Pavle (11 September 1914 – 15 November 2009) was the 44th Patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church, the spiritual leader of Eastern Orthodox Serbs, from 1990 to his death. His full title was His Holiness the Archbishop of Peć, Metropolitan of Belgrade and Karlovci, and Serbian Patriarch Pavle. Before his death, he was the oldest living leader of an Eastern Orthodox church. Because of poor health, he spent his last years in the Military Medical Academy in Belgrade, while his duties were carried out by Metropolitan Amfilohije.
Pavle was born as Gojko Stojčević in the village of Kućanci in the Kingdom of Croatia-Slavonia, then part of Austria-Hungary (present-day Croatia). He lost both of his parents in childhood, and was raised by an aunt. After finishing elementary school, Pavle graduated from a gymnasium in Belgrade, then studied at the seminary in Sarajevo. After finished Seminary, Gojko entered University of Belgrade where he studied Theology and Medicine in parallel. He quit medicine, but graduated with a Theology degree in 1942. During World War II he took refuge in the Holy Trinity monastery in Ovčar, and later moved to Belgrade. After the war, he worked in Belgrade as a construction worker, but because of his poor health he took monastic vows in Blagoveštenje monastery in Ovčar in 1946. His monastic name became Pavle (Paul). He served as a hierodeacon in Blagoveštenje, and later in Rača monastery between 1949 and 1955. In 1954, Pavle was ordained to the rank of hieromonk. The same year he was ordained as protosyncellus, and in 1957 as archimandrite.
Between 1955 and 1957 Pavle took post-graduate studies in the Theological School of the University of Athens, Greece. He received a doctorate in New Testament and liturgy by the Theological Academy in Athens. After returning from Greece, he was elected the Bishop of Ras and Prizren (the eparchy which includes all of Kosovo) in 1957. He held that position for 33 years before he was elected Patriarch.
Pavle was referred to by some as the “walking saint” based on his simple lifestyle and personal humility. All of the bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church had cars, which they used to travel through their dioceses, except Pavle. When asked why he’d never owned a car, he replied: “I will not purchase one until every Albanian and Serb household in Kosovo and Metohija has an automobile.” Asked by foreign journalists about alleged Church support to the Greater Serbian project, Pavle answered:
So I say: if a Great Serbia should be held by committing crime, I would never accept it; may Great Serbia disappear, but to hold it by crime – no. If it were necessary to hold only a small Serbia by crime, I would not accept it. May small Serbia disappear, but to hold it by crime – no. And if there is only one Serb, and if I am that last Serb, to hold on by crime – I do not accept. May we disappear, but disappear as humans, because then we will not disappear, we will be alive in the hands of the living God.
He was the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church from 1990 until his death in 2009. Pavle died on 15 November 2009, after more than two years spent in the Military Medical Academy in Belgrade.
We remember him as a wise man whose word are spoken and retold and remembered.
These are some of them:
– A man is stronger dead than a bad man alive.
– If we all stuck to love, this country would be paradise. But if we all stuck to that which is little less from love – because love is a connection of perfection – if we all stuck to the principle “What you wish for yourself, do that to others, and what you don’t wish for yourself, don’t do to others”, than this country, if it would not become paradise, it would be really close to it.
– We do not defend ourselves from other evils, with the evil within us.
– When a man is born, entire world is happy, and only he cries. But he should live in a way, when he is dying, the whole world should be crying, and only he smiling.
– God created us people, and asks from us to be people. There are no times we should not be so.
– Time is a duration that has a past, present and future. But there is no past as a time. There are remains from the past. There is also no future, it will yet to happen. And what there is? There is only present. That category of time is not addressed to God. He is addressed with eternity. And eternity is constant present. There is no past nor the future.