Biography of His Holiness Irinej, Archbishop of Pec, Metropolitan of Belgrade-Karlovci and Serbian Patriarch


His Holiness Patriarch Irinej (Gavrilovic) of Serbia was born in the village of Vidova, near town of Cacak, Serbia, on 28 August, 1930. His baptismal name is Miroslav. He finished elementary school in his village, and later on high school in Cacak. Thereupon he enrolled and completed Theological Seminary in Prizren, Kosovo and Metochia, and graduated at the Faculty of Orthodox Theology in Belgrade. Upon graduation, he did his army service for a year and a half. The Holy Synod of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church appointed him a professor of the Prizren Theological Seminary, but before assuming this assignment he was tonsured by the late Serbian Patriarch Herman (German) and got the monastic name Irinej, at the Rakovica monastery near Belgrade in October 1959.

That same month, on the Feat of St. Paraskeva, October 27, 1959, at the Ruzica church within the Kalemegdan old town of Belgrade, he was ordained hieromonk. While he worked as a professor at the Prizren Seminary he spent a period of time at post-graduate studies in Athens. In 1969 he was appointed as Principal of the Monastic School in the Monastery of Ostrog, Montenegro, from where he returned back to Prizren and became Principal of the Prizren Seminary. From that office he was elected as Vicar Bishop of the then Patriarch of Serbia with the title of Bishop of Moravica in May, 1974. A year later, in 1975, he was elected as diocesan Bishop of Nis and enthroned in the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Nis on 15 June, 1975. As Bishop he headed the Diocese of Nis for the next 35 years.

When the Theological Seminary was displaced from Prizren due to Albanian revolts in 1999, Patriarch Irinej as Bishop of Nis made it possible that a new, large building of the Seminary was built in Nis, where the Seminary could continue its life.

The Holy Assembly of Bishops elected Bishop Irinej as Archbishop of Pec, Metropolitan of Belgrade-Karlovci and Serbian Patriarch on January 22, 2010, as successor of the previous Patriarch Pavle (Stojcevic). Consequently, he is the 45th Patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church.

The act of enthronement of His Holiness Irinej, Archbishop of Pec, Metropolitan of Belgrade-Karlovci and Serbian Patriarch, was performed on January 23, 2010, during the Holy Hierarchical Liturgy in Belgrade’s Cathedral church of Archangel Michael. The solemn Liturgy was officiated by the elected Serbian Patriarch Irinej with the concelebration of his brothers Bishops, priests and deacons, as well as representatives of the Russian and Greek Churches. Patriarch Irinej was formally enthroned to the ancient throne of the Serbian Patriarchs in the Patriarchate of Pec monastery on 3 October 2010, with participation of the representatives of all sister Orthodox Churches.

From the very beginning of His Patriarchal Ministry, though in very difficult time, His Holiness advocated peace and stability in the entire region.

On November 10 2010, he stated in an interview that "the Drina River [between Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina] is not a border, but a bridge that connects us. Although, in a way, we are one even today, God willing, we will soon really be one." Patriarch Irinej elaborated that for now "it is enough that we are one as people, as the Orthodox Church, and that we are on the same path of St. Sava and Christ". He praised the Serbs of Banja Luka stating that "[they fight] to preserve the Serbian name. Although this is not at all an easy task, they are succeeding."

On December 15th 2011, His Holiness was decorated by His Royal Highness Prince Davit Bagration Mukhraneli Batonishvilli of Georgia with The Grand Collar of The Order of The Eagle of Georgia and The Semeless Tunic of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

His Holiness Irinej has been considered, both abroad and at home, as a moderate traditionalist, open to global inter-religious dialogue. In an interview he indicated he would not oppose the first-ever visit by the Roman Catholic Pope to Serbia in 2013 as part of celebrations of the 1,700th anniversary of the Edict of Milan, the law under which Roman emperor Constantine, who was born in Niš, ended the persecution of Christians. His Holiness said that "there is the wish of the Pope" for a meeting in Niš and that it would be a chance "not just for a meeting, but for a dialogue".

