BELGRADE — Serbian Orthodox bishops have selected Porfirije, Metropolitan of Zagreb and Ljubljana, as their 46th patriarch, about three months after the death of Patriarch Irinej from COVID-19.
The Holy Synod of Bishops gathered on February 18 at the crypt of Belgrade’s Saint Sava Temple in Belgrade and first voted in a secret ballot for three preferred candidates to head the Serbian Orthodox Church.
The names were then placed in separate envelopes and withdrawn at random by one of the monks, according to the procedure.
The process took place in the temple for the first time due to anti-coronavirus measures, instead of its usual location in the headquarters of the Patriarchate.
The previous head of the Serbian Orthodox Church, 90 year-old Patriarch Irinej, died in November 2020.
His successor, 59-year-old Patriarch Porfirije, is due to be formally enthroned in the coming days to lead a church of about 12 million people in Serbia, the other five former Yugoslav republics, Kosovo, and dioceses in the United States, Australia, and Western Europe.
He will have to deal with unresolved issues regarding Serbian Orthodox Church property in Montenegro and disagreements in its own ranks over relations with the Serbian government.
In the latest 2011 census, almost 85 percent of the Serbian population declared themselves as Orthodox Christians.
Porfirije was born Prvoslav Peric in 1961 in Becej, a town in the northern Vojvodina Province in then-Yugoslavia.
In 1985, he became a monk in the Decani monastery in Kosovo and graduated from the Orthodox Theological Faculty of the University of Belgrade the following year, before completing his postgraduate studies in the Greek capital, Athens.
In 2005, parliament elected him as a member of Serbia’s main broadcasting regulatory authority, RBA, representing all churches and religious communities, and the agency chose him as its president in 2008.
In 2010-2011, Porfirije served as the bishop of Serbia’s military and the coordinator for cooperation between the Serbian Orthodox Church and the army.
The Holy Synod of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church in 2014 elected him as Metropolitan of Zagreb and Ljubljana.