Serbian Orthodox Church elects new Patriarch Porfirije

Correction — February 22, 2021
Orthodox Christianity is not the predominate faith in Kosovo, which is predominately Muslim; this is incorrectly stated in the article.

Friday, February 19, 2021

The Serbian Orthodox Church — the dominant Christian Church in Serbia — elected Metropolitan of Zagreb and Ljubljana Dr. Porfirije Perić as new Serbian Patriarch yesterday, filling a vacancy created in November when Patriarch Irinej died. Perić's formal enthronment was set for today.

Born Prvoslav Perić, Perić was ordained as a monk in 1985 and elected to his position as Metropolitan in 2014. He would now lead a church of 12 million faithful in the former Yugoslav republics, the disputed region of Kosovo, and associated dioceses in Australia, the United States, and Western Europe.

He has expressed conservative pro-government views in the past, writing a critique in December of Serbian reporter and human rights advocate Sonja Biserko. Perić also encouraged the firing of outspoken professors at the Faculty of Theology in Belgrade.

A current controversy concern Church property in neighbouring Montenegro. A law passed in 2019 requires evidence for ownership of property in Montenegro built before 1918, and the — relatively recent — Montenegrin Orthodox Church continues to claim all Orthodox property in the country as its own, in spite of most being controlled by the Serbian Church.

The Serbian Orthodox Church refuses to recognise Kosovo as independent, which is also the official position of Russia and Serbia. Kosovo contains many important religious sites in Orthodox Christianity and is considered a cradle of the religion. Perić was ordained as monk at Decani monastery in Kosovo.

The election took place amongst 39 eligible bishops of the Holy Assembly of Bishops, who voted in a secret ballot at Belgrade's Memorial Cathedral of Saint Sava. After deliberation, three candidates are chosen and their names placed in envelopes. Perić's name, pulled at random, is considered to believers an expression of the Holy Spirit's will.

A thanksgiving service immediately followed the election.

Orthodox Christianity is the predominant faith in Serbia, Montenegro, and disputed Kosovo, and has considerable impact on public life.