New Serbian Orthodox Head Elected

The Serbian Orthodox Church elected Bishop Irinej Gavrilovic on Friday as the 45th patriarch of its 7-million-member congregation.

The 80-year-old bishop, who was chosen in a lottery draw against two other candidates, succeeds Patriarch Pavle who died last November after a long battle with heart and lung problems.

Gavrilovic is known as a political moderate, being called a "man of dialogue" by religion analyst Mirko Djordjevic who told the Associated Press that the bishop's election was "good news for the church and the public."

"He is one of those people in whose biography no one can find a single extremist statement," Djordjevic said.

Gavrilovic was also welcomed to his post by the new head of the World Council of Churches the Rev. Olav Tveit, who sent his congratulations via a statement released on Friday.

"On behalf of the entire fellowship of the WCC member churches, in their deep commitment to make our unity in Christ visible, please accept, Your Eminence, our warmest congratulations and assurance of prayer that God will continue to bless the Serbian Orthodox Church through your leadership," Tveit said.

"I am certain that under Your Eminence's Patriarchal mission, the Serbian Orthodox Church will continue to strengthen the faithful contribution to the life and work of the World Council of Churches."

Serbian Bishop Irinej Bulovic noted after the election that,"we should all be thankful that we chose the new patriarch so quickly, and in such a harmonious and a miraculous way."

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