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Patriarch German

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German (Herman)
His Holiness the Archbishop of Peć, Metropolitan of Belgrade and Karlovci, Patriarch of Serbs
Patrijarh german.jpg
Church Serbian Orthodox Church
See Belgrade
Enthroned September 14, 1958
Reign ended August 27, 1990
Predecessor Vikentije
Successor Pavle
Personal details
Birth name Hranislav Đorić
Born August 19, 1899
Jošanička Banja, Kingdom of Serbia
Died August 27, 1991
Belgrade, Yugoslavia

His Holiness, the Archbishop of Peć, Metropolitan of Belgrade and Karlovci, Serbian Patriarch German (the English equivalent is Herman) (Serbian Cyrillic: Герман) (August 19, 1899 in Jošanička Banja, Kingdom of Serbia - August 27, 1991 in Belgrade, Serbia, SFR Yugoslavia) was the patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church from 1958 to 1990.[1] Nicknamed the red patriarch by his opponents, he was successful in revitalizing the Serbian Orthodox Church to a certain extent during the Communist period, despite two schisms that occurred during his tenure.

Education and early career

Patriarch German was born Hranislav Đorić on August 19, 1899 in the spa of Jošanička Banja in central Serbia, in a ministerial family. He received a broad education and was a most educated member of the Serbian clergy, attending primary school in Velika Drenova and Kruševac, seminary in Belgrade and Sremski Karlovci (graduating in 1921), studying law in Paris (Sorbonne) and finally graduating at the Orthodox Theology Faculty in Belgrade in 1942.

He was ordained a deacon, appointed the clerk of the Spiritual Court in Čačak and also a catechist in the Čačak's high school. Due to ill health, he left the administrative jobs and was ordained a presbyter, receiving his own parish of Miokovci. In 1931 he moved to Vrnjačka Banja and in 1938 became a referent of the Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church. In that capacity, he was ordained a vicar bishop of Moravica and, becoming a widower, a monk in Studenica monastery, acquiring the name German.

In 1951 he was appointed a bishop of Budim, becoming at the same time the secretary general of the Holy Synod and editor in chief of the Glasnik, the official gazette of the Serbian Orthodox Church. However, as Hungarian authorities didn't approve his appointment neither allowed him to enter the country, so he was never officially ordained. In 1956 he was appointed the bishop of Žiča, at that time, semi-officially, the second office of importance in the church, after the patriarch. In this capacity, he was also an administrator (acting bishop) of Budimlja-Polimlje and Raška-Prizren eparchies.


Appointment controversy

When patriarch Vikentije suddenly died on July 5, 1958, internal strife struck the church leadership and no agreement could be reached on who would succeed him. German was not even appointed as the guardian of the throne (acting patriarch), instead the bishop of Braničevo, Hrizostom Vojinović was appointed to vacate the post. It is believed that German's election was a compromise, but the still popular story is that Aleksandar Ranković, the top Serbian Communist official at that time, and later Tito's deputy, entered the Holy Synod's session, bringing German inside, and saying: "This is your new patriarch!"

German was elected the 43rd Patriarch of Peć on September 14, 1958. However some sources claim a much higher number, as a result of over a dozen of people who occupied the throne, but were not officially ordained or recognized as such (such as several rebel-patriarchs in the 16th century during the Ottoman occupation) or the patriarchs of Karlovci in Austria-Hungary which are not counted in the list of official patriarchs (especially not as patriarchs of Peć, instead calling themselves patriarchs of the Serbs).


Whether the story of his appointment was true or constructed later by his opponents, German was labeled a red patriarch from the beginning, especially from the dioceses from abroad. This was one of the reason of the split of the diocese of Nova Gračanica in North America in 1963, and the appointment of two bishops, one schismatic and another loyal to German. The problem was solved in 1992 in the early period of German's successor, patriarch Pavle, when the split diocese rejoined the jurisdiction of the Serbian Orthodox Church, thus suggesting that the problem was perhaps more a personal, rather than a dogmatic dispute.

The schism of the Macedonian Orthodox Church is a much deeper and complicated issue. It began in 1958, the very year of German's election, with an allegedly willing acceptance of the autonomy of Ohrid Archbishopric proclaimed by the archbishop Dositej. This was a great blow to German's religious authority as it was a forced acceptance, pushed by the Communist Party. In the next 9 years, patriarch and archibshop held several joint liturgies, even with the heads of other Orthodox Churches. However, in 1967, archbishop Dositej completely split his archbishopric (within the borders of the Socialist Federal Republic of Macedonia) from the mother church, claiming heritage from the Greek-Bulgarian-Serbian Archbishopric of Ohrid, which had been non-existent for 200 years. German and the Serbian Orthodox Church, claiming the separation was forced and uncanonical (in other words, they deemed it a church established by the Communists) ended any canonical communication with the Macedonian Orthodox Church. In turn, German's example was followed by all the other Orthodox Churches, as it is to this day. The problem continued after German and the break-up of Yugoslavia, and it became a highly political issue, not only with the Serbian Orthodox Church, but with the Greek and the Bulgarian Orthodox Church.

Revitalization and consequences

German set to revitalize the Serbian Orthodox Church, which was greatly oppressed by the Communist government. During his entire tenure, he kept a low profile, while achieving certain goals in this direction.

Despite harsh conditions, he managed to form several new dioceses: Western Europe (1969), Australia (1973), Vranje (1975) and Canada (1983).

He oversaw the finishing works on the new seminary complex of buildings in Belgrade (including the campus) in 1958, so today the entire neighborhood surrounding the complex is known as Bogoslovija (Serbian for seminary). He also opened new seminary in the Krka monastery in Croatia.

He was very involved in appointing bishops, staunchily pushing his own candidates, especially in the case of the metropolis of Montenegro and the Coastlands after the Communists arrested the vladika Arsenije Bradvarović in 1954, but German managed to appoint his protege, Danilo Dajković in 1961. He also sent many priests in Montenegro as clerical activities had almost completely ceased there after the war.

In 1984 he visited the site of the concentration camp Jasenovac, saying a now famous line: Oprostiti moramo, zaboraviti ne smemo (To forgive, we must forget, we must not).

Many consider German's greatest achievement to be his successful campaign for the resumption of the construction of the Temple of Saint Sava in Belgrade, which was stopped in 1941. In 26 years from his appointment, he urged Communist government 88 times until they finally authorized the construction to continue in 1984. Being a massive project, the temple is still not completed.

Patriarch German was a pragmatic religious leader in times that were very oppressive for religion. After the death of Tito in 1980, he slowly pushed church issues as Yugoslav society changed and nationalism grew among the various peoples, and in the end he was universally popular among the Serbs and had become a part of the Serbian social elite.

In 1989, patriarch German broke his hip, which led to a series of surgeries and repeated injuries, so the already old patriarch was unable to perform his duties. As a result of this, the Holy Synod declared him incapacitated on August 27, 1990, and appointed the metropolitan bishop of Zagreb and Ljubljana Jovan Pavlović as the guardian of the throne and elected the new patriarch, Pavle, on December 1, 1990. Patriarch German died in the VMA hospital in Belgrade on August 27, 1991, aged 92, and was buried in Belgrade's St. Mark's Church.

His tenure of 32 years is one of the longest in the history of the Serbian Orthodox Church.


Preceded by
Vikentije II
Patriarch of Serbia
Succeeded by

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