- (Photo: AP Images / Srdjan Ilic)
The head of the Serbian Orthodox Church died peacefully Sunday after receiving the Sacrament, according to an announcement by the five-million-member church body.
Patriarch Pavle, 95, was the oldest living leader of an Eastern Orthodox church body and had served as its head for nearly two decades before his death Sunday morning at 10:45 a.m.
"The death of Patriarch Pavle is a huge loss for Serbia," President Boris Tadic said in a statement. "There are people who bond entire nations and Pavle was such a person."
The government has ordered three days of national mourning starting Monday and a funeral has been scheduled for early next week.
Pavle's successor will be elected in a secret vote at a conclave attended by at least two-thirds of the church body’s 40 bishops.
In the meantime, Metropolitan Amfilohije, who has been serving as acting church leader since 2008, will continue to act as head of the church pending the formal election of a successor.
According to official data, about 85 percent of Serbs who make up 82 percent of Serbia's 7.3 million population are members of the Serbian Orthodox church.