The Serbian Patriarch Pavle is the hero of many stories and anecdotes. They reinforce the legend that he was a humble – popular man living a holy life. (…) Patriarch Pavle, through his way of life, was dear to many people.
The Mercedes story
Patriarch Pavle, as he was known, continued to live a simple life even after he moved to the new residence – the Patriarchal Palace – in Belgrade. People form Belgrade often encountered him on the streets, riding the train or the bus … Once, while walking alone the hilly street of King Peter the I, towards the Patriarchate, a Mercedes – last model barely passed him, the driver – a priest from one of the well known parish in Belgrade, stopped the car and said:
– Your Holiness, permit me to invite you in! Just tell me where you heading …The Patriarch entered the car, and as soon as it started moving, asked:
— Tell me, Father, whose car is this?
– It’s mine, your Holiness!
– Stop it! – the Patriarch replied, he then got off, made the sign of the Cross and said to the priest:
-May the Lord, watch over you!
The black automobile story
The great session of the Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church had just ended. As it was the customary, his Holiness was heading to the vespers service at the Cathedral. When he exited the Patriarchal Palace, he saw many black limousines parked near and asked:
– So many luxury cars, who do you think they belong to?
– To our bishops, Your Holiness! They came with them to the Synod meeting-replied the priest who accompanied him.
— Oh, God watch over them, what would they’ve traveled with, if they weren’t taken the monastic vows of poverty?!
The trubbled deacon
In the Patriarchate building, it is often heard the story of the Patriarch dialogue with the deacon accompanying him everywhere; as they were ready to go to the church in Banovo Brdo, the deacon asked:
– So, how are we traveling? By car?
– By bus! – the Patriarch replied with determination.
– It’s crowded, it’s stuffy in the bus, and the church is not close …
– We’re going (by bus)! — His Holiness replied shortly.
– But … — the Deacon, following him, advance a new argument, — Your Holiness, it is summer, many people go to Ada Ciganlija [a famous pool] and buses are full of barely naked people. It is not appropriate...
– You know, Father – the Patriarch replied back – one can see what he desires to see!
In the Patriarchal Palace several bishops are having lunch and, among them the Patriarch Pavle. The bowl with olives come to the table, among other things. Everybody knows that the Patriarch holds to the idea that the human body needs optimal only six olives. But the bishop Stephen started to take eight olives.
– Your Holiness, I took two more. What am I to do now?
– Now hold what you got, and tomorrow take two less – replied the Patriarch.
Message for America
When bishop Pavle became Patriarch, (the director of BOS Museum recalls), many delegations and many foreign representatives have expressed their desire to meet him. The active American ambassador at that time in Belgrade, Warren Zimmermann, also came. The Patriarch received him in the Patriarchal Palace. The ambassador conveyed greetings and congratulations on behalf of the American people, himself and the President. At the end of the formal protocol, the ambassador had asked:
– How may we help you?
– Your Excellency, don’t intervene by setting obstacles, that is how you can help. (…)
Patriarch Pavle refused, in fact, to get paid. He only received a small pension he was entitled to as a formal bishop of Raska and Prizren. All his needs were modest, given that he sewed his mantle and repaired his shoes ... Yet, he still had some money left of that pension. What was left of it, he divided among poor or donated it to other purposes of civic good.
It remained memorable his reaction as a bishop in 1962, when a request from bishops was made to increase their salaries:
– “But why, since we are not able to spend what we already have?”.
He did, likewise with what he received as gifts. If he received mantle material, he keep it until he met a monk or a priest not been able to afford it. Then he would calculate how much they would need to sew a cassock (mantle) and give them exactly that, so he may share the rest with others.
Renowned historian Zika Stojkovich, who has worked with the bishop Pavle during his assignment in Raska and Prizren, when editing his work” Monuments of Kosovo”, complained once to the Patriarch of the difficulty of raising money to continue the print of the work-series he had started and belonging to one of the most prominent Serbian writers, Milos Crnjanski. After been listening to him, the Patriarch rose, went to his bed, raised the pillow, picked his wallet, took out three thousand marks and handed to Stojkovich:
– “Here, it’s my contribution for the printing of Crnjanski Milos’ books. May it be for your assistance. ”
The “question mark”
A bohemian who often spent time at a cafe named “?” near the Patriarchate, whenever he would see the Patriarch, he would cross the street and ran to get his blessing. One day he said:
– Your Holiness, you and I are the best people in Belgrade aren’t we! And the Patriarch replied:
– We are, but after we empty a few glasses, no longer we’re good for anything! (…) ”
(Translated by EC)
May the Lord forgive him and rest him with His saints, Amen!