The withdrawal of the law that would lead to the nationalization of most of the ecclesiastical property in Montenegro once again calls the Serbian Patriarchate, raising directly the issue of religious freedom.
“We are against the draft Law by which representatives of the authorities in Montenegro want to forcibly take away churches and monasteries and the belonging properties from the Metropolitanate and Dioceses of the Serbian Orthodox Church, and whose provisions would abolish the inalienable right of every individual to freedom of religion and conscience,” is noted in the synodical communique of the Patriarchate of Serbia.
Recently, the Church and the State in Montenegro are in crisis because of the promotion of a law according to which Church property, temples, monasteries, relics and even the relics of the saints are nationalized.
Behind this move by the Montenegrin government, the Church believes that the ultimate purpose of creating a new, Autocephalous Church, governed by the State is hidden.
Anathema by the Metropolitan
Characteristic of the situation is the fact that the, until recently, low-profile Metropolitan Amfilohije of Montenegro has taken a particularly harsh step, anathematizing those who will vote on the law.
Standing next to the larnax that holds the relics of St. Peter, First Duke and Bishop of Montenegro, he addressed the people of the country saying: “Today I greet the whole people of Montenegro here, in front of the larnax of St. Peter of Montenegro, in the name of the God, the righteous and Savior. Whoever rises up against the name of God and His Church, causes himself to be anathematized by God, St. Peter and St. Basil, and I will not be the one to prevent the people from intervening if the state proceeds unilaterally.
The Ecumenical Patriarchate has taken a stand on the side of the Metropolitan of Montenegro and the Serbian Patriarchate for the beginning.
Montenegro as North Macedonia?
The Serbian Patriarchate has already suffered a serious blow to its structure due to government interventions. In recent decades in present-day North Macedonia there has been a schismatic Church that was essentially created by the state to be fully controlled by it. Canonical Archbishop John of Ohrid has been expelled while his many years in prison for refusing to accept the authorities’ decisions are known.
Well-informed sources note that the Serbian Patriarchate has no intention of accepting the repetition of this story in Montenegro, which is evident from what is also stated in the relevant synodical communique.
The complete communique
Communique of the Holy Synod of Bishops
of the Serbian Orthodox Church
As regards the latest developments in Montenegro relating to the announced adoption of the draft Law on Freedom of Religion or Belief and Legal Status of Religious Communities, the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church hereby expresses its support to the archbishops, clergy, monasticism and faithful people of the dioceses: Montenegro and the Littoral, Budimlje-Niksic, Mileseva and Zahumlje-Herzegovina, to continue defending their religious rights in Montenegro, encouraged by the power of the Holy Spirit and the prayerful representation of the saints of our own kin.
As already stated in the official statement of the Holy Assembly of Bishops, we now reiterate that we are against the draft Law by which representatives of the authorities in Montenegro want to forcibly take away churches and monasteries and the belonging properties from the Metropolitanate and Dioceses of the Serbian Orthodox Church, and whose provisions would abolish the inalienable right of every individual to freedom of religion and conscience.
Bearing in mind all the consequences of adopting such a Law, we appeal to the members of the Parliament of Montenegro to listen to the voice of the bishops and the faithful of our Holy Church which has been unequivocally and clearly expressed at two church-people’s assemblies, and not to vote in favour of this draft Law.
At the same time, we support the initiative proposed by His Eminence Metropolitan Amfilohije of Montenegro and the Littoral and sent to the Legislative Committee and the Parliament of Montenegro to withdraw the proposed Law from the parliamentary procedure, which would create conditions for the preparation of a new one that would be in accordance with the standards of modern democratic states and acceptable to the Serbian Orthodox Church.
The Holy Synod of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church