Jesuit parish and residence in Belgrade
PARISH OF THE SAINT PETER THE APOSTLE, Belgrade
The Parish at the confluence of two rivers
History of the parish
The history of our parish is also history of the Jesuits in Belgrade, and it dates back to a few centuries. In the period of Ottoman rule and fighting against them, the Jesuits tried to settle in Belgrade on several occasions. Father Bartol Kašić founded the first humanistic school here, in the Balkans, along with Father Sini. Subsequent attempts to settle here ended up on the battlefield near the city, where some fathers died giving last consolation to severely wounded casualties of Christian army. The liberation of Belgrade under the leadership of Eugene of Savoy brings new hope. And just when it seemed that pastoral care and education could spread their wings, the city was given back to Turks. Austrians were tearing down everything they had built in the meantime, and Jesuits left the church and everything they had built. They only took a painting of the Blessed Virgin with them. They stored it in the Jesuit church in Petrovaradin.
After the abolition of the order (1773-1814), the Jesuits came back to Belgrade in 1930. Belgrade had already become the capital of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia at that time. On the New Year of 1931, they started pastoral work in the newly established parish of St. Peter the Apostle. They bought a house which was built in 1845 by Jovan Stejić, the royal family doctor. The house is under the protection of Belgrade City Institute for Protection of Cultural Monuments today. They built a church in the house yard based on the design of a famous builder from Zagreb, Jurij Denzler, in 1933.
In 1934, they brought a baroque painting of the Blessed Virgin with a child back from Petrovaradin. This was the only visible memory inherited from the Jesuits of the old Congregation in Belgrade. The painting, which was named The Blessed Virgin of Belgrade while it was in Petrovaradin, is still particularly worshipped today.
A bit of statistics
The history of the parish is rich in events – the beautiful ones, as well as the unfortunate ones. Some statistics from the registry books will probably best testify about this. When the parish was established in 1931, there were over 130 baptisms. This number increased until it reached its peak in 1939 and 1940 when it rose to over 200. When the war broke out, this number started to decline, up until 1981 when there were only seven baptisms. Since then, the number of baptisms has not gone under ten. In 1992 it rose to over 50, half of those were adult baptisms. The number has been slightly decreasing up to now, so in this and last year we have had six baptisms a year. During the whole existence of the parish, the number of funerals was about 50 a year, but it started declining as well, so that it has not gone over 30 in the past two years. Therefore, there is no increase in number of believers: some of them have emigrated, a lot of them have moved to other, newer parts of the city, thus the number of church goers has considerably declined in the last 15 years.
The youth – our future
Let us mention some of numerous things that make our parish special. Our congregation is multilingual; besides having masses in Croatian/Serbian, we have masses in English and Hungarian as well. We used to have masses in Spanish, French and Slovakian. Numerous classical music concerts used to take place here, but now they have completely died out. Public discussions are occasionally organized.
But since our church is in the hub of urban and suburban traffic, there is no lack of work these days. The most striking one is pastoral work with the young, plus numerous big and small daily activities which we rejoice and which bind us. In doing so, our greatest desire is to lovingly serve the people to whom God sends us. And when it comes to future? Precisely such and only such works – the works of love – have a future!