Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has expressed condolences to his Serbian counterpart Boris Tadic over the death of Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Pavle, the Kremlin said Monday.
Patriarch Pavle, elected to head the Serbian Orthodox Church in 1990, died Sunday at 95 of cardiac arrest during his sleep after having been hospitalized for two years in the Belgrade Military Medical Academy. Serbia began three days of official national mourning on Monday.
"His patriarchal feat became a vivid example of a noble and selfless service to the Church and fatherland, of a care about his nation's expectations and interests," Medvedev's telegram said. "The period when Patriarch Pavle was on the Pec throne coincided with the hardest trials his compatriots faced."
His Holiness Archbishop of Pec, Metropolitan of Belgrade and Karlovci, Serbian Patriarch Pavle was the oldest living leader of an Eastern Orthodox church. He called for peace and reconciliation in the 1990s during the inter-ethnic conflicts that resulted in the breakup of Yugoslavia.
In 2000, the Serbian Church, which had previously abstained from confrontation, openly called on Slobodan Milosevic, then president of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, to resign, after NATO air raids put an end to his crackdown on Kosovo Albanians.
Metropolitan Amfilohije of Montenegro and the Littoral, who earlier performed Pavle's duties during the patriarch's illness, will be acting patriarch until a new leader is elected. The election will take place not earlier than 40 days after Pavle's death.
President Tadic on Sunday called the death of the patriarch "a huge loss" and said Pavle "united the nation."
A deputy head of the Russian Orthodox Church external church relations department called Patriarch Pavle "a righteous man of our time."
"The entire Serb nation honored him as a living saint," Archpriest Nikolai Balashov said.
Balashov said Pavle symbolized "the spiritual unity of the Serb nation" and was "a big friend of the Russian Orthodox Church."
Patriarch Pavle's body will lie in state in Belgrade's Archangel Michael Cathedral until Wednesday, and thousands of believers are expected to pay their respects. On Thursday, he will be buried in the capital's Rakovica Monastery, as defined by the Serbian Church's Holy Synod in line with Pavle's will.
MOSCOW, November 16 (RIA Novosti)