On June 21, throughout Montenegro were molebens cross processions in defense of the holy shrines of the Serbian Orthodox Church. Bishop Joanikije of Budimlja and Nikšić presided over the assembly in the seaside city of Budva. At 19:00 a moleben began by the Church of the Holy Trinity, and then a cross procession went to the Church of St. Parasceva. His Eminence Joanikije addressed large gathering of the faithful with words of encouragement.
“During the communist times of the past,” he recalled, “many would say, ‘Everything is fine right now—only it is not good that communism persecutes the [Orthodox] Church and other religions’. Our times are now like those, only much worse. Today they are persecuting and discriminating against only the Orthodox Church and faith. Everything that communism built has vanished, no stone was left upon another because it was a godless construct. But today the authorities think that by persecuting the Church and discriminating against the Orthodox faith and the Serbian people, they are doing something good for Montenegro! Nothing good can come of persecuting the Church! Many ask the question, what has brought so many people out for cross processions throughout Montenegro? We were brought out by vicious force! Because our rulers, the spiritual descendants of Broz Tito, have passed an anti-civilization law, discriminating against the Serbian Orthodox Church and its diocese in Montenegro, and annulling the rights of the largest confession in the country, desiring to seize its holy shrines, which means not only confiscating its property, not only the churches. Anyone who wants to desecrate your church and consign it to another use, wants to degrade you as a human being, as a people, as a faith; to take away your right to existence and a future. We cannot allow this to happen,” His Eminence emphasized, stating also that the Orthodox majority in Montenegro has yet to realize its own rights there.
“This is why we have come out to the free streets of Montenegro and make use of our basic right to oppose injustice, to rise up against discrimination and lies. We are struggling for the freedom of our holy faith and for out basic human rights.”
His Eminence emphasized that the lawlessness is expanding and entering into all areas of Montenegrin society, and there is no longer any stability felt in the country.
“Who is answerable for this? We have not allowed the presence of any party politics or party symbols on our cross processions; here we are all a united whole,” His Eminence stressed, saying that he understands the people who have been injured by this situation and thus express their claims against those who bear responsibility for it, who are in complete control of the country.
“Do not express your frustration about this here, on the cross procession, but let us maintain here our most enduring opposition—this is our peaceful protests, peaceful, prayerful procession, a nationwide gathering of the people against injustice, for the good of us all, and for the good of Montenegro, its future, and the future of its descendants. We have had many difficulties and problems, but God has been merciful to us and consoled us with His grace and love, and thus we have shown nationwide conciliarity in our assemblies. We do not pay attention to who says what, which political party someone belongs to, which political identity or preference. Here we are all united against lies and discrimination. All of us—elders, youths, young girls, mothers, wives, and children. We all think and feel the same way. And that is how it should always be, so that we would not be separated into parties. Only together can we overcome this injustice,” His Eminence stressed.
Vladyka also said that these events have shown and created heroes, new examples of nobility and heroism. He reminded all that for several policemen it was more important to preserve their honor and dignity than to have an opportunity to earn a living from their service, when they were sent out against their own people. Vladyka remembered also the workers who recently refused to destroy the foundation of a monastery.
“This struggle continues. We will need much strength to struggle with injustice—and do not even think of giving in, for the struggle for truth and especially for the freedom of our faith is always honorable and justified; it will bring goodness to us, our children, and to Montenegro. Intelligent people will come, who will care for their nation and people. We pray to God that He might send us such people,” Bishop Joanikije concluded, and he thanked the priests who were carrying their cross along with the people.
“Let those who are trying to scare us see that we are not afraid, that this evening we are here defending our holy shrines, that they can attack us, but they will never break us! They cannot break us because with are the victors! We have seen how they attack us, but we are not afraid! Do not be afraid! We are our own people, living in our own country, we have lived here for centuries, and no one can erase us from here or destroy our self-awareness. That is what they are trying to do, and what we will not allow! You have seen how out of fear they destroy our holy places, they try to destroy the baptisteries, to forbid us to assemble.”
He called upon their “brothers” who are doing this to come to their senses and do their work honestly.
“We are the victors, we do not recognize any force, we will oppose it and will not surrender, because we are God’s people, we are together with our holy Church. We demand that this shameful, discriminatory law on religious confessions be repealed, and that all would sit down to the discussion table. You have seen that nothing can be accomplished with bludgeons, tear gas and violence,” he said, and repeated the names of those policemen who refused to participate in such use of force.
The former policeman Vuk Vukovich, who took off his police uniform after seventeen years of service because his did not wish to participate in violence against the people and persecutions against the Church, thanked those assembled for giving him the great honor of carrying the cross at the head of the cross procession in Budva.
On Sunday, molebens and cross processions in defense of the Church took place throughout Montenegro, uniting tens of thousands of people. On the eve, they were carried out in the cities of Podgorica, Budva, Nikšić, Bar, Herceg Novi, Kotor, Žabljak, Danilovgrad, Pljevljia, Berane, Belo Polje, and Pluzine. By the evening of June 21, many priests had been taken custody by the police for questioning as organizers of the nationwide assembly.