Serbia has been traditionally a Christian country since the Christianization of Serbs by Clement of Ohrid and Saint Naum in the 9th century. The dominant confession is Eastern Orthodoxy of the Serbian Orthodox Church. During the Ottoman rule of the Balkans, Sunni Islam established itself in the territories of Serbia, mainly in southern regions of Raska (or Sandzak) and Presevo Valley, as well as in Kosovo and Metohija. The Catholic Church has roots in the country since the presence of Hungarians in Vojvodina (mainly in the northern part of the province), while Protestantism arrived in the 18th and 19th century with the settlement of Slovaks in Vojvodina.
Religion in Serbia (2011 census)
Orthodox Christianity (84.59%)
No religion (1.17%)
Declined to answer (3.07%)
Most of the citizens of Serbia are adherents of the Serbian Orthodox Church, while the Romanian Orthodox Church is also present in parts of Vojvodina inhabited by ethnic Romanian minority. Besides Serbs, other Eastern Orthodox Christians include Montenegrins, Romanians, Macedonians, Bulgarians, Vlachs and majority of Roma people.
Eastern Orthodox Christianity predominates throughout most of Serbia, excluding several municipalities and cities near border with neighbouring countries where adherents of Islam or Catholicism are more numerous as well as excluding two predominantly Protestant municipalities in Vojvodina. Eastern Orthodoxy also predominates in most of the large cities of Serbia, excluding the cities of Subotica (which is mostly Catholic) and Novi Pazar (which is mostly Muslim).
The identity of ethnic Serbs was historically largely based on Eastern Orthodox Christianity and on the Serbian Orthodox Church, to the extent that there are claims that those who are not its faithful are not Serbs. However, the conversion of the south Slavs from paganism to Christianity took place before the Great Schism, the split between the Greek East and the Latin West. After the Schism, generally speaking, those Christians who lived within the Eastern Orthodox sphere of influence became “Eastern Orthodox” and those who lived within the Catholic sphere of influence, under Rome as the patriarchal see of the West, became “Catholic”. Some ethnologists consider that the distinct Serb and Croat identities relate to religion rather than ethnicity. With the arrival of the Ottoman Empire, some Serbs converted to Islam. This was particularly, but not wholly, so in Bosnia. Since the second half of the 19th century, some Serbs converted to Protestantism, while historically some Serbs also were Latin Rite Catholic (especially in Dalmatia) or Eastern Catholic.
Serbian Orthodox Church
The Serbian Orthodox Church is one of the autocephalous Eastern Orthodox Christian Churches. It is the second-oldest Slavic Orthodox Church in the world (after the Bulgarian Orthodox Church).
The Serbian Orthodox Church comprises the majority of the population in Serbia, Montenegro, and the Republika Srpska entity of Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is organized into metropolises and dioceses located primarily in Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, and Croatia, but also all over the world where Serb diaspora lives.
The Serbian Orthodox Church is an autocephalous, or ecclesiastically independent, member of the Eastern Orthodox communion. Serbian Patriarch serves as first among equals in his church; the current patriarch is Irinej. The Church achieved autocephalous status in 1219 under the leadership of St. Sava, becoming independent Archbishopric of Zica. Its status was elevated to that of a patriarchate in 1346 and was known afterward as the Serbian Patriarchate of Pec. This patriarchate was abolished by the Ottoman Turks in 1766, though the Serbian Church continued to exist with its exarchs in Serb-populated territories in the Ottoman Empire, the Habsburg Monarchy, the Republic of Venice and the First French Empire. Finally, the modern Serbian Orthodox Church was re-established in 1920 after the unification of the Patriarchate of Karlovci, the Metropolitanate of Belgrade and the Metropolitanate of Montenegro.
Christianity spread to the Balkans beginning in the 1st century. Constantine the Great (306–337), born in Nis, was the first Christian Roman emperor. Several bishops seated in what is today Serbia participated in the First Council of Nicaea (325), such as Ursacius of Singidunum. In 380, Eastern Roman Emperor Theodosius I decreed that his subjects would be Christians according to the Council of Nicea formula. Greek was used in the Byzantine church, while the Roman church used Latin. With the definite split in 395, the line in Europe ran south along the Drina River. Among old Christian heritage is the Archbishopric of Justiniana Prima, established in 535, which had jurisdiction over the whole of present-day Serbia. However, the Archbishopric did not last, as the Slavs and Avars destroyed the region sometime after 602 when the last mention is made of it. In 731 Leo III attached Illyricum and Southern Italy (Sicily and Calabria) to Patriarch Anastasius of Constantinople, transferring the papal authority to the Eastern Church.
