PARISH OF CHRIST THE KING IN BELGRADE (THE OLDEST PARISH IN BELGRADE)
Christ the King is the central and the oldest parish in Belgrade and Belgrade Archdiocese. Until recently, it was also a cathedral, a church.
The beginnings of the parish date back into the mid XIX century, although at that point it existed only as a “mission”… pastoral care without a legal status, because at that time, there was neither a bishop or diocese in Belgrade, nor churches or temples, although there were a lot of Catholic settlers there.
Recordings of births, deaths and marriages began in 1845, and they can now be found in Belgrade municipality of Vračar.
Negotiations between the Holy See and Serbia about the regulation of the legal position of the Roman Catholic Church and its believers in the new principality e.i. kingdom of Serbia were led for more than 60 years.
Upon the ultimate completion of the negotiations by signing the Serbian Concordat in 1914, World War I broke out and prevented its realization: renewal, or the establishment of Belgrade and Smederevo Diocese/Archdiocese-Metropolitan and the first parishes. This realization was made possible only after the end of the War in 1918 and the formation of a new country – the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (SCS) and Yugoslavia.
And indeed, six years later, on 29 October 1924 Pope Pius XI appointed Nuncio Pellegrinetti on 7 December 1924 and consecrated and appointed the first Archbishop of Belgrade and Smederevo in the person of Fr. Ivan-Rafael Rodić, former apostolic administrator of Banat, in a single small church-chapel for Catholics in Belgrade, which was part of the building of mission-Austro-Hungarian consulate in today’s building and church-temple of Christ the King. These buildings were purchased for the archbishop’s residence and the parish, thanks to the financial support of the Holy See and the Yugoslav government, as well as the understanding of the Austrian government and the intervention of the nuncio and the Austrian ambassador in Belgrade.
This small church-chapel, 15 metres long and 9.5 metres wide, built of solid material, dedicated to St. Ladislav, became the first parish church and temporary cathedral. In 1926 it was increased to the present scale by building additional side entrances, choir and bell tower, and on the feast of Christ the King it was dedicated to the patron saint of the new Christ the King. With later remodeling and renovations, it remained so until 14 August 1988, until the consecration of the new cathedral-church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Neimar. It was renamed cathedral. Church hall was built next to it, as a tribute to the commitment of Nuncio Pellegrinetti, and it was a gift from Pope Pius XI to Belgrade’s youth. After this, new bells were purchased and blessed, and on 15 December 1927 music was heard from an organ, the first in Serbia, made by the F. Jenko company from Šentvid near Ljubljana. It is still played on today.
After the renewal and the establishment of the (Arch)Diocese and the appointment of the first Archbishop (1924), three parishes were established in Belgrade: Christ the King, St. Anthony and Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (1926-1927). The first parish of Christ the King administrator was appointed in the person of Dr. Vjekoslav Wagner (1927-1932). Msgr. Wagner was succeeded by Đakovo priest Dr. Matija Petlić (1932-1959). Religious life flourished and the number of believers grew every day, because almost every day there was a baptism, and every other a wedding during their administration of the parish.
Msgr. Alojz Turk (1959-1964), later Archbishop of Belgrade (1980-1987) took over the management of the parish from Msgr. Petlić. He was succeeded by Dr. Anton Hočevar (1964-1966), the former pastor of Kragujevac, who began remediation, insulation, renovation and expansion of the home, the church, the sacristy and meeting rooms, along with the new Archbishop Dr. Gabrijel Bukatko (1964-1980), who came after the death of Archbishop Dr. Josip Ujčić (1936-1964). This work would be continued, expanded and completed by the new vicar Ciril Zajec, Salesian (1966-1971).
According to the terms of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), the church was renovated and adapted according to the new liturgical rules: the main altar was moved to face the people and the archbishop’s throne was set up – a seat with the eastern crest of the Archbishop Bukatko placed in a mosaic with his motto “Following the Virgin Mary to Christ”. It was written in old Slavic language, for he was the bishop of the Greek Catholic rite and served the Greek Orthodox communities in Yugoslavia (whose seat was in Križevca near Zagreb), and with it he became the Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Belgrade and apostolic administrator of Banat. On both sides of the throne there are additional seats (benches), and in the side aisles there are side altars with tabernacles, pedestals and statues of the Immaculate Conception and St. Joseph and there is a baptistery there as well. Everything is made of Carrara and domestic marble, which lines the walls of the church up to a height of 1.8 metres. In the apse, above the throne, there is a large semi-oval mosaic of Christ the King. Symbols of the seven Sacraments are in the front, and His little mosaic is placed above the entrance to the church. Stained-glass windows show the main details of the life of Jesus, the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Church, and the religious life according to the truths of the Christian, God and church commandments. Renovations were performed, guided and the draft was prepared by prominent Roman artist Prof. Augusto Ranocchi. Stations of the Cross carved in oak are work of a Belgrade artist. In the right niche of the shrine to the sacristy is the tomb of Archbishop Ujčić.
After Don Ciril the parish was administered by another Salesian, Don Herman Habič (1971-1974). In 1974 the administration of the parish was taken over by Dr. Anton Hočevar, a pastor from Kragujevac, who managed it until his death in 2002. After that the parish of Christ the King was temporarily taken by his chaplain – parochial vicar, ordained priest Goran Avramov, until 17 August 2003 when Mons. Dr. Marko Čolić, the former pastor in Bor and the administrator of the parish in Zaječar becomes pastor. Rev. Goran Avramov would remain his chaplain, parish vicar, assistant and deputy until his departure to Aleksinac in 2004. From 2004, until August 2007, the new parish vicar was Msgn. Andrej Đuriček. At the same time, Dr. Marko Čolić left the pastoral service, and Rev. Dr. Milutin Novaković came in his place. He stayed there until March 2008 when the responsibility for this parish was taken by Rev. Stjepan Barišić, who had served in Smederevo up to then.
Being the central parish, Christ the King has maintained some distinctive features such as masses for diplomats, religious education for their children, various encounters – of a religious, interreligious, social and charity character. These activities are being continued, with the tendency of expansion and growth.
Future plans are self-evident: Preservation and improvement of the current situation, bigger concern for the young who are the future of the Church and the society, deeper understanding of faith through the Scripture and celebration of liturgical acts, because it leads to a better understanding of the Savior, who collected the dispersed, kept the collected and expanded the founded.
Church of Christ the King
23 Krunska Street, Belgrade, 11000
Don Aleksandar Kovačević, pastor
Reverend. Anton Kragol, parish vicar
Phone. 011 / 32-32-308
Service of God
Sundays and holidays:
8am (in Slovenian)
10an and 6pm
11.30am (in English, Mass for diplomats)