Belgrade, October 31, 2017
Hierarchs of the Serbian Orthodox Church have sparked controversy with their recent remarks against the grave sin of abortion, reports the Qatar newspaper The Peninsula, which denigrates the hierarchs’ words as “attacks on the right to abortion in the patriarchal Balkan region.”
Preaching at a Divine Liturgy last month, Metropolitan Amfilohije Radović of Montenegro and Litoral spoke of abortion as the murder of children, which is the undoubted position of the Orthodox Church.
“Serbian women kill more children each year in their wombs than Mussolini, Hitler, Broz [the late Yugoslav leader Josip Broz Tito], and those in Kosovo,” he said during the service in Kosovo’s western city of Peć.
In response, Belgrade lawyer Jelena Drenca has called on the Serbian Orthodox Church to take “disciplinary measures” against His Eminence in order to “prevent the Church from facing legal action,” given that his statements came at his “place of work” and therefore amounted to “a violation of the law on discrimination.”
Abortion was legalized across the former Yugoslavia in the late 1970s. The Peninsula reports that 30,000 abortions are performed annually in Serbia, while InSerbia reports that official numbers are 60,000, and unofficial estimates reach 150,000-200,000 abortions a year.
His Holiness Patriarch Irinej also made waves when he told a Serbian newspaper that it is a “woman’s duty to give birth in order to regenerate the nation.” The number of annual abortions is twice that of births in Serbia, according to InSerbia. The patriarch met with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic on October 28, after which a statement from the presidency stated that both men were worried about the country’s very low birth rate.
In response, Deputy Prime Minister Zorana Mihajlović insisted that women alone must decide on the issue of abortion, “without being forced.” Chair of the Serbian National Assembly Committee on Human and Minority Rights Meho Omerović also insisted that women, not preachers, must decide in Serbia.
“How can the woman decide alone, with complete impunity, on the life or the killing of a future newborn who is unprotected and innocent? Where is the morality, the conscience?” said a statement from the Church in response. “Abortion is not just a legal, demographic or political issue, it is primarily existential, ethical and axiological,” the statement said.