Christianization of Serbs
The history of the early medieval Serbian Principality is recorded in the work De Administrando Imperio (DAI), compiled by the Byzantine Emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus (r. 913–959). The DAI drew information on the Serbs from, among others,a Serbian source. The Serbs were said to have received the protection of Emperor Heraclius (r. 610–641), and Porphyrogenitus stressed that the Serbs had always been under Imperial rule. His account on the first Christianization of the Serbs can be dated to 632–638; this might have been Porphyrogenitus’ construction, or may have really taken place, encompassing a limited group of chiefs and then very poorly received by the wider layers of the tribe. The establishment of Christianity as state religion dates to the time of Prince Mutimir (r. 851–891) and Byzantine Emperor Basil I (r. 867–886). Porphyrogenitus attests that Croats and Serbs sent delegates asking for baptism, thus Basil “baptized all of them that were unbaptized of the aforesaid nations”. The Christianization was due partly to Byzantine and subsequent Bulgarian influence. At least during the rule of Kocel (861–874) in Pannonia, communications between Serbia and Great Moravia, where Methodius was active, must have been possible. This fact, the pope was presumably aware of, when planning Methodius’ diocese as well as that of the Dalmatian coast, which was in Byzantine hands as far north as Split. There is a possibility that some Cyrillomethodian pupils reached Serbia in the 870s, perhaps even sent by Methodius himself. Serbia was accounted Christian as of about 870.
The first Serbian bishopric was founded at Ras, near modern Novi Pazar on the Ibar River. According to Vlasto, the initial affiliation is uncertain; it may have been under the subordination of either Split or Durazzo, both then Byzantine. The early Ras church can be dated to the 9th–10th century, with the rotunda plan characteristic of first court chapels. The bishopric was established shortly after 871, during the rule of Mutimir, and was part of the general plan of establishing bishoprics in the Slav lands of the empire, confirmed by the Council of Constantinople in 879–880. The names of Serbian rulers through Mutimir (r. 851–891) are Slavic dithematic names, per the Old Slavic tradition. With Christianization in the 9th century, Christian names appear. The next generations of Serbian royalty had Christian names (Petar, Stefan, Pavle, Zaharije, etc.), evident of strong Byzantine missions in the 870s. Petar Gojnikovic (r. 892–917) was evidently a Christian prince, and Christianity presumably was spreading in his time; also since Serbia bordered Bulgaria, Christian influences and perhaps missionaries came from there, increasing during the twenty-year peace. The Bulgarian annexation of Serbia in 924 was important for the future direction of the Serbian church, and by then, at latest, Serbia must have received the Cyrillic alphabet and Slavic religious text, already familiar but perhaps not yet preferred to Greek.
Archbishopric of Ohrid (1018–1219)
After the Byzantine conquest of Bulgaria in 1018, by order of Emperor Basil II an autonomous Bulgarian Archbishopric of Ohrid was established in 1019, by lowering the rank of the autocephalous Bulgarian Patriarchate due to its subjugation to Constantinople, placing it under the supreme ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. Gradually, Greek replaced Bulgarian Slavic as the liturgical language. Serbia was ecclesiastically administered into several bishoprics: the bishopric of Ras, mentioned in the first charter of Basil II (r. 976–1025), became part of the Ohrid archbishopric and encompassed the central areas of Serbia, by the rivers Raska, Ibar and Lim, evident in the second charter of Basil II. In the chrysobulls of Basil II dated to 1020, the Ras bishopric is mentioned as serving the whole of Serbia, with the seat at the Church of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, Ras. Among the first bishops were Leontius (fl. 1123–1126), Cyril (fl. 1141–1143), Euthemius (fl. 1170) and Kalinik (fl. 1196). It later joined the autocephalous Archbishopric of Zica in 1219, at the time of Saint Sava.
