Montenegro, clashes over law confiscating Orthodox Church assets
by Vladimir Rozanskij

The text approved by the Podgorica Parliament provides for the nationalization of all Church properties.  The leaders of the Serbian Orthodox Church have called this law "discriminatory", as it is directed against the "foreign Church" of Serbia.  Violence and clashes in the square, the fears of the Moscow Patriarchate for a new autocephalous Church.




Podgorica (AsiaNews) - The authorities of Montenegro closed the year approving a draft law on the freedom of religious confession, which has sparked many protests and public demonstrations, as well as the condemnation of the Serbian Orthodox Church to which ecclesiastical jurisdiction Montenegro also belongs.   The plan involves the seizure and nationalization of all the properties of the Orthodox Church, including the most famous monasteries such as that of Ostrog, and a few hundred shrines.

The leaders of the Serbian Orthodox Church have called this law "discriminatory", as it is directed against the "foreign Church" of Serbia, and the opposition parties have supported the protest by taking to the streets in various cities, blocking traffic and resulting in a violent repressions by police.  Even a bishop, Metodij (Ostojc) of Dioklijsk, was subjected to violence, so much so that the Serbian Patriarch Irinej (Gavrilovic) invited all to "stop this terror".

The text also sparked bitter discussions in the Podgorica parliament, where oppositions asked to take into account the reasons of the Serbian Church;  the majority coalition refused to discuss any changes.  At the threat of blocking the vote by all means, the police intervened by throwing tear gas into the chamber, and arresting 22 deputies of the "Democratic Front" of Montenegro (formerly Yugoslavia), including its leaders Andrij Mandic and Milan Knezevic, accused of having Parliament Speaker Ivan Brajlovic attacked.  After the unrest, the majority deputies who remained in the chamber unanimously approved the document.

The law was then approved and signed by President Milo Dzhukanovic, a staunch proponent of Montenegro's integration into the European Union, which prompted him to support the need to detach the national Church from the Serbian one.  Dzhukanovic supports the Orthodox minority formed in recent years with the name of the "Montenegrin Orthodox Church", which is making the request to obtain the Tomos of autocephaly as happened recently with the Ukrainian Church.

The Synod of the Patriarchate of Moscow, meeting at the end of December, expressed regret for the situation that has arisen in Montenegro: “We address the international community with the appeal not to allow the violation of the rights of the Orthodox communities of Montenegro”, reads the message released on December 30th.  There is a clear fear that the same situation will arise in Ukraine, with a new national Church blessed by Constantinople, which would provoke a schism with Serbs and accentuate the one with the Russians, who have always been very close to the Church and the Serbian people.

The Moscow message states that "what they try to impose today on the believers of Montenegro, tomorrow could happen to those of other Churches", and the authorities of Montenegro are invited to listen to the reasons for the opposition and not to believe the myths of the "selfish"  Serbs ", who would like to impose the domination of Serbia over the whole region.  "We ask you - concludes the text - to see in the people of believers as mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, children, and not to abandon them in the hands of outsiders, to the harmful influences that come from the West and to support the canonical Church, which unites the majority of the citizens of your country ".