaking my head in disbelief at the reading of these two sentences from the article above.I know of no Serbian Orthodox priest or prelate who speaks/does evil to others. Defending his own country yes. Doing or speaking evil, no. Are YOU the one trying to influence who gets to be Patriarch? “Hardline Nationalism.” You’d make me laugh if it weren’t so sad a situation.When one of the readers above mentioned that you should know more history about the region when you write, perhaps he was referring to something few know about.It’s mighty hard, Tom, to love your neighbor when your neighbor massacred your whole family in front of you, or they die in a most heinous way.I visited one of the “pits” near Prebilovci (near Medjugore) where 500 women, children and a priest were thrown in, buried alive just because they were Serbian Orthodox. The villagers couldn’t believe anything would ever happen to them when they saw the electric pole insulators being painted black a few days or weeks before. That was a signal and on the chosen day, they all died, covered alive with lime and cement. All of these evils were kept quiet, all in the name of “Brotherhood and Unity” when Churchill abandoned Draza Mihailovic and chose communist Tito as the leader.Throughout the former Yugoslavia this happened. Village after village, in Glina, etc. As a child, I always heard adults whispering about such things, but I never quite understood the pain they all felt. You can go to any Serbian Orthodox church in America and there will be so many families who lost members in the same such way. Some were burned alive in churches because they wouldn’t convert. Others were butchered in their own churches because of the same reason. Over 150 people with my last name were killed in their village of Prkos….. age made no difference, from 3 months to 84 years of age, mothers carrying their babies shot in the back while fleeing their fields.However, those WWII refugees who DID escape did make the best of their lives here…..they became great U.S. citizens. No hatred. Just thanks to God for their safe deliverance.But the pain was always there. I remember seeing grown men break down and cry in remembrance of what happened to their families. One man (7 at the time) saw his mother, father, grandparents and sisters and brothers killed in front of him and when someone was going to kill him too, a commander laughed and said, “No, let him live to tell the others what happened!”To this day, there is no hatred, no “nationalism” that you speak of in the same paragraphs naming Serbian Orthodox prelates. Only the desire that it not happen again, but it did. Do some research and find out how the graves of Nikola Tesla’s parents were desecrated along with other atroicities. In 1991 and there was no outcry from any AP, UPI. Reuters, or CNN agencies to mark 1941-1991 atrocities in Croatia’s Krajina regions. It happened again in Kosovo too, before 1991, but few were there to write about it.Patriarch Pavle of blessed memory, lived through those horrors, but still had no hatred towards anybody. He was responsible for letting the thug who beat him and left him for dead in an alleyway get out of jail.I remember sleeping in the new dormitory wing of the Nun’s home in the Patriarchate of Pec soon after the old one was set afire by hoodlums. Even though everyone knew what happened, the good nuns just shrugged their heads and said “It was a mysterious fire.”Let me end with this quote from Matija Beckovic, one of Serbia’s best-known poets. He spoke about the irony of making Serbia the pariah in the world press, in a speech he made in Chicago, November, 1991:“Perhaps there was never a time when more was being said about Serbs, and at the same time less was known about them; never a time when more was known, yet with a more shallowly knowledge and less understanding than before; nor were the Serbs more consciously lied about, more prejudicially judged and more narrowly viewed—all in the name of international law—than is the custom today. Where a lie spreads easily, the truth penetrates with difficulty. And who could refute all the lies, who could gather all the scattered feathers? I come from Serbia that is disheartened, shattered, dazed and isolated—practically her every home houses a refugee, where there is no one who has been made a refugee from Serbia, regardless of faith or nationality. We take pride in this fact more than we grieve over our own misfortune.”

Posted by Mim Bizic | Report as abusive

About accusations made upon His Holiness Patriarch Pavle of Serbia. “We should never be unhuman, even to the unhumans; even if that means eradication of last Serb, and even if I was that last Serb, we should always choose to be human and not unhuman”, said His Holiness during the height of Bosnian War, when Serbs did needed quite the opposite, some serious religious motivation, from earthly point of view. And this is not some anomaly. This is just another way of saying the exact same thing that, according to our mythology that is transferred for the last 600 years, tzar Lazar Hrebeljanovicz said: “It is better to loose our heads / then to set a sin upon our souls.”

Posted by Marko Bozic | Report as abusive

Pardon me. Above quote was said by Queen Jevrosima Mrnjavczevicz, mother of Kraljevicz Marko. My slip.

