Page last updated at 14:31 GMT, Saturday, 23 January 2010

New Serbian Orthodox patriarch Irinej enthroned

New Serbian Orthodox Church Patriarch Irinej kisses a bible after his enthronement ceremony, 23 January 2010
Patriarch Irinej (right) is considered a moderate

The new patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church has been enthroned at a ceremony in Belgrade, pledging to back Serbia's claims to Kosovo.

Patriarch Irinej said the Church's first duty was to help recover the breakaway province.

The 80-year-old is considered a moderate who is open to modernisation.

He has said he would not be opposed to Pope Benedict XVI visiting Serbia, suggesting a possible rapprochement with the Roman Catholic Church.

The service in Belgrade was the first part of a two-stage induction process, with a second ceremony due at Pec in western Kosovo.

"Our first duty as a Church is to safeguard our Kosovo, a holy and martyred land, to help our state to defend it from those who wish to seize it," Patriarch Irinej said in a speech after his enthronement on Saturday.

"Kosovo is our holy land, our Jerusalem," he added. "We must go to Pec to complete this ceremony, but can we visit our relics?

"Without them, Serbia is not Serbia, without Kosovo it is deprived of its heart and soul."

Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in February 2008.

The Serbian Orthodox Church has about 11 million members worldwide.

Most of Serbia's seven million people are Orthodox Christians.

Print Sponsor

Serbian Church elects patriarch
22 Jan 10 |  Europe
In pictures: Patriarch Pavle's funeral
19 Nov 09 |  In Pictures
Serbian Orthodox patriarch buried
19 Nov 09 |  Europe
Serbian Orthodox patriarch dies
15 Nov 09 |  Europe
Karadzic: Serbia's mixed feelings
27 Oct 09 |  Europe

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific