BELGRADE (REUTER) - More than 300,000 people filed solemnly through central Belgrade on Monday in a march called by the powerful Serbian Orthodox church, which is now siding with demonstrators in their protests against election fraud. Earlier, police withdrew a cordon blocking student pro-democracy demonstrators who had held a non-stop rally for eight days in a test of will with the authorities. Patriarch Pavle, who is in his 80s, led the church procession flanked by about 20 priests chanting Orthodox hymns and carrying a banner of Saint Sava, patron saint of education on whose holy day the march was held. Police kept their distance. The Orthodox church, which backed Serbian nationalist war aims during the Yugoslav conflict, stayed silent for weeks while pro-democracy protests swept Serbia. But Patriarch Pavle blessed student protesters at a rally last week and said he would lead his flock in the Saint Sava day procession. Once police had withdrawn their cordon during the night some 50,000 students and supporters swept triumphantly through the city in a boisterous, whistle-blowing march. The students later linked up with the church procession and student organisers served as orderlies for crowd control while traffic policemen looked on. The church`s involvement stepped up the pressure on Milosevic to acknowledge victories by the Zajedno (Together) opposition coalition in municipal elections last November. The opposition victories in 14 cities, including the capital Belgrade, were annulled by the government, but Milosevic has been under strong pressure from the West to reinstate them. The peaceful atmosphere of both marches on Monday was in contrast to clashes that have erupted in recent days as tempers flared after 10 weeks of protests. Opposition leaders told a rally on Sunday police beatings would fail to defuse popular discontent against Milosevic`s authoritarian rule.