The 10th- or 11th-century Gospel Book Codex Marianus, written in Old Church Slavonic in the Glagolithic script, is one of the oldest known Slavic manuscripts and was partly written in the Serbian redaction of Old Church Slavonic. Other early manuscripts include 11th-century Grskovicev odlomak Apostola and Mihanovicev odlomak.
Autocephalous Archbishopric (1219–1346)
Serbian prince Rastko Nemanjic, the son of Stefan Nemanja, took monastic vows at Mount Athos as Sava (Sabbas) in 1192. Three years later, his father joined him, taking monastic vows as Simeon. Father and son asked of the Holy Community that the Serbian religious centre be founded at the abandoned site of Hilandar, which they renovated, marking the beginning of a renaissance (in arts, literature and religion). Sava’s father died at Hilandar in 1199, and was canonised as St. Simeon. Sava stayed for some years, rising in rank, then returned to Serbia in 1207, taking with him the remains of his father, which he interred at the Studenica monastery, after reconciling his two quarrelling brothers Stefan Nemanjic and Vukan. Stefan asked him to remain in Serbia with his clerics, which he did, providing widespread pastoral care and education to the people of Serbia. He founded several churches and monasteries, among them the Zica monastery. In 1217, Stefan was proclaimed King of Serbia, and various questions of the church reorganization were opened.
Sava returned to the Holy Mountain in 1217/18, preparing for the formation of an autocephalous Serbian Church. He was consecrated in 1219 as the first Archbishop of the Serbian Church, and was given autocephaly by Patriarch Manuel I of Constantinople, who was then in exile at Nicaea. In the same year Sava published Nomocanon. Thus the Serbs acquired both forms of independence: political and religious. Sava appointed several bishops, sending them over all of Serbia to organize their dioceses. To maintain his standing as the religious and social leader, he continued to travel among the monasteries and lands to educate the people. In 1221 a synod was held in the Zica monastery, condemning Bogomilism.
In 1229/1233, Saint Sava went on a pilgrimage to Palestine and in Jerusalem he met with Patriarch Athanasios II. Sava saw Bethlehem where Jesus was born, the Jordan River where Christ was baptised, and the Great Lavra of Saint Sabbas the Sanctified (Mar Saba monastery). Sava asked Athanasios II, his host, and the Great Lavra fraternity, led by hegoumenos Nicolas, if he could purchase two monasteries in the Holy Land. His request was accepted and he was offered the monasteries of Saint John the Theologian on Mount Sion and St. George’s Monastery on Akona, both to be inhabited by Serbian monks. The icon Three-handed Theotokos, a gift to the Great Lavra from St. John Damascene, was given to Sava and he, in turn, bequeathed it to Hilandar.
Sava died in Veliko Tarnovo, capital of the Second Bulgarian Empire, during the reign of Ivan Asen II of Bulgaria. According to his biography, he fell ill following the Divine Liturgy on the Feast of the Epiphany, 12 January 1235. Sava was visiting Veliko Tarnovo on his way back from the Holy Land, where he had founded a hospice for Syrian pilgrims in Jerusalem and arranged for Serbian monks to be welcomed in the established monasteries there. He died of pneumonia in the night between Saturday and Sunday, January 14, 1235, and was buried at the Cathedral of the Holy Forty Martyrs in Veliko Tarnovo where his body remained until May 6, 1237, when his sacred bones were moved to the monastery Mileseva in southern Serbia.
In 1253 the see was transferred to the Monastery of Pec by archbishop Arsenije. The Serbian primates had since moved between the two. Sometime between 1276 and 1292 the Cumans burned the Zica monastery, and King Stefan Milutin (1282–1321) renovated it in 1292–1309, during the office of Jevstatije II. In 1289–1290, the chief treasures of the ruined monastery, including the remains of Saint Jevstatije I, were transferred to Pec. During the rule of the same king, the Monastery of Gracanica was also renewed, and during the reign of King Stefan Uros III (1321–3331), the Monastery of Decani was built, under the supervision of Archbishop Danilo II.
Medieval Patriarchate (1346–1463)
The status of the Serbian Orthodox Church grew along with the expansion and heightened prestige of the Serbian kingdom. After King Stefan Dusan assumed the imperial title of Emperor, the Serbian Archbishopric was correspondingly raised to the rank of Patriarchate in 1346. In the century that followed, the Serbian Church achieved its greatest power and prestige. In the 14th century Serbian Orthodox clergy had the title of Protos at Mount Athos.
