(Photo: Serbia’s Partiarch Irinej in Belgrade, August 4, 2010/Marko Djurica)
Serbian Orthodox Church and political leaders gather on Sunday to enthrone a new patriarch to guide a religion embodying the spirit of Serbia, but the once a generation ceremony will take place on foreign soil in Kosovo.
Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, but many Serbs still see majority Muslim Kosovo and the monasteries there as the cradle of their Orthodox religion. Old churches and monasteries dot the landscape of the smallest country in the Balkans.
“As you can imagine the political situation is very heated now in the period of the patriarch’s enthronement,” said one Serbian Orthodox Church official who did not want to be named. “The church needs a long-term arrangement which would guarantee its normal life, preservation of its identity and religious freedom, autonomous right to manage its properties in Kosovo as well as special provisions for protected zones.”
Among those expected on Sunday is Serbian President Boris Tadic, whose government does not recognise the independence of its former province. And with thousands of Serbs expected to travel through an Albanian-majority area to the frescoed Patriarchate of Pec where Patriarch Irinej will be enthroned, officials are on guard against trouble.