A generous cheque from the tennis champion has stopped the impending expulsion of the historic Orthodox place of worship
That Novak Djokovic has always put his money where his mouth is, is a well-known fact and best documented by the numerous charitable causes he is involved in. Now he also puts it where his heart is: the small Serbian chapel in the Port district of Nice, where the Djokovic family frequently worships, is menaced by the pending sale of the building it is located in and its looming shutdown.Now the Serbia-born Monaco resident has stepped up to pay the legal fees, thus gaining a temporary reprieve for the opposing parties to find a compromise, and allowing the chapel to remain open and operational.
In an emotional Instagram post predating his intervention, the current Number 1 player in men’s tennis writes,
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Stefan and I visited a very special Serbian church in Nice. It’s a small place where the Serbian community and culture are nurtured. Families get together every second Sunday and spend real quality time together. Teachers volunteer to play with kids – they read a story and then create a theatre like show to breath life into the words they read. Stefan and I were participating in it as a Red Haired Lion and little Lamb 🦁🐑 It was wonderful to be part of this special day where Serbian families gather and share beautiful moments ❤️😃🙏🇷🇸
Located at 3, rue Fodéré, kitty corner from the north side of the Catholic Notre Dame du Port church, the small Serbian chapel has occupied a former coal storage depot on the ground floor of an unassuming Niçois residential building for the past 50 years. Dedicated to the Dormition of the Virgin Mary, it belongs to the Eastern European diocese of the Patriarch of Serbia.
The cultural-religious association managing the chapel was summoned to court by the owner’s six heirs who were claiming a lease that expired on August 31, 2018. The court, however, rejected their request for eviction following the sale of the building to developers. Arguing there is no urgency, the district court will decide on the claim by Christmas. The association’s spokesman Bertrand Boissou told Agence France Presse in a statement, “We are hopeful to come to a financial agreement… we are interested buyers but we don’t agree on the price of about 250,000 euros. The Serbian diocese is now looking for funds.”
Deeply devoted to his faith, Djokovic was awarded in 2011 the Order of St. Sava of the First Degree, the highest distinction of the Serbian Orthodox Church, for his continued support of members and sanctuaries of the church.
Lead image courtesy Eric Ciotti