On April 16, 1346 (Easter), Stefan Dusan convoked a grand assembly at Skopje, attended by the Serbian Archbishop Joanikije II, Archbishop Nicholas I of Ohrid, Patriarch Simeon of Bulgaria and various religious leaders of Mount Athos. The assembly and clergy agreed on, and then ceremonially performed the raising of the autocephalous Serbian Archbishopric to the status of Patriarchate. The Archbishop was from then on titled Serbian Patriarch, although some documents called him Patriarch of Serbs and Greeks, with the seat at Patriarchal Monastery in Pec. The new Patriarch Joanikije II now solemnly crowned Stefan Dusan as “Emperor and autocrat of Serbs and Romans” (see Emperor of Serbs). The Patriarchal status resulted in raising bishoprics to metropolitanates, as for example the Metropolitanate of Skopje. The Patriarchate took over sovereignty on Mt. Athos and the Greek archbishoprics under the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Constantinople (the Archbishopric of Ohrid remained autocephalous).
Renewed Patriarchate (1557–1766
The Ottoman Empire finally conquered the Serbian Despotate in 1459, the Bosnian Kingdom in 1463, Herzegovina in 1482 and Montenegro in 1499. All of the conquered lands were divided into sanjaks. Although some Serbs converted to Islam, most continued their adherence to the Serbian Orthodox Church. The Church itself continued to exist throughout the Ottoman period, though not without some disruption. After the death of Serbian Patriarch Arsenije II in 1463, a successor was not elected. The Patriarchate was thus de facto abolished, and the Serbian Church passed under the jurisdiction of Archbishopric of Ohrid and ultimately the Ecumenical Patriarchate which exercised jurisdiction over all Orthodox of the Ottoman Empire under the millet system.
After several failed attempts, made from c. 1530 up to 1541 by metropolitan Pavle of Smederevo to regain the autocephaly by seizing the throne of Pec and proclaiming himself not only Archbishop of Pec, but also Serbian Patriarch, the Serbian Patriarchate was finally restored in 1557 under the Sultan Suleiman I, thanks to the mediation of pasha Mehmed Sokolovic who was Serbian by birth. His cousin, one of the Serbian Orthodox bishops Makarije Sokolovic was elected Patriarch in Pec. The restoration of the Patriarchate was of great importance for the Serbs because it helped the spiritual unification of all Serbs in the Ottoman Empire. The Patriarchate of Pec also included some dioceses in western Bulgaria. In the time of Serbian Patriarch Jovan Kantul (1592–1614), the Ottoman Turks took the remains of Saint Sava from monastery Mileseva to the Vracar hill in Belgrade where they were burned by Sinan Pasha on a stake to intimidate the Serb people in case of revolts (see Banat Uprising) (1594). The Temple of Saint Sava was built on the place where his remains were burned.
After consequent Serbian uprisings against the Turkish occupiers in which the Church had a leading role, the Ottomans abolished the Patriarchate once again in 1766. The Church returned once more under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople. This period of rule by the so-called “Phanariots” was a period of great spiritual decline because the Greek bishops had very little understanding of their Serbian flock.
Church in the Habsburg Monarchy
During this period, Christians across the Balkans were under pressure to convert to Islam to avoid severe taxes imposed by the Turks in retaliation for uprisings and continued resistance. However, the success of Islamization was only limited to certain areas, with majority of Serbian population keeping its Christian faith despite the negative consequences. To avoid them, numerous Serbs migrated with their hierarchs to the Habsburg Monarchy where their autonomy had been granted. In 1708, an autonomous Serbian Orthodox Metropolitanate of Karlovci was created, that would later become a patriarchate (1848–1920).
