Montenegro, July 10, 2019
The faithful of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro are raising their voices against a draft law that threatens to seize property from the Church.
Thousands attended a Liturgy at the Cathedral of the Resurrection in Podgorica, the capital city of Montenegro, in mid-June to show their support for the rights of the persecuted canonical Serbian Church, in protest of the bill.
The Church has also been collecting signatures for a petition against the bill at its parishes throughout the country. According to a statement from His Grace Bishop Joanikije of Budimlja-Niksic, more than 50,000 signatures have been gathered already, reports RIA-Novosti.
Signatures will be collected through Friday, the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul.
The Montenegrin Cabinet approved the draft law on the freedom of religion or belief and the legal status of religious communities on May 16, drawing sharp criticism from the nation’s largest religious community—the Metropolis of Montenegro-Littoral of the Serbian Orthodox Church, headed by His Eminence Metropolitan Amfilohije. It is expected that the controversial bill will be considered by deputies at a plenary session in July, though the faithful are asking for it to be withdrawn from consideration.
The clergy of the Serbian Church in Montenegro are especially concerned about provisions of the bill that allow for the state to reclaim religious building that belonged to the state before 1918, which they believe is a thinly-veiled attempt to seize canonical Church properties for use by the tiny schismatic “Montenegrin Orthodox Church,” which Montenegrin President Milo Đukanović dreams of turning into an autocephalous church, as Petro Poroshenko attempted to do in Ukraine.
The schismatic structure was created in 1993 by a defrocked cleric of the Serbian Church and is currently headed by “Metropolitan” Mihailo Dedeić, who defrocked by the Patriarchate of Constantinople and excommunicated by the Holy Synod of Constantinople in 1997.
Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople recently sent a letter to President Đukanović, urging him to cease from pushing for autocephaly for the miniscule “Montenegrin Church,” which no one will recognize as canonical, emphasizing that Dedeić is not a canonical bishop.
However, while, Pat. Bartholomew has discouraged Đukanović’s plans for an autocephalous Church, he continues to support and defend Poroshenko’s church, also built upon the foundation of people defrocked, excommunicated, and anathematized and lacking the grace of ordination. Unlike the “Montenegrin Church,” Pat. Bartholomew believes it is only a matter of time until the other Local Churches recognize the schismatic “Orthodox Church of Ukraine.”
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