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The Serbian Orthodox Church is an autocephalous Eastern Orthodox Christian church, and the second oldest Slavic Orthodox Church in the world, after the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. The majority of the populations of Serbia, Montenegro, and the Republic Srpska of Bosnia and Herzegovina are members of the Serbian Orthodox Church. Organized into metropolises and apaches, largely in Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, and Croatia, Serbian emigration has led to the existence of Serbian Orthodox Churches in other parts of the world. The Serbian Patriarch is viewed as first among equals in his church. By the middle of the 4th century, Christianity had reached the Slavic lands from Rome and Constantinople. Under the influence of Saints Cyril and Methodius, the influence of Constantinople grew during the 9th century. Stefan Nemanja brought the Serbian chieftains together to form a single state in the 12th century, establishing himself as king. Abdicating in 1196 in favor of his son, Stefan II, he became a monk at Mount Athos, taking the name of Simeon. His other son, Sava, had become a monk at Mount Athos at the age of seventeen. Father and son founded a monastery in northern Greece named Khilandari, which is still in existence. In time, Sava returned to Serbia to find that Christianity had eroded, becoming mixed with paganism, and under the control of a few corrupt clergymen. Sava, who was later canonized, established a monastery at Studenica. When Constantinople was conquered by the Crusaders, Sava was sent by his brother, Stefan II, to Nicaea to be consecrated as bishop by the Patriarch of Constantinople, who had taken refuge there. Prior to this time, the Serbian Church had wavered in its allegiance between Rome and Constantinople. During his return to Serbia, Sava had stopped at Mount Athos to recruit some monks to help Christianize Serbia. In 1346, a Synod was held at Uskub, under King Stefan III, which proclaimed the Serbian Church to be autocephalous, elevating the Metropolitan of Pec to the status of a Patriarch. During the Turkish occupation, from 1389 to 1815, the Church was persecuted, but the 19th century brought revival and internal autonomy. At the time of World War I, the Serbian Church was divided into four Orthodox churches (Karlovtsy, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Czernovitz), but they united under the Patriarchate of Pec in 1920, a union that was recognized by the Patriarch of Constantinople. After World War II, the Church again faced persecution, this time by the communists, which lasted until the collapse of the Soviet Union. Today, while there is no official state religion in Serbia, the Serbian Orthodox Church has been given privileged status as the traditional church of Serbia. At the head of the Church is the Patriarch, who is also the Archbishop of Pec and the Metropolitan of Belgrade-Karlovci, and the ecclesiastical See is in Belgrade. The patriarch is assisted by several bishops, also known as metropolitans, and several eparchies, or ecclesiastical provinces, outside of the country, which are responsible for the diaspora, particularly the United States and Canada. Within the Serbian Orthodox Church, services are not conducted by a single person, but must have at least one other person present. Services are conducted daily only in monasteries and cathedrals. Parish churches conduct services on the weekend or on major feast days. The Church is in full communion with Constantinople, and is a member of the World Council of Churches and the Conference of European Churches.

 

 

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