As pressure mounts to oust Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, the Serbian Orthodox church has moved beyond its preliminary criticisms of the indicted leader to outright appeals for opposition to his regime.

From village rallies to capital demonstrations of more than 100,000 protesters, Serbians are expressing their discontent over Milosevic's warfare with NATO and Serbia's resultant loss of Kosovo.

Patriarch Pavle, head of the Serbian Orthodox church, originally supported Milosevic, but in 1997, Pavle began to distance the church from him by blessing antigovernment rallies and criticizing his policies. Once Milosevic began his lethal pursuit of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, the church condemned the Serbian leader. Church officials also repeatedly spoke of Serbian culpability for the crimes committed against Albanians.

"This is a very important moment," sociologist Mirko Djordjevic told reporters in Belgrade, "because it fits into the ancient tradition of the church caring for the national conscience."

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