Regarding the accession of Serbia to the European Union, the Serbian Patriarch  said that: "Serbia should not look with suspicion at the EU, if the EU respects the Serbian identity, culture and religion. We believe that we are an historical part of Europe, and we want to be in this family of peoples. In the accession we will accept everything that is not in contradiction with our cultural and historical identity.”

As the Head of the Serbian Orthodox Church His Holiness represents the highest spiritual authority among the Serbian people in Serbia and abroad. 

Serbian Patriarchate under His leadership has published an exceptional number of academic, liturgical, religious, as well as popular books for education and spiritual uplifting of the faithful. His Holiness is well known as a great preacher and uses every opportunity to preach the Word of God to all people. Most recently, the Diocese of Nis has published a collection of his sermons delivered in the Dioces of Nis, while he was Diocesan Bishop there.

His Holiness Irinej, Serbian Patriarch was admitted to the Military COVID Hospital “Karaburma”, as he tested positive for SARS CoV2 virus during the regular test procedure on November 4, 2020.

In the morning of 19 November 2020, the general health condition of His Holiness Irinej, Serbian Patriarch, deteriorated as the consequence of COVID 19.

The Archbishop of Pec, Metropolitan of Belgrade-Karlovci and Serbian Patriarch (Gavrilovic) reposed in the Lord in the Military Covid Hospital "Karaburma" in Belgrade, on Friday, November 20, 2020, at 7:07 AM.

In the Cathedral of the Holy Archangel Michael in Belgrade, in front of the body of the Patriarch Irinej of blessed memory the Holy Hierarchal Liturgy was celebrated by His Eminence Metropolitan Hrisostom of Dabar-Bosnia with the concelebration of Their Graces Bishops Jovan of Sumadija, David of Krusevac and Arsenij of Nis, in the prayerful presence of His Eminence Porfirije of Metropolitan of Zagreb-Ljubljana and His Grace Stefan of Remesiana, vicar ishop of the Serbian Patriarch on 21 December 2020.

The Holy Liturgy was celebrated on Sunday, November 22, 2020, in Saint Sava Cathedral in Vracar, starting at 9 am. His Eminence Metropolitan Hrizostom of Dabar-Bosnia, presided over the Liturgy, with the concelebration of the Their Eminences Metropolitans Hilarion of Volokolamsk from the Moscow Patriarchate and Antony of Borispol and Brovary, from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate; His Beatitude Archbishop of Ohrid and the Metropolitan of Skopje Jovan; His Eminence Metropolitan Porfirije of Zagreb-Ljubljana; Their Graces Bishops: Jovan of Sumadija, Irinej of Backa, Pahomije of Vranje, Teodosije of Raska-Prizren, David of Krusevac, Ilarion of Timok, Arsenije of Nis, Dimitrije of Zahumlye-Herzegovina, Antonije of Moravica, Isihije of Mohacs, Metodije of Dioclea, clergy of the Serbian Orthodox Church and guests from other local Orthodox Churches, in the prayerful presence of His Grace Bishop Grigorije of Dusseldorf and Germany, Stefan of Remesiana and retired Bishop Atanasije of Zahumlye-Herzegovina. During the Holy Liturgy, His Grace Irinej, Bishop of Backa, held a sermon.