The church’s close association with Serbian resistance to Ottoman rule led to Eastern Orthodoxy becoming inextricably linked with Serbian national identity and the new Serbian monarchy that emerged from 1815 onwards. The Serbian Orthodox Church in the Principality of Serbia gained its autonomy in 1831, and was organized as the Metropolitanate of Belgrade, remaining under the supreme ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. Principality of Serbia gained full political independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1878, and soon after that negotiations were initiated with the Ecumenical Patriarchate, resulting in canonical recognition of full ecclesiastical independence (autocephaly) for the Metropolitanate of Belgrade in 1879. At the same time, the Serbian Orthodox dioceses in Bosnia and Herzegovina remained under supreme ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, but gained internal autonomy. In the southern dioceses that remained under the Ottoman rule, Serbian metropolitans were appointed by the end of the 19th century. Thus by the beginning of the 20th century several distinctive Serbian ecclesiastical provinces existed, including the Patriarchate of Karlovci in the Habsburg Monarchy, the Metropolitanate of Belgrade in the Kingdom of Serbia, and the Metropolitanate of Montenegro in the Principality of Montenegro.
During the World War I (1914–1918), Serbian Orthodox Church suffered massive casualties. After the war all the Orthodox Serbs were united under one ecclesiastical authority, and two Serbian churches were united into the single Serbian Orthodox Church in 1920 with the election of Serbian Patriarch Dimitrije. It gained great political and social influence in the inter-war Kingdom of Yugoslavia, during which time it successfully campaigned against the Yugoslav government’s intentions of signing a concordat with the Holy See.
The united Serbian Orthodox Church kept under its jurisdiction the Diocese of Buda in Hungary. In 1921, the Serbian Orthodox Church created a new diocese for the Czech lands, headed by Bishop Gorazd Pavlik. At the same time, the Serbian Church among the diaspora was reorganized, and the diocese for the United States and Canada was created. In 1931 another diocese was created, called the Diocese of Mukacevo and Presov, for the Eastern Orthodox Christians in Slovakia and Carpathian Rusynia.
During the Second World War the Serbian Orthodox Church suffered severely from persecutions by the occupying powers and the rabidly anti-Serbian Ustase regime of Independent State of Croatia, which sought to create a “Croatian Orthodox Church” which Orthodox Serbs were forced to join. Many Serbs were killed, expelled or forced to convert to Catholicism during the Serbian Genocide; bishops and priests of the Serbian Orthodox Church were singled out for persecution, and many Orthodox churches were damaged or destroyed.
After the war the Church was suppressed by the communist government, which viewed it with suspicion due to the Church’s links with the exiled Serbian Royal Family and the royalist Chetnik movement. Along with other ecclesiastical institutions of all denominations, the Church was subject to strict controls by the Yugoslav state, which prohibited the teaching of religion in schools, confiscated Church property and discouraged religious activity among the population.
In 1963, the Serbian Church among the diaspora was reorganized, and the diocese for the United States and Canada was divided into three separate dioceses. At the same time, some internal divisions sparked in the Serbian diaspora, leading to the creation of the separate “Free Serbian Orthodox Church”. Division was healed in 1991, and Metropolitanate of New Gracanica was created, within the united Serbian Orthodox Church.
The gradual demise of Yugoslav communism and the rise of rival nationalist movements during the 1980s also led to a marked religious revival throughout Yugoslavia, not least in Serbia.
The Macedonian Orthodox Church was created in 1967, effectively as an offshoot of the Serbian Orthodox Church in what was then the Socialist Republic of Macedonia, as part of the Yugoslav drive to build up a Macedonian national identity. This was strongly resisted by the Serbian Church, which does not recognize the independence of its Macedonian counterpart. Campaigns for an independent Montenegrin Orthodox Church have also gained ground in recent years.
The Yugoslav wars gravely impacted several branches of the Serbian Orthodox Church. Many Serbian Orthodox Church clergy supported the war, while others were against it.
Many churches in Croatia were damaged or destroyed during the Croatian War (1991–95). The bishops and priests and most faithful of the dioceses of Zagreb, of Karlovac, of Slavonia and of Dalmatia became refugees. The latter three were almost completely abandoned after the exodus of the Serbs from Croatia in 1995 (Operation Storm). The diocese of Dalmatia also had its see temporarily moved to Knin after the Republic of Serbian Krajina was established. The diocese of Slavonia had its see moved from Pakrac to Daruvar. After Operation Storm, two monasteries were particularly damaged, the Krupa monastery built in 1317, and the Krka monastery built in 1345.
