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Sunday, October 1, 2023

Three decades of Church law at the Faculty of Law in Kragujevac

Kragujevac – The Faculty of Law in Kragujevac is the first law faculty in the country where, after the Second World War, the subject Church Law was introduced into the teaching. It was in 1993, at the moment when Serbia was freeing itself from the ideological restraints of communism, which left deep scars on the body of our church, which had been excluded from the state education system for decades. On the occasion of this significant event, which re-established the forcibly severed ties of the Serbian Orthodox Church with the state, the Faculty of Law of the University of Kragujevac organized last weekend an international scientific conference called “State-Church Law”, whose patron was Bishop Jovan of Šumadija.

In recognition of the brave act and the landmark decision made three decades ago, participation in this meeting was taken by about thirty members of different confessions, distinguished professors from the country and the world who invested their professional effort in interpreting the complex relations of the state with churches and religious communities. A collection of works by scientists from Serbia, America, Greece, Austria, Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina who responded to the invitation of the Faculty of Law in Kragujevac will soon be published.

In addition to serving as a scientific recapitulation of the subject, the gathering was an opportunity for the participants to recall some of the events that preceded the introduction of Church law into the curricula of the Faculty of Law in Kragujevac.

“It was a turbulent time, and the act itself has its own prehistory. In cooperation with a group of assistants and professors, in 1992, our students and colleagues from other faculties of the University of Kragujevac, for the first time after the Second World War, organized an official celebration of Savindan in a state higher education institution. The ceremony was held in a crowded hall of the Faculty of Science and Mathematics. On that occasion, the magazine “Glasnik Prava” was printed, and the introductory article was written by bishop Sava, then bishop of Šumadija. The charge of youthful energy from that era was scientifically articulated by Professor Nenad Đurđević in 1993, since when Church law has been studied at our faculty”, says Srđan Đorđević, vice dean for teaching at the Faculty of Law in Kragujevac.

Until the nineties of the last century, Professor Đurđević taught Obligation Law at the Faculty of Law in Kragujevac. As he himself says, he knew almost nothing about Church law, until he met the retired Bishop Sava, who introduced him to a neglected scientific discipline.

“Church law was studied at the Faculty of Law in Belgrade until 1945, when it was removed from the curriculum, and I was introduced to this scientific discipline by my spiritual father, Bishop Sava, with whom I began to associate and collaborate as President of the Church Municipality of Kragujevac. Bishop Sava had an extraordinary library. It was there that I first met the authors of famous works in the field of church law, such as Cedomilj Mitrović, Bishop Nikodim of Dalmatia and Sergej Troicki. It was at the beginning of the nineties of the last century, when due to the dropping of some ideological subjects, such as Marxism, new teaching curricula had to be created. At that time, I suggested that Church Law be studied at the Faculty of Law in Kragujevac. The subject was introduced into teaching by a decision of July 16, 1993, without a single vote against the members of the teaching-scientific council, which was a surprise to me, since Kragujevac was known as the ‘red city'”, recalls Dr. Đurđević, the first professor of Church Law. in post-war Serbia.

Professor Đurđević’s chair was succeeded in 2007 by the rector of the Kragujevac Theological Seminary, priest Zoran Krstić, who taught Church Law to the students of the Faculty of Law in Kragujevac until last year.

“The literature for this subject has never been disputed, there is plenty of it, and the students use the textbook of Father Dimša Perić, which he wrote for the needs of the Faculty of Law in Belgrade, where he also taught. Ecclesiastical law is not a catechism, to avoid confusion, but a scientifically based discipline, which in our country also includes familiarization with the Law on Churches and Religious Communities from 2006. The students of the Faculty of Law in Kragujevac, who have never been divided by anyone on any basis, show an exceptional interest in this subject”, says Professor Krstić.

Ecclesiastical law is studied at the Faculty of Law in Kragujevac as an elective subject in basic academic studies, and last year a master’s module in church-state law was introduced, which precedes doctoral studies.

“Church-state relations are always dynamic and complex, but when there is good will on both sides, then the model of cooperation and cooperation is normatively and institutionally built for the benefit of both the individual and the community,” a participant of the scientific meeting “State- ecclesiastical law”, doctor of legal sciences Velibor Džomić, who is also a current professor of ecclesiastical law at the Faculty of Law in Kragujevac.

Apart from Kragujevac, Church law is also studied in Serbia today in Belgrade, at the Faculty of Law and the Institute of Comparative Law, with the participation of professors and researchers from other scientific institutions in the country and the world.

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