Friday, October 24, 2008

Illness Forces Patriarch Pavle to Step Down

Belgrade, 24 Oct. (AKI) – The head of the Serbian Orthodox Church and Serb spiritual leader, Patriarch Pavle, on Friday announced he would be standing down due to illness and old age, church officials said. Pavle, 94, who has headed the Serbian Orthodox Church for the past 18 years, has asked the Church’s Holy Synod to relieve him of his duties at its next meeting on 11 November.

Patriarch Pavle, adored by his countrymen and religious brethren has been called by many Serbs “a living saint”.

But Pavle said he could no longer efficiently perform his duties “because of poor health and weakness”.

He has been hospitalised for months in a Belgrade hospital, although his health is described by doctors as stable.

Serbian press has been speculating for months on Pavle’s possible withdrawal.

Observers say hardline Kosovo archbishop Artemije and rival archbishop Amfilohije have emerged as the main candidates to take over the spiritual leadership from Pavle of some eight million Orthodox Serbs.

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