Patriarch Pavle

December 27, 1999

Wisdom will preserve us from wolves, and kindness will prevent us from turning into wolves


INTERVIEW WITH PATRIARCH PAVLE


Patriarch Pavle was born on September 11, 1914, in the village of Kucanci, Slavonia (Croatia). He finished high school in Belgrade, theological school in Sarajevo (Bosnia), and graduated from the Belgrade Theological Faculty.He spent WW2 in the Monastery of Sveta Trojica at Ovcar, as a refugee and displaced person. There he taught theology to the refugees' children. At the Monastery of Blagovestenje 1948, he became a monk. From 1955 till 1957, he was at the postgraduate studies in Athens, Greece. He was elected Bishop of Raska and Prizren (Kosovo) on May 29, 1957.After late Serbian Patriarch German fell ill, in November 1990, he was elected as the 44th Serbian Patriarch. He was enthroned on Sunday, December 2, 1990 at the Saborna Church in Belgrade, and on May 22, 1994 on the traditional throne of the Serbian Patriarchs in Pecka Patrijarsija Monastery.

FS: Your Holiness, what is the position of the Serbian people at present, particularly in Kosovo?

In the course of this disintegration process of former Yugoslavia we, the Serbs, have been in the most difficult position. Above all, our enemies have been portraying ourselves as criminals, as a genocidal nation unworthy of bearing a human name or calling its acts human. Until now, we have attached no importance to this. We are not to represent ourselves as being better than we actually are, but to present the truth. However, not only our enemies and ourselves have been taking part in this but also other countries in the world, Europe, America... When the representatives of all three peoples from Bosnia and Herzegovina (Radovan Karadzic, Alija Izetbegovic and Mate Kljuic) had met in Lisbon before the war broke out in 1992 in the presence of international mediators, they had agreed that Bosnia should be made up of tree (constituent) parts - a Serbian, Muslim and Croatian entity. Also they had agreed on constituting Bosnia as a confederation and subsequently signed the agreement. When they had returned to Bosnia, Europe and the US had rejected the agreement - Bosnia, in their view, should be composed of two entities (a Muslim-Croatian federation and a Serbian entity) and it also had to be a unitary state. Well, you see, these people had reached an agreement and it had not been democratic in view of the West so they imposed a solution of their own and, of course, they had considered it to be democratic. But there you have it. As far as we, as a nation, are concerned, we both have our virtues and our vices. In the last fifty years we lived in a one-party system and under a materialistic regime using all the available means at its disposal to obstruct the activities of the Serbian Orthodox Church which, over centuries, has been elevating and strengthening the nation's identity and spiritual being by ennobling the inherent characteristics of our people.

While I was in Kosovo a Moslem priest wrote to me in 1989: "A principle according to which a man cannot prosper unless another human being fails is unacceptable for Islam." So I replied to him: "This principle is also unacceptable for Christianity. The land of God is wide and large enough to provide room for everyone if we are humans. If we act like brutes, then there will not be enough room even if there are only four of us." Both in the Bible and Koran, there are stories about Adam and Eve and their first two sons, Cain and Abel. Evil Cain murdered his brother even though there were only four of them. This is what it is all about.

On the other hand, no one let us choose a specific nation, race or parents before we were born so we cannot answer for that. There are people who hold us accountable and lay blame upon us precisely for this. So we must always be and remain humans in keeping with our Orthodox faith and God's will as well as standards adopted by the people of good will, and eventually time shall pass and heal the wounds. Time is a divine sieve, it shall clear up the things, like the prince and bishop Njegos once said. The Serbs in Kosovo are in a very difficult situation since so many have been forced to flee, so many of them have been murdered, so many displaced persons... There are very few Serbs left who are suffering immense hardships. They are being attacked, kidnapped, innocent people disappear all of a sudden...

FS: Your Holiness, what is your view of the need for the Serbian people to return to Jesus Christ and Orthodox faith? To what extent have we removed ourselves from God?

We could see that even now, and it was so for fifty years after World War II in a one-party system when the people were materialistic and fought against the church. For us Orthodoxy has been a Christian faith which gave us identity when our ancestors as pagans came to these parts and converted to Christianity. At the same time they received their first alphabet and thus passed from pre-history into history. Afterwards, we entered the world of culture not only regarding literacy and alphabet but art, painting, architecture as well. We gave our sincere contribution to the world treasury of what is noble and sublime and that was Orthodoxy. Today when we take a look at our churches and monasteries like Gracanica or Decane, Pecka Patrijarsija, Bogorodica Ljeviska or Studenica and think of how much we could have contributed to humanity if we could have committed ourselves to this noble work, but then we endured slavery and hardships, and now this destruction... So many churches were destroyed, like the Church of Mother of God in Musutiste built in 1315 and monasteries from the 14th and 16th century... We need to return to these roots of our identity based on Christianity, our Orthodox faith. Having done so, it would be easier for us, even if vanish from the face of the earth, but let it happen as it befits human beings.

FS: Your Holiness, how could we revert to our faith and our roots? How could the Serbian Orthodox Church and Yourself help us in this task?

