No bishop for the butcher

pec001So, unless I have missed something somewhere, it does not appear that a bishop -- or perhaps even a priest -- showed up to help lead the memorial services for the butcher of Belgrade. I do not think that Ramsey Clark counts. He is a priest in the wrong faith.

So is Reuters planning to print a correction? The wire service did, after all, print a story that bluntly said the Serbian Orthodox Church -- as a sign of support for his legacy -- would be holding a memorial service for former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. Instead, the hard socialist left of the Serbian past staged what resembled large political rallies for its fallen leader.

Writing in the Los Angeles Times, Alissa J. Rubin reported that:

Neither Milosevic's widow, Mirjana Markovic, nor his children, Marko and Marija, attended the funeral, which was televised on a single Serbian network. Markovic and her son live in exile in Moscow, and she faces corruption charges in Serbia.

Despite expectations that a Serbian Orthodox bishop would preside, the former leader was buried after dark without a religious service under a linden tree in the garden of the house he owned here. After letters from his widow and son were read, leaders of the Socialist Party kissed the simple wooden grave marker, followed by two boys and a girl dressed in camouflage uniforms.

So what is going on here? As I said the other day, it is true that, in Serbia, themes of national pride and centuries of suffering are woven into political life and some of that is connected with Orthodoxy. I would be stunned if there were no religious images linked to as powerful a figure as Milosevic. After all, he was a master at manipulating the emotions of many, many Serbians.

Yet Patriarch Pavle and other key Orthodox leaders were vocal in their support of movements in opposition to Milosevic and his Communist thugs.

So who showed up to mourn his death? You can check off the names and groups for yourself. Daniel Williams, in the Washington Post, reports the following:

On Saturday, political associates fashioned a legend of Milosevic as a steadfast champion of Serbia and victim of the West. "We are bidding farewell to the best one among us," said Milorad Vucelic, a Socialist Party official.

The leader of the Serbian Radical Party, Vojislav Sesel, who is on trial at The Hague for war crimes, also sent a message: "Our Serbia will rise like a phoenix from the ashes." Another war crimes suspect, Dragoljub Ojdanic, chief of staff during the Kosovo war who is out of Hague custody on bail until his trial begins, attended the funeral wearing his general's uniform.

Ramsey Clark, a former U.S. attorney general fresh from participating in Saddam Hussein's defense in Baghdad, praised Milosevic, saying "He was a man for the ages."

And all of the GetReligion readers on the political left said: "Ouch?"

Please respect our Commenting Policy