Like her sister churches in other countries, the Serbian Orthodox Church has a number of orders of merit it gives out to deserving people, in recognition for their services. Though there are a number of decorations the process for awarding them is similar across: the candidate needs to be recommended by a diocesan bishop to the Holy Synod that will, in turn, confer on the matter and decide.
For those who are not familiar with the Orthodox Communion, the highest authority within any particular Church is the Holy Synod and not any particular individual.
Order of St. Sava
The creation of these awards of merit started in 1985 with the 800th anniversary of the birth of St. Sava, the founder of the Serbian Orthodox Church and its first Archbishop. It was at this time that the Holy Synod decided to create the Order of St. Sava in three classes:
- The first class has the colors of the order being white
- The second class has the colors of the order being red
- The third class has the colors of the order being blue
To qualify for the next higher class, one must be in the previous one for at least three years. The brevet for the order is signed by either the Patriarch or his deputy.
Order of St. Simeon the Myrrh-streaming
This award was created in 2009 in honor of the Grand Prince Stefan Nemanja who lived in 12th century Serbia and was canonized under the name of St. Simeon the Myrrh-streaming due to the reported miracles attributed to him. The award is given to statesmen that have contributed to the improvement of relations between Church and state. This award is open to both Serbs and foreigners.
Order of St. Emperor Constantine
Honoring the life and enormous contributions to the Faith that St. Constantine the Great made, the Holy Synod of the Serbian Church created the Order of St. Emperor Constantine. This high distinction is reserved for thos that have made great contributions to the freedom of religion and the promotion of human rights. There aren’t any nationality restrictions for the award
Order of the Holy King Milutin
Stephen Uroš II Milutin of Serbia was king of Serbia between 1282 to 1321 and managed to elevate his country to one of the most powerful states in the region. He also introduced much of the Byzantine culture to the kingdom and founded a large number of monasteries. Since King Milutin was such a great benefactor for Serbia, it is in his honor that this particular order was created in 2009 and it is meant to reward great philanthropists.
Order of St. Peter of Cetinje
Named after Petar I Petrović-Njegoš, this order was created in 2009 by the Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church. It should not be confused with the order of the same name that is under the Royal House of Petrović-Njegoš (Montenegro).
This distinction is awarded in recognition of missionary work, evangelism, promoting peace and personal sacrifice.
Order of the Holy Empress Milica – Venerable Jevgenija
Named after Empress (Tsaritsa) Milica, wife of Serbian Prince Lazar, who is most famous for her poem of mourning for her husband “My Widowhood’s Bridegroom”. After the death of her husband, she became a nun under the name of Jevgenija. This particular award is given to those who have made outstanding contributions for the improvement of the lives of the poor, the sick, and the helpless.
Order of the Holy Despot Stefan Lazarevic
Named after the ruler of the Serbian Despotate between 1389 and 1427, he was the son of Prince Lazar and Empress Milica. He was an enlightened ruler and can be considered the one to have brought the Renaissance to the realm.
This distinction is awarded to those individuals who have made significant contributions to culture, where it be literature, poetry, the arts, etc.
It should be noted here again that the Holy Synod reserves the right to revoke any honor previously bestowed if the awardee violates in some way the Serbian Orthodox Church. It should also be stressed that the awarding of any Church award is not a form of salvation as the awardee must remain committed to the path of Christ and be an example to others.
All awards by the Holy Synod are gazetted in the official journal of the Serbian Orthodox Church.
Source: Very Reverend Protopresbyter Savo B. Jovic. “Ордени Српске Православне Цркве које додељује Свети Архијерејски Сабор, односно Свети Архијерејски Синод“. “Orthodoxy” newspaper of the Serbian Patriarchate.