The dioceses of Bihac and Petrovac, Dabar-Bosnia and Zvornik and Tuzla were also dislocated due to the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The diocese see of Dabar-Bosnia was temporarily moved to Sokolac, and the see of Zvornik-Tuzla to Bijeljina. Over a hundred Church-owned objects in the Zvornik-Tuzla diocese were destroyed or damaged during the war. Many monasteries and churches in the Zahumlje diocese were also destroyed. Numerous faithful from these dioceses also became refugees.
By 1998, the situation had stabilized in both countries. Most of the property of the Serbian Orthodox Church was returned to normal use, the bishops and priests returned, and that which was destroyed, damaged or vandalized was restored. The process of rebuilding several churches is still under way, notably the cathedral of the Diocese of Upper Karlovac in Karlovac. The return of the Serbian Orthodox Church faithful also started, but they are not nearly close to their pre-war numbers, as of 2004.
Due to the Kosovo War, after 1999 numerous Serbian Orthodox holy sites in the province were left occupied only by clergy. Since the arrival of NATO troops in June 1999, 156 Serbian Orthodox churches and monasteries have been damaged or destroyed and several priests have been killed. During the few days of the 2004 unrest in Kosovo, 35 Serbian Orthodox churches and monasteries were damaged and some destroyed by Albanian mobs. Thousands of Serbs were forced to move from Kosovo due to the numerous attacks of Kosovo Albanians on Serbian churches and Serbs.
The process of church reorganization among the diaspora and full reintegration of the Metropolitanate of New Gracanica was completed from 2009 to 2011. By that, full structural unity of Serbian church institutions in the diaspora was achieved.
The head of the Serbian Orthodox Church, the Patriarch, also serves as the head (metropolitan) of the Metropolitanate of Belgrade and Karlovci. Irinej became patriarch on 22 January 2010. Serbian Orthodox patriarchs use the style His Holiness the Archbishop of Pec, Metropolitan of Belgrade and Karlovci, Serbian Patriarch.
The highest body of the Church is the Bishops’ Council. It consists of the Patriarch, the Metropolitans, Bishops, Archbishop of Ohrid and Vicar Bishops. It meets annually – in spring. The Holy assembly of Bishops makes important decisions for the church and elects the patriarch.
The executive body of the Serbian Orthodox Church is the Holy Synod. It has five members: four bishops and the patriarch. The Holy Synod takes care of the everyday operation of the Church, holding meetings on regular basis.
The territory of the Serbian Orthodox Church is divided into:
1 patriarchal diocese, headed by Serbian Patriarch
4 dioceses headed by metropolitans
35 dioceses headed by bishops
1 autonomous archbishopric, headed by archbishop, the Autonomous Archbishopric of Ohrid.
Catholic Church in Serbia
The Catholic Church in Serbia is part of the worldwide Catholic Church, under the spiritual leadership of the Pope in Rome. There are 356,957 Catholics in Serbia according to the 2011 census, which is roughly 5% of the population. Catholics are mostly concentrated in several municipalities in northern Vojvodina, and are mostly members of ethnic minorities, such as Hungarians and Croats.
First official Concordat between the former Kingdom of Serbia and Holy See was concluded on 24 June 1914. By the Second Article of Concordat, it was decided that the regular Archdiocese of Belgrade shall be created. Because of the breakout of First World War, those provisions could not be implemented, and only after the war new arrangements were made.
In 1918, Serbia became part of newly formed Kingdom of Yugoslavia. By 1924, the Archdiocese of Belgrade was officially created and first Archbishop appointed. New
Concordat was signed in 1935, but it was never officially ratified because of a political crisis in Yugoslavia (1936-1937).
Within Serbia, the Latin Rite Catholic hierarchy consists of one archdiocese, three dioceses and one apostolic administration.
In addition, the Byzantine Catholic Apostolic Exarchate of Serbia and Montenegro was established in 2002 for Eastern Catholics of the Byzantine Rite in Serbia and Montenegro. In 2013, jurisdiction of the Apostolic Exarchate was reduced to Serbia only.
The Diocese of Syrmia is a suffragan of the Archdiocese of Djakovo-Osijek in Croatia. Kosovo is under the Apostolic Administration of Prizren, which also covers some Albanian-populated parts of southern Serbia.
