BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — The Serbian Orthodox Church says moderate Bishop Irinej Gavrilovic has been elected as the new patriarch.
Irinej, 80, was picked Friday in a lottery-like draw among three candidates who were initially chosen in a secret ballot by 45 Holy Synod bishops.
He is considered a compromise candidate after a power struggle within the influential church between hard-liners and liberals over who will succeed Patriarch Pavle, who died last November after a long illness.
Irinej is the 45th Serbian patriarch.
Pavle, highly popular among some seven million Serbian Orthodox Church followers because of his modesty, died Nov. 15 at the age of 95 after a long illness.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.
BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — Bishops of the influential Serbian Orthodox Church met Friday to elect a new leader following the death of moderate Patriarch Pavle.
There have been reports of a power struggle among hard-liners and liberals within the clergy over who will succeed Pavle, who was highly popular among Serbs for his humility.
The 7-million-member church, whose influence has risen during the Balkan wars in the 1990s and the surge of nationalism in Serbia, now has a major role in the country’s policies.
Pavle died Nov. 15 at the age of 95 after a long illness.
The new patriarch will be chosen in a secret vote among 45 members of the Holy Synod shortlisting three candidates. A lottery-like draw will then decide the winner.
The “Apostolic Vote” was introduced in 1967 with an aim to prevent then communist authorities from meddling in the election of the church leader. The vote could take days; Pavle was picked in 1990 only after nine rounds of voting.
The favorite to be shortlisted is Bishop Amfilohije Radovic, an anti-Western hard-liner known for his ultranationalism. Amfilohije has led the church for most of Pavle’s two-year hospitalization.
Also likely to be among the three candidates chosen to face the final lottery-like draw are hard-liner Irinej Bulovic and moderate Irinej Gavrilovic.
But, due to the unique election procedure, surprise results have been regular in the long history of the Serbian Orthodox Church.