Berane, Montenegro, May 12, 2020
A spontaneous procession broke out on the streets of Berane, Montenegro in honor of St. George the Victorious on his feast day, May 6.
The clergy and laity involved observed social distancing while shouting, “We won’t give up our shrines!” in protest of a law passed in December that gives the state the right to confiscate property from the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro.
Criminal cases were subsequently opened against 5 priests who were involved in the procession, for failing to comply with measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, reports REGNUM.
However, the hierarchs and faithful in Montenegro are standing by the priests.
In a statement published on the official site of the Serbian Orthodox Church, “The Serbian Orthodox Church community of Berane expresses public dissent and revolt against the aggressive treatment of Orthodox priests.”
The statement explains that the brethren of the nearby Monastery of St. George were well acquainted with all the sanitary measures prescribed by the Montenegrin government, and decide to process, as they have for centuries, on St. George’s day, offering prayers for the health of all citizens of Berane while faithfully observing all the state’s requirements.
Despite their compliance, they were faced with “aggressive behavior by the police and the Prosecutor’s office,” being detained and interrogated for several hours after the procession, the Orthodox community of Berane writes.
The Church community “considers it dishonorable” to treat priests in such a way, especially in a city where not a single case of the coronavirus has been found. They believe the aim was specifically to humiliate and debase the priests.
Further, the faithful spontaneously gathered to receive the blessing of the priests who were processing, not by prior arrangement with the monastery, the Church community writes.
And last night, citizens of Berane and Andrijevica took to the streets in support of the priests, shouting, “We won’t give up our shrines” and, “We won’t give up our priests!” There was also an “automobile procession” in Berane, with a column of cars going throughout the city.
Several citizens were arrested.