Protestantism in Serbia
The largest percentage of the Protestant Christians in Serbia on municipal level is in the municipalities of Backi Petrovac and Kovacica, where the absolute or relative majority of the population are ethnic Slovaks (most of whom are adherents of Protestant Christianity). Some members of other ethnic groups (especially Serbs in absolute terms and Hungarians and Germans in proportional terms) are also adherents of various forms of Protestant Christianity.
There are various neo-Protestant groups in the country, including Methodists, Seventh-day Adventists, Evangelical Baptists (Nazarene), and others. Many of these groups are situated in the culturally diverse province of Vojvodina. Prior to end of World War II number of Protestants in the region was larger
According to the 2011 census, the largest Protestant communities were recorded in the municipalities of Kovacica (11,349) and Backi Petrovac (8,516), as well as in Stara Pazova (4,940) and the second largest Serbian city Novi Sad (8,499), which are predominately Eastern Orthodox. While Protestants from Kovacica, Backi Petrovac and Stara Pazova are mostly Slovaks, members of Slovak Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Serbia, services in most of the Protestant churches in Novi Sad are performed in the Serbian language.
Protestantism (mostly in its Nazarene form) started to spread among Serbs in Vojvodina in the last decades of the 19th century. Although the percentage of Protestants among Serbs is not large, it is the only religious form besides Eastern Orthodoxy, which is today widespread among Serbs.
Islam in Serbia
Islam is mostly present in the southwest of Serbia in the region of Sandzak or Raska (notably in the city of Novi Pazar and municipalities of Tutin and Sjenica), as well as in parts of southern Serbia (municipalities of Presevo and Bujanovac). Ethni members are mostly adherents of Islam are: Bosniaks, Muslims by nationality, Albanians, and Gorani. A significant number of Roma people are also adherents of Islam.
Adherents belong to one of two communities – Islamic Community of Serbia or the Islamic Community in Serbia.
Judaism in Serbia
As of 2011, out of 787 declared Jews in Serbia 578 stated their religion as Judaism, mostly in the cities of Belgrade (286), Novi Sad (84), Subotica (75) and Pancevo (31). The only remaining functioning synagogue in Serbia is the Belgrade Synagogue. There are also small numbers of Jews in Zrenjanin and Sombor, with isolated families scattered throughout the rest of Serbia.
Role of religion in public life
About 1.1% of Serbian population is atheist. Religiosity was lowest in Novi Beograd, with 3.5% of population being atheists (compare to whole Belgrade’s and Novi Sad’s 1.5%) and highest in rural parts of the country, where atheism in most municipalities went below 0.01%.
In a 2009 Gallup poll, 44% of respondents in Serbia answered ‘no’ to the question “Is religion an important part of your daily life?”
A Pew Research Centre poll, conducted from June 2015 to July 2016, found that 2% of Serbia were atheists, while 10% stated that they “Do not believe in God”.
Public schools allow religious teaching in cooperation with religious communities having agreements with the state, but attendance is not mandated. Religious Education is organized in public elementary and secondary schools, most commonly coordinated with the Serbian Orthodox Church, but also with the Catholic Church and Islamic community.
The public holidays in Serbia also include the religious festivals of Eastern Orthodox Christmas and Eastern Orthodox Easter, as well as Saint Sava Day which is a working holiday and is celebrated as a Day of Spirituality as well as Day of Education. Believers of other faiths are legally allowed to celebrate their religious holidays.
The government of Serbia does not keep records of religiously motivated violence, and reporting from individual religious organization is sparse.
The laws of Serbia establish the freedom of religion, forbid the establishment of a state religion, and outlaw religious discrimination. While registration with the government, is not necessary for religious groups to practice, the government confers certain privileges to registered groups. The government maintains a two-tiered system of registered groups, split between “traditional” groups and “non-traditional” groups. Minority groups and independent observers have complained that this system consists of religious discrimination.
The government has programs established for the restitution of property confiscated by the government of Yugoslavia after World War II, and for property lost in the Holocaust.
The media and individual members of parliament have been criticized for using disparaging language when referring to non-traditional groups. Anti-Semitic literature is commonly available in bookstores, and is prevalent online.
Although religious freedom was largely respected by the government of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, and Serbia’s constitutions through its various incarnations as either an independent state or as part of Yugoslavia have nominally upheld religious freedom, it was also the site of significant religiously and ethnically-motivated war crimes during World War II and the Yugoslav Wars