Posted by Marko Bozic | Report as abusive

My friend from Belgrade showed me around the city and explained who the patriarch was and what the big church at the end of a long drive was called – St. Sava.She spoke of Partiarch Pavle with such pleading affection that it was clear she wanted me to respect him – perhaps even love him.Such is my respect for my friend and her judgement that I had no doubt he was a good man with a holy bent rare amongsts those in the heirarchy of other religious institutions.Now the old man has died and Belgrade was flooded with half a million people on a working day to say their fare well to a much loved holy man.There are those, however, who cannot allow the mere mention of the nation of Serbia to pass without taking the opportunity to put the boot into it. It isn’t enough to be the only nation on earth who apparently fought a war without sustaining any casualties, without any victims, without any homeless, dispossessed, brutalized, raped or murdered souls. At least any that I have heard reported in the western media. Serbia also remains the only nation who deserved what cruelties apparently didn’t happen to them even if they did! One could be forgiven for thinking that Serbs – who managed to transform themseves from allies and heros in 1945, to enemies and demons in 1990 – had dared to ignore the geo-political, strategically important alliegance between oil hungry America and muslim Turkey and Albania and the proposed oil pipeline through the former and terminating in the latter.Now that sort of oversight will never do….especially when America is looking for a small country to use as a punch bag to prove to bigger countries just how tough it is.

Posted by william law | Report as abusive

May Patriarch Pavle burn in hell.He supported genocidal Serb war criminals.May he burn in hell.

Posted by Srebrenica Genocide | Report as abusive

PATRIARCH PAVLE I, SUPPORTER OF KARADZIC AND MLADIC, ESCAPES MORTAL JUDGMENTAfter hearing Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Pavle I, who has just died in his 96th year, praised as an “ecumenist” by the Pope and a “man of peace” by the German Catholic Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, Gesellschaft für bedrohte Völker (GfbV) / Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) has expressed regret that the Serbian Orthodox Church’s Patriarch has escaped mortal judgment.GfbV/STP President Tilman Zülch observed that “Pavle maintained very close and friendly relations with the two major Bosnian Serb war criminals Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic during the time when they were imprisoning more than 200,000 Bosnian Muslims and Catholics in concentration and detention camps and 20,000 Bosnian Muslim women were being systematically raped”. The Patriarch remained silent as Serbian troops commanded by the two war criminals destroyed centuries-old mosques and madrassas (a total of 1186) and over 500 Catholic churches and other religious buildings.Throughout Serb-occupied Bosnia only a single mosque was left standing. Pavle, who conferred his blessing on the war criminals on a number of occasions, later sought to gloss over his support for genocide in Bosnia-Herzegovina later with vague declarations in support of peace. Pavle’s macabre involvement is illustrated by the photograph above which shows him blessing Radovan Karadži? (currently before the International Criminal Tribunal at The Hague) and Ratko Mladi? (protected for years by the Serbian authorities and the Serbian Army).“We are still waiting for Archbishop Zollitsch, a child survivor of a Tito concentration camps where thousands of Danube Swabian women and children perished, to show some respect at least for the victims of Sarajevo and Srebrenica”, Zülch added.

Posted by Srebrenica Genocide | Report as abusive

I have revised my opinion about the genocide because it has become clear to me that Naser Oric ( a muslim militia leader who had formerly been a body guard to Milosovic) was a murderer in and around Srebrenica long before the Serbian general Mladic took his retaliation on the muslim men and allowed the women and kids to go free.That alone proves that I was mistaken….it can’t be genocide if women and children are set free. After all it was the muslims who murdered the women and kids in Srebrenica…..the only thing is that those kids were Serbs so nobody mentioned it much. Naser Oric was convicted but he only got two years for his many massacres. That shows the so called ‘justice’ that was being meted out by the international community.It would be funny if it weren’t so tragic.

Posted by Srebrenica Genocide | Report as abusive

To comment on the vote issue on the top of the discussion: in Russia before 1917 the case was exactly as in Serbia during the Turkish rule as explained by Predrag Mandich. Tsar Peter the Great forbade election of new patriarchs for the Russian church in 1700 (the year is of memory, you can double-check it). Their place was taken by a toothless bureaucratical institution on the leash of the earthly rulers because it was in the interests of Peter to weaken the church. Only in 1917 it became possible to elect a new Patriarchs and the time of the “Babylonian captivity” was over. Of course, the freedom of the church was extremely short.As to Kirill’s election by way of an election, not the apostolic vote, it may be explained by the fact that the long communist period was very harsh for the Russian church and people outgrew plenty of natural traditions – on the other hand their place was taken by many strangest superstitions. I would be prone to believe that the Russians just found this vote to be less tempting for the people at the present situation. For the Serbs, again, church has been a more natural part of their traditional life – if only for the fact that the communist rule lasted only 1-2 generations, not 3-4 like in Russia so the situations are somewhat different.

Posted by Krista | Report as abusive

Really sad news. i love Patriarch Pavle.

Posted by Lottery India | Report as abusive

If I’m recalling my Church history correctly, the night before the Battle of Kosovo, St. Lazar had a dream, in which an angel of God offered him a choice: he could win the upcoming battle, thereby saving the territory of Kosovo for the Serbian nation, but in so doing lose the nation’s Orthodox soul, or he could save the nation’s soul but lose the battle. He lost the battle, but is revered as a saint in the Serbian Church. How do modern Serbian Orthodox Christians know that we aren’t being called on to make the same choice as St. Lazar? — are we sacrificing our Orthodox soul to cling to Kosovo at any cost?

Posted by Seraphima | Report as abusive