From Vidova to the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church: Who was Patriarch Irinej?

Serbian Patriarch Irinej passed away today at the age of 90 in the VMC Karaburma

Source: B92
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EPA/VALDRIN XHEMAJ
EPA/VALDRIN XHEMAJ

His pious parents Zdravko and Milijana Gavrilovic from the village of Vidova near Cacak - and with them the entire Serbian family - were blessed the by the Lord, on August 27, 1930, with the birth of a male child whose baptismal name was Miroslav.

He finished elementary school in his native village and high school in Cacak and the Theological School in Prizren, Kosovo and Metohia. Thereupon he graduated from the Faculty of Theology in Belgrade.

After completing his military service, he was appointed professor of the Prizren Theological School, but before accepting the appointment he received monastic tonsure in the monastery of Rakovica, n. Rakovica, by the Serbian Patriarch German, receiving the monastic name Irinej, in October 1959.

On the Holy and Great Friday of the same year, he was ordained a hieromonk in the church of Ruzica, Belgrade. As professor at the Prizren Theological School, he spent some years at postgraduate studies in Athens.

He was appointed principal of the Monastic School in the Ostrog monastery in 1969, from where he returned to Prizren to the position of Principal of that famous Theological School.

Enthronement of the Patriarch

EPA/KOCA SULEJMANOVIC
EPA/KOCA SULEJMANOVIC

On January 22, 2010, at the meeting of the Holy Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church, he was elected Archbishop of Pec, Metropolitan of Belgrade-Karlovac and Patriarch of Serbia.

Patriarch Irinej was formally enthroned to the ancient throne of the Serbian Patriarchs in the Patriarchate of Pec monastery on 3 October 2010, with participation of the representatives of all sister Orthodox Churches.

From the very beginning of His Patriarchal Ministry, though in very difficult time, His Holiness advocated peace and stability in the entire region.

On November 10 2010, he stated in an interview that "the Drina River [between Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina] is not a border, but a bridge that connects us. Although, in a way, we are one even today, God willing, we will soon really be one." Patriarch Irinej elaborated that for now "it is enough that we are one as people, as the Orthodox Church, and that we are on the same path of St. Sava and Christ". He praised the Serbs of Banja Luka stating that "[they fight] to preserve the Serbian name. Although this is not at all an easy task, they are succeeding."

On December 15th 2011, His Holiness was decorated by His Royal Highness Prince Davit Bagration Mukhraneli Batonishvilli of Georgia with The Grand Collar of The Order of The Eagle of Georgia and The Semeless Tunic of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

His Holiness Irinej has been considered, both abroad and at home, as a moderate traditionalist, open to global inter-religious dialogue. In an interview he indicated he would not oppose the first-ever visit by the Roman Catholic Pope to Serbia in 2013 as part of celebrations of the 1.700th anniversary of the Edict of Milan, the law under which Roman emperor Constantine, who was born in Niš, ended the persecution of Christians. His Holiness said that "there is the wish of the Pope" for a meeting in Niš and that it would be a chance "not just for a meeting, but for a dialogue".

Regarding the accession of Serbia to the European Union, the Serbian Patriarch said that: "Serbia should not look with suspicion at the EU, if the EU respects the Serbian identity, culture and religion. We believe that we are an historical part of Europe, and we want to be in this family of peoples. In the accession we will accept everything that is not in contradiction with our cultural and historical identity.”

As the Head of the Serbian Orthodox Church His Holiness represents the highest spiritual authority among the Serbian people in Serbia and abroad.

Serbian Patriarchate under His leadership has published an exceptional number of academic, liturgical, religious, as well as popular books for education and spiritual uplifting of the faithful. His Holiness is well known as a great preacher and uses every opportunity to preach the Word of God to all people. Most recently, the Diocese of Nis has published a collection of his sermons delivered in the Dioces of Nis, while he was Diocesan Bishop there.

Awards and honors

In 2012, he was awarded the Charter of the Association of Writers of Serbia. Also, for the merits done towards the Royal House, for the national and common good, in 2013, Prince Alexander II Karadjordjevic decorated Patriarch Irinej with the Royal Order of the Grand Cross of Karađorđe's Star.

He was an honorary citizen in Zemun.

In September 2015, the Academy of St. Vladimir in New York awarded him an honorary doctorate. The following year, he received the Order of the Holy Bishop Nikolaj from the Diocese of Sabac.

He attended a ceremony in 2016 in Australia on the occasion of collecting aid in the amount of 10.000 dollars for the church kitchen in Belgrade and the youngest in Kosovo and Metohija, by the parishioners of the Church of St. George from St. Alban.

In the same year, he gave a sermon at St. Paul's Cathedral in London. He visited the Orthodox Church in Cyprus in November 2016.

In 2018, he was awarded the prize of the International Fund for the Unity of Orthodox Peoples in Moscow.

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