The Romanian Orthodox Church was therefore able to embark on a period of quiet reform without secular interference and remains unquestionably the most potent symbol of the nation.
In Serbia, too, now an independent nation, the Orthodox Church has emerged strongly. Here, as everywhere, the collapse of communism has enhanced both the symbolic and actual power of the Orthodox Church. However, in order to understand the history of the Serbian Orthodox Church during the period of almost half a century when it coexisted with a communist government, it is necessary to appreciate the state in which it was left at the end of the Second World War. During the pre-war decades the kingdom of Yugoslavia, as it was then called, united Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. In it the Serbs enjoyed a position of special privilege, with the Serbian Orthodox Church supporting the monarchy and vice versa. During the war the church continued to support the monarchy, as well as the anti-Tito partisans, but at the same time a split occurred with Croatia, which was mainly Catholic. Here the Ustase emerged, a fascist mob in league with the Nazis. Among much else the Ustase took up arms against the Serbian minority in Croatia, murdering three leading hierarchs and over 200 clergy. A puppet 'Croatian Orthodox Church' came into being. The Ustase destroyed or badly damaged many hundreds of Serbian Orthodox churches and monasteries.
The establishment of a communist regime in what now became Tito's Yugoslavia saw the Serbian Orthodox Church at first attempting to re-establish its pre-war position, but in this it first faced the virulent atheism of the Stalin period. The state confiscated church lands, thus deprivingit ofits basic income, and abolished the right of the Orthodox Church to organise religious education in schools (teaching on church premises was never outlawed, but restrictions often made it impossible to conduct). The patriarchate and clergy sought accommodation with the new regime, but for a decade made little headway.
As in other communist countries, the regime forced clergy to join politically loyal 'priests' associations', causing widespread concern among the hierarchy, which was attempting to rebuild church life. A new decree on the Legal Status of Religious Communities of 1953 defined the rights of all churches, but for years the very people who passed this law failed to respect it.
Throughout this period there had been show trials of recalcitrant clergy, culminating in the case against Bishop Arsenije of the Montenegrin Littoral in 1954. Before this, four priests were tried in Cetinje (Montenegro) and the court
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