Un'intervista con Cedomir Cupic, Professore di antropologia politica e sociologia, presso la Facoltà di Scienze politiche di Belgrado.
...in the future he hopes the streams dominating in the SPC will be much more open to co-operation, and have much more understanding and tolerance towards the others...
At the same time that Milosevic came to power in the late eighties and early nineties, certain changes in relation to the church occurred.
"It seems to me that in that period the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC), was challenged, and was not able to answer properly to this challenge", said Cupic.Cupic also stressed, as being important, that the SPC was, at that time, frustrated in a way. This frustration had its roots in the period of hard communist ideology, which lived its strongest moments just after the finishing of the Second World War.
"There was actually some warmth put into relations with the SPC in seventies and eighties. However the SPC still felt like something rejected, unwanted, etc. The SPC was not forbidden to work under the communist regime, but on the other hand it was often accused and annoyed by official authorities. Often the authority intervened in church business, in a way any ideology is capable of doing, especially an ideology in power", explained Cupic.
The early 1990's, nationalism, and the church
So, when we look at the beginning of the nineties, when we again had a situation of a new ideology opening towards the church (SPC), it was the SPC itself not being mature enough to accept this, as was expected.
"I remember that in that period of the early nineties, a lot of media coverage was focusing on the SPC. Of course, the SPC officials were also the ones to accept this, as they wanted to talk about the problems and suffering constantly around them". This is actually the moment Cupic stresses as the most dangerous one saying that the SPC strongly adjusted to the new (Milosevic) authority, thinking that the authority would help them solve all their problems. The first thing the church asked for was its property, nationalised by the communist regime, to be returned. The SPC was getting some positive signals from the authority. However, when it came to the final decisions, like providing a law on denationalisation, then there were issues like the avoidance of the President of the Republic to sign it. Hence the SPC's hopes for its property being returned were betrayed.
The saddest thing was that the SPC did not realise that betrayal. It was that the SPC had just adjusted to the new ideology, especially at the beginning of the wars. The SPC accepted this new ideology, and supported it hoping at the same time that by doing this it would be able to get back everything it lost.
"And it was at that moment when the SPC joined something really bad. The SPC stepped into nationalism, and became closed against other churches and other religious communities", explained Cupic.
Cupic also stressed another characteristic in the historic development of the Serbian Orthodox Church, by saying that SPC went through numerous transformations in the last century and the half.
The church changed its title, and with this changes it also modified its role and meaning.
"It was first just Orthodox Church, and then at the end of XIX century its title became Orthodox Serbian Church.
In XX century, eventually, it was renamed Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC)" explained Cupic.Cupic commented on this transformation in title as actually being bad for the church. "By calling itself the Serbian Orthodox Church, it became a national religion of Serbs and that was also the kind of closing I was talking about", reminded Cupic. He added that by doing this, the SPC gave a chance to a certain nationalistic, and even Nazi groups, to misuse its name. Hence the groups pledging that it was done in the name of the SPC, committed serious crimes. "However I have to remind you that the SPC never supported these crimes", stressed Cupic.
Cupic also stressed that when discussing this topic, it is important to separate religion from the church, which is an organisation. Also, on the other hand, one has to make a distinction among church and its high officials and representatives.
"These officials might do wrong things, and no one can accuse the whole church of doing bad things" commented Cupic.
Again, I would like to comment on the period at the beginning of the nineties, when a certain number of right-oriented, or to say belonging to a clerically-nationalistic orientation played an important role. This group of people badly influenced church politics, and sometimes even intervened in civil politics, which was really very bad. In one of the most important postulates of Modern western culture, in civil society, the church has an autonomous position, and is not an adjusting state.
"That kind of union, among the state and the church, is very bad for both the church and the state. If you adjust to a certain ideology, you are in danger to become instrumentalised, and used. And then, often your responsibility is also being questioned. Unfortunately, it happened here, that the church was compromised by these clerical- nationalistic groups in the church. Of course I can not say that the whole church was responsible" said Cupic, by giving an example that during the hardest times in the previous ten years there were a certain number of SPC officials establishing contacts with other church representatives. Cupic also commented that the SPC did not understand the multi- national background of Serbia, and did not have universal ideas, not to widen, but to implement the universal ideas of good, love, beauty, justice, and freedom. Conversely if the church is fonder of its uniqueness than universal ideas it is in a direct way provoking conflicts, and animosity towards other nations, etc.
"It also must be said that sometimes, due to the concrete moves of other religious communities, where the Serbian, or better the orthodox habitants were endangered, and living in an unpleasant atmosphere, the SPC had an alibi for some moves on its side", explained Cupic. He added that in the future he hopes the streams dominating in the SPC will be much more open to co-operation, and have much more understanding and tolerance towards the others; streams that will respect differences, and affirm the life of differences, the experience of differences, etc.
Do you think the church today has an impact in political decision making?
"I think it does not, but today the manipulation with the institution of church is still present. The manipulation is being done through certain politicians, who are for instance stressing their church devotion. However, one has to always bare in mind that politicians are the people who want to obtain popularity among the citizens, therefore they are even ready to misuse the church in order to say that church is backing them, and that they have its support and blessing", said Cupic. He adds that he hopes the church will not intervene in the state branches, stay autonomous, and keep the autonomy of its people practising religion. Because, if not, intervening in branches not being of its let's say vocation, it will not be capable of managing things well, because there is another logic that is dominant there.
"If we form one good democratic society, and if we change the system, bring new good laws, and people who will implement these laws properly, I think that consequently the church (SPC) will form a consciousness about the greatness of autonomy towards the state", concluded Cupic (Belgrade, December 7, 2001).