The Church has been preaching the word of Jesus Christ for last 2000 years: "What is to a man to conquer all the world and yet lose his soul". Could these worldly goods make up for his soul? This was precisely the advice which mother Jevrosima gave to his son Marko: "Don't you, my son, speak falsely to please others, but in keeping with God's ways". Therefore, our Orthodox faith has taught us to be and remain humans always, never brutes. There is no such thing which should make us resort to retribution like brutes do for crimes committed against ourselves.

When I was in Austria a few years ago at the celebration of the 100-year anniversary of the Church of Saint Sava in Vienna, an article was published that morning in a Viennese newspaper in which the author claimed that I had come to Vienna to "deceive the world", that the Serbs were to blame for this war and that I had called on the Serbs to fight the war against everybody else in order to preserve a greater Serbia. So I reacted to this insinuation at a meeting where there were both the Austrians and the Serbs: "If the cost of preservation of greater Serbia implied crimes committed, I would never accept that. Let Great Serbia disappear. If a small Serbia is to be preserved by committing crimes then I would not accept that- let also small Serbia vanish into thin air. Even if the last Serb were to preserve himself by means of crimes committed and if I were the last of the Serbs, I would not accept that either. Let us vanish as a nation, but as it befits humans".

According to the Christ's teaching there is no interest either divine, family, national or personal to commit crimes as a retribution for crimes committed against ourselves and when we defend ourselves we should fight as it befits humans. For us the most important thing is to act like true Christians since Jesus Christ says: "Hereby I send you like sheep among the wolves". We should indeed be true humans. In every time and in every society there will be people who would ridicule and mock you, who would take advantage of you and place obstacles in your path. Christ is not sending us forth so that wolves could tear us apart, but to show to the wolves by means of our faith and actions what it means to be the Lamb of God. But on the other hand, there is a danger that the lamb among the wolves might come to the conclusion that it could not survive as a lamb, only as a wolf, so it could sharpen its teeth, learn to howl, turn its hoofs into claws and become a wolf itself. This is not why Jesus Christ is sending us among the wolves, therefore he gives us the solution: "Hereby I send you like sheep among the wolves. Be wise like snakes and gentle like doves." And this means that wisdom will preserve us from wolves tearing us apart, and kindness will prevent us from turning into wolves.

In other words, we could develop our intellectual abilities without limit, but under condition of developing our goodness and kindness at the same time, since our mind is like an internal eye helping us perceive what other living beings cannot possibly see. And mind is cold, sometimes it cuts through the heart. Goodness is warm, but blind. Well you see, when you unite and develop simultaneously both our mind and our goodness then you become a true human. Well, children, this is what it is all about. You could see for yourselves where this materialistic one-sidedness leads, this pursuit of pleasure. You could judge by your friends and relatives - how many children in elementary schools take drugs? To have mind and logic and develop them like a snake. The snake guards its head, so if you cut off its tail it would grow again - the head is what matters. While other creatures fight against each other for food, doves never fight among themselves for food. This is what the church has been preaching for centuries to our ancestors, this is what it preaches now for those who have ears to hear.

FS: Your Holiness, what is your view of possible solutions to problems burdening our people in the time to come?

Well, you see what is the view of the church and Christianity in general. Apostle Paul says that we are an organism with a multitude of organs. If the eye says: "I am not an ear, so I am not a part the organism", does it indeed belong to the organism? What would happen if the whole organism would be only an eye? What could we do without ears, without arms, without legs? The fact that we have a multitude of organs, if those organs perform their proper functions, is not a misfortune especially if we take into account the general interest of the organism. And the organism as a whole has no interest in mind but the interest of each particular organ. If we act organically, with that feeling, then problems shall be solved in a peaceful manner. If that does not happen misfortune and calamity shall befall us. When an organ suffers, everybody feel the pain. If one of them is celebrating, then everyone is joyful and merry. Well, we should have organic relations among our people. You know yourselves how it works. All those political parties are fighting for their basest interests, and not for common good, so they cannot agree on anything under these circumstances.

FS: Your Holiness, finally, what would be your message for the students, young people in general? How to live and which values should we rely on?

Jesus Christ says: "Let thine light shine before the people. Let them see thine good deeds and celebrations of thine Lord who is in Heaven". This applies to us all. If we act in this manner, if we live by this rule, then it would be easier for us, both amongst ourselves and before the people in the world among whom there are undoubtedly people of good will. Besides, this is also a message from our ancestors. They endured five centuries of slavery, and yet they could achieve everything in the Turkish empire only if they chose to convert to Islam, perhaps even become grand viziers if capable enough. Three grand viziers were people of our blood and origin.. However, our ancestors knew what they would stand to lose had they converted to Islam. They could have seen what they might gain, but what they would lose? Our ancestors realised that they would lose more than they could gain so they suffered hardships like poor people deprived of any rights. Therefore, we should be and act like humans in all circumstances thus saving ourselves, our family and our nation and contribute in this manner to the whole of humanity and people of good will. This is also a message celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ approaching in year 2000 so we should enter the third millennium as humans, as a nation. This is my wish and I pray to God so that you could live better, more peacefully and safely than we did.

Merry Christmas and Happy New 2000!

This is my message and a blessing goes to both you, the young ones, and all the people of good will in the whole wide world who have ears to hear.

Bojan Bozic
Branko Vukomanovic

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