The highest representatives of the Serbian people from the homeland and all the regions where the Serbian people live attended the Funeral Rite of the Serbian Patriarch Irinej. The funeral Liturgy, Funeral Rite and Burial were attended by the President of the Republic of Serbia Aleksandar Vucic, Serbian Member of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina Milorad Dodik, President of the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia Ivica Dacic, Prime Minister of the Serbian Government Ana Brnabic, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Nebojsa Stefanovic, Minister of Foreign Affairs Nikola Selakovis, Minister of the Interior Aleksandar Vulin and other members of the Government of the Republic of Serbia, Chief of the General Staff of the Serbian Army General Milan Mojsilovic, Prime Minister-designate of Montenegro Zdravko Krivokapic, leaders of the Democratic Front of Montenegro Andrija Mandic and Milan Knezevic, Director of the Directorate for Cooperation with Churches and Religious Communities Dr. Mileta Radojevic, members of the Crown Council, representatives of the highest cultural, scientific and public institutions, members of the diplomatic corps, Mufti of Belgrade Mustafa ef. Jusufspahic on behalf of the Islamic Community of Serbia, Apostolic Nuncio in Belgrade Archbishop Suriano Luciano, Roman-Catholic Archbishop of Belgrade Stanislav Hocevar, representatives of traditional Churches and religious communities in Serbia.

Immediately after the Divine Liturgy, the Funeral rite was performed, when the chairman of the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Hrizostom of Dabar-Bosnia;  Chairman of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk; principal of the Cathedral church of the Holy Archangel Michael in Belgrade, archpriest-staurophor Petar Lukic; President of the Republic of Serbia Mr. Aleksandar Vucic and the Serbian member of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mr. Milorad Dodik, delivered speeches.

The Patriarch's body was then buried in the crypt of the Cathedral of Saint Sava

Members of the Serbian Army and Police, together with their people, honored the late Serbian Patriarch Irinej in the most dignified manner, thus confirming their unity with the Serbian Orthodox Church and testifying that together they are centuries-old, lasting and strongest pillars of the Serbian state. The Serbian Army guards carried the coffin with the body of the Patriarch of blessed memory and formed honorary lines both in front of the Cathedral and the Church of St. Sava.

A team of artists from the Russian Federation, headed by the prominent people’s artist Nikolai Muhin, who for years under the watchful eye of the Patriarch performed works on the interior decoration of the Cathedral of St. Sava, honored the Serbian Patriarch by their presence.


His Holiness Patriarch Irinej’s Inter-Orthodox and ecumenical activities:

  • His Holiness Serbian Patriarch Irinej paid an irenic and canonical visit to His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew immediately after his enthronement;
  • He participated in the celebration of the 1250th anniversary of baptism of Russia in 2013;
  • He paid an irenic and canonical visit to the Patriarchate of Alexandria and All Africa in October 2012;
  • In 2013 He paid a visit to Mount Athos and Monastery Chilandar;
  • He led an Interreligious delegation from Serbia that participated in the second Inter-religious dialogue in Jakarta in October 2013, at the State-level between Serbia and Indonesia;
  • He actively supports the Inter-Christian dialogue between Christian denominations of East and West and communicates with Heads, Leaders and Church Dignitaries of other confessions and religions at the highest level;
  • In May 2014, upon the invitation of His Beatitude Anastasios of Albania, His Holiness Patriarch Irinej visited Tirana at the occasion of consecration of the Cathedral church of the Holy Resurrection;
  • In October 2014 His Holiness Serbian Patriarch Irinej hosted the Pan-Orthodox 1700th anniversary of the Edict of Milan in Nis, Serbia, the birth-place of Emperor Constantine.
  • Serbian Patriarch Irinej took an active part in the Pan-Orthodox gathering in Constantinople in March 2014, when it was decided to begin with preparations for a Great and Holy Pan-Orthodox Council to be held in 2016.
  • He paid an irenic and canonical visit to the ancient Patriarchate of Antioch in June 2019.

Awards and honors

  • Grand Cross of the Order of the Star of Karađorđe, Karađorđević dynasty
  • Grand Collar of the Order of the Eagle of Georgia, Bagrationi dynasty
  • Order of Saint Nikolaj, Eparchy of Šabac
  • Saint Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary, honorary degree
  • Honorary citizen, Zemun

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The Office of His Holiness Serbian Patriarch
Serbian Patriarchate,
Kralja Petra 5 , 11000 Belgrade,  Serbia
phone/fax. +381-11-3283-997