Moscow, December 31, 2019
A number of Russian and Ukrainian hierarchs have spoken out in support of the persecuted Orthodox faithful in Montenegro in the wake of the adoption of a new law that is expected to lead to Serbian Church property being confiscated by the government in favor of the schismatic “Montenegrin Orthodox Church.”
The situation in Montenegro is quite similar to what happened in Ukraine thanks to the interference of Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople under former President Petro Poroshenko, thus the hierarchs of the canonical Ukrainian and Russian Churches understand what the faithful in Montenegro are currently experiencing.
On Saturday, December 28, the Holy Synod of the Russian Church held a remote session in which it unanimously approved a Patriarchal and Synodal message on the Montenegrin situation, reports Patriarchia.ru.
“It was with pain and concern that we learned of the adoption by the Assembly of Montenegro of a discriminatory law against the Serbian Orthodox Church, and of the dramatic events that followed,” the Synodal epistle opens.
“Accept on behalf of the entire Russian Orthodox Church our deep, sincere and heartfelt sympathy in connection with the outrageous arbitrariness of the police, who subjected the faithful to humiliation and beatings, led by His Grace Bishop Metodije of Diokleia,” the letter continues.
The country’s current agony was created by the legislators’ disregard for the will of the majority of their citizens, the Russian Synod states, and now the churches and monasteries of the Church of Sts. Basil of Ostrog and Peter of Cetinje are in danger of being plundered.
“The new law on religious freedom is an act of support for schism by weakening the canonical Church and attempting to place it in a humiliating and dangerous dependence on the state—all the more unjust because Montenegro is a secular state. Arbitrarily and illegally invading the area of canonical law, the authorities of the country deny the obvious and easily provable continuity of the canonical Church, insisting on its re-registration, which takes the Church out of the legal field and puts it under the attack of aggressive nationalism,” the Russian hierarchs write.
Drawing the parallel to its own experience, the Synod continues: “The political forces of both Montenegro and Ukraine, interested in undermining national unity, for many years supported the schismatics, seeing them as an instrument of weakening the canonical Church. The tree they had cultivated bore the poisonous fruit of a new ‘state thinking’ that gave schism the role of a driving force in the rebirth of social consciousness.”
The hierarchs are sad to see the same lamentable situation growing in Montenegro, and note that their “brothers in Montenegro understand the suffering of the people of God in Ukraine, which they always strive to support in their trials.”
“We now appeal to all Local Orthodox Churches to support the canonical Church in Montenegro. The danger that hangs over it should not be perceived by any of us as distant and alien. What they are trying to impose today on the faithful of Montenegro, tomorrow could grasp any of the Churches,” the statement reads.
The Synod also appeals to the international community to protect the rights of the Montenegrin faithful. They also call on the Montenegrin authorities to “come to their senses” and see their citizens as their fellow Orthodox faithful. “It is impossible and senseless to declare the canonical Church, which unites the majority of the citizens of its country, as a conductor of foreign and hostile influence,” the Russian Synod believes.
Drawing from their own experience in Ukraine, the hierarchs warn of the coming mass violation of the rights of believers, the seizure of churches from their rightful owners, and the redistribution of property. However, “Abuse of the Church of God does not go unpunished. The people will not forgive encroachments on their holy places, and God will reward them with eternal condemnation.”
“We pray to the all-merciful Lord that He might grant His all-powerful help to the archpastors, pastors, and all the faithful children of the canonical Orthodox Church in Montenegro, and that He might admonish those who are now responsible for peace and civil harmony in the country,” the letter concludes.
His Eminence Metropolitan Luke of Zaporozhye of the Ukrainian Church also published a statement of support for the suffering faithful in Montenegro on his Telegram channel.
The fiery archpastor stresses that those living in Ukraine understand firsthand what the faithful of Montenegro are going through and writes that to suffer for Christ is a “great mercy of God.”
Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in Heaven, the Lord teaches, Met. Luke reminds. “For a Christian there is no greater joy than to serve God, but to suffer for Him is the highest blessedness that can be obtained on Earth,” he said in support of the Serbian Church.
In his opinion, the Orthodox are divided into two camps—those who will hail the coming of the antichrist, and those who will remain faithful. “The core of the first group is the Patriarchate of Constantinople and those who support its anti-Orthodox policy,” Met. Luke states strongly.
Anti-Christian legislation, pseudo-Christian communities, and the “firm power of democracy” are already ready to deprive true Christians of their rights, Met. Luke writes.
The Church began with the blood of Christ, the Metropolitan notes, and it continues on the blood of the martyrs.