Montenegrin authorities detain bishop and seven clergymen after thousands gather to celebrate St. Basil of Ostrog

Nikšić, Montenegro, May 13, 2020

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Yesterday, May 12, Montenegrin police detained His Grace Bishop Joanikije of Budimlja and Nikšić and seven clergymen of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro for participating in celebrations and processions in honor of the greatly beloved St. Basil of Ostrog during the period of coronavirus quarantine, reports the site of the Metropolis of Montenegro.

According to those arrested, thousands of faithful gathered in front of the Cathedral of St. Basil to celebrate the great saint on their own initiative. During the arrest, the priests asked the crowd to remain calm and not harm the police in any way.

Following the incident, the National Coordinating Council for Infectious Diseases called on the Prosecutor’s Office to immediately take legal measures against the “organizers” of the illegal assembly.

After being questioned at the security center in Nikšić, the hierarchs and clergy were taken to the Public Prosecutor’s Office at about 2:00 in the morning, where they were taken into custody after more than 2 hours of questioning.

The Prosecutor decided to detain the clergy for up to 72 hours.

After the arrest, the faithful came to the Security Center to prayerfully wait for the hierarch, chanting, “We won’t give up our Vladyka.”

In the view of the Metropolis, the police’s intent was to humiliate Bp. Joanikije.

“The intention of the police was to humiliate the respected hierarch of the Church of God by taking him to the Security Center in a car for criminals,” a Church statement reads.

Such behavior not only demonstrates unprofessionalism, the Church believes, but also harms the “peace and stability in Montenegro.”

Earlier in the day, hundreds gathered at Ostrog Monastery to venerate the relics of St. Basil. They maintained social distancing and wore protective gear, and the gathering went without incident.

Montenegrins also spontaneously processed in honor of St. George on May 6, leading to five priests being criminally charged. His Eminence Metropolitan Amfilohije and other clergy have also been detained multiple times for celebrating the services, despite observing the required measures.

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