Patriarch Pavle, whose secular name was Gojko Stojčević, was born 11 September 1914 on the feast of the Beheading of John the Baptist in the village of Kućanci in Slavonia (Yugoslavia). He graduated from high school in Belgrade and the seminary in Sarajevo. Then he continued his education at the Theological Faculty in Belgrade. During the Second World War, Gojko was among the refugees in the monastery of the Holy Trinity in Ovčara, where he became a novice. In the monastery, the future First Hierarch of the Serbian Church taught catechism to the children of refugees. After the war, Gojko went to the Annunciation Monastery at Ovčara, where he took his monastic vows in 1948 and was ordained to the rank of hierodeacon. From 1949 to 1955, hierodeacon Pavle was part of the brotherhood of the Rača monastery, and he carried out a variety of monastic obediences. In 1954, he was ordained to the priesthood, and, in 1957, elevated to the rank of Archimandrite. From 1955 to 1957, he studied the Scriptures, New Testament, and liturgics at the Theological Faculty of Athens.
On 29 May 1957, in the Cathedral in Belgrade, Archimandrite Pavle was consecrated as Bishop of Raška and Prizren took place. As head of the diocese of Raška and Prizren, he was actively engaged in the construction of new churches and worked to restore and preserve Orthodox holy places in Kosovo and Metohija. He travelled extensively and served in many of the parishes of his diocese. However, Bishop Pavle never neglected his academic work and teaching. In 1988, the Theological Faculty in Belgrade awarded him a doctorate in theology.
In November 1990, a decision of the Holy Synod elected Bishop Pavle Stojčević the First Hierarch of the Serbian Church to replace the ailing Patriarch German Đorić (Vladyki German died less than a year later in August 1991). The enthronement of Bishop Pavle as the 44th Patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church took place on 2 December 1990 in the cathedral church of Belgrade. During his ministry, Patriarch Pavle visited many dioceses of the Serbian Church in the former Yugoslavia and abroad. His Holiness visited his flock in Australia, America, Canada, and Western Europe. His Holiness Patriarch Pavle wrote several books, and, for more than twenty years, The Journal of the Serbian Orthodox Church published articles by him on the liturgy. For a long time, he was President of the Synodal Commission for the translation of the New Testament Holy Scriptures.
On 13 November 2007, Patriarch Pavle was hospitalised in the hospital of the Military Medical Academy in Belgrade. On 8 November 2008, he tendered his resignation, claiming infirmity, but, on 12 November, the Archpastoral Council of the Serbian Orthodox Church decided not to grant the petition of the patriarch. During the period of the patriarch’s incapacity, the Holy Synod undertook to carry out his duties, and Metropolitan Amfilohije Radović of Montenegro and Primorsky was the effectual locum tenens.
The Serbian government declared a three-day national mourning period starting Monday after Patriarch Pavle died at 95 on Sunday. President Boris Tadić called the death of the patriarch “a huge loss” and said Pavle “united the nation”. Pavle called for peace and reconciliation in the 1990s during ethnic conflicts that resulted in the break-up of Yugoslavia. The patriarch, who was elected to head the Serbian Orthodox Church in 1990, died today of cardiac arrest during his sleep after having been hospitalised for two years in the Belgrade Military Hospital, doctors said. In the year 2000, the Serbian Church called on Slobodan Milošević, then president of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, to resign, after NATO air raids put an end to his crackdown on Kosovo Albanians.
Archpriest Nikolai Balashov, a deputy head of the MP Department of External Church Relations, said Patriarch Pavle was “a righteous man of our time”. Fr Nikolai said he symbolised “the spiritual unity of the Serb nation” and added that Pavle was “a great friend of the Russian Orthodox Church”. Patriarch Pavle’s burial will be at the Rakovica monastery in Belgrade on Thursday, local news agencies said after a meeting of the Church’s Holy Synod.