Cetinje, Montenegro, September 6, 2021
A great event in the life of the Metropolis of Montenegro of the Serbian Orthodox Church was celebrated yesterday as His Grace Bishop Joanikije of Budimlja and Nikšić was formally enthroned as head of the Metropolis.
The enthronement was celebrated by His Holiness Patriarch Porfirije and His Grace Bishop David of Kruševac at Cetinje Monastery, the seat of the Metropolis, reports the Serbian Orthodox Church.
The joyous celebration was also attended by hierarchical and clerical guests from a number of fraternal Local Churches. Unfortunately, protests were held at the same time by Montenegrin nationalists and schismatics.
Met. Joanikije, who was born and raised in Montenegro and has served the Church in Montenegro since his monastic tonsuring in 1990, was appointed locum tenens of the Metropolis last fall after the repose of His Eminence Metropolitan Amfilohije, and was elected as the new metropolitan by the Serbian Holy Synod in May.
The relevant decision of the Holy Synod was read out by Bp. David on Saturday, thus formally installing Vladyka Joanikije as Metropolitan of Montenegro.
In his homily, Pat. Porfirije emphasized the great responsibility the Church has placed upon Met. Joanikije: “This is an exalted and great service and a great honor, but also a great responsibility, because you have come to the throne of St. Peter of Cetinje and many saints of God this day… You are appointed here by the will of God, above all, to serve the Divine Liturgy, and the Divine Liturgy is nothing but the Kingdom of Heaven here among us.”
His Holiness also exhorted the new metropolitan to serve for the unity of all Montenegrin citizens in the holy Orthodox Church, though this path will not be easy: “There are no enmities, there are no divisions, because the Church is, in its meaning, an ecclesia—a gathering! She gathers everything in herself through Christ and in Christ. That is your task, but I know you will be crucified.”
“May the Lord give you His strength, His patience, the strength to bear the pain of your people, to bear their crucifixions,” the Patriarch exclaimed.
The Patriarch and Metropolitan and Bp. David then went to Holy Resurrection Cathedral in the capital city of Podgorica, where His Eminence Metropolitan Joanikije was greeted with shouts of “Axios!” by the faithful and the hierarchs of the Serbian Church and visiting hierarchs from the Churches of Jerusalem, Russia, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Poland, Albania, and the Czech-Lands and Slovakia.
Addressing the crowd, Met. Joanikije assured that he will do everything possible to heal the rift that exists in Montenegro.
Anti-Serbian nationalists and schismatics protested the enthronement of Met. Joanikije both before and after the event, arguing that the Serbian Church is an anti-Montenegrin institution, and that it’s an assault to Montenegrin identity to enthrone the metropolitan in the ancient capital of Cetinje, despite the fact that the metropolitan is always enthroned in Cetinje and despite the fact that Met. Joanikije in particular is a native of Montenegro and has spent his entire life there.
Unfortunately, protests on the day of the event descended into violence, and the Patriarch even had to fly in for the service in a helicopter, surrounded by armed guards, as the roads to the monastery were blocked, as can be seen at the beginning of the video of the enthronement service:
As Met. Joanikije lamented, the visiting hierarchs couldn’t even attend the enthronement due to the nationalist violence.
In his address, Pat. Porfirije spoke of the joy of the entire Church this day:
Blessed be your service. I’m sure that the whole Orthodox Church, Heavenly and earthly, rejoices today, but above all, St. Peter of Cetinje rejoices today, St. Basil of Ostrog rejoices, and so many saints of God who sat on the throne of the Metropolitan of Cetinje, Montenegro and the Littoral, all the way up to your unforgettable spiritual father and our teacher and the father of all gathered here, the blessed Metropolitan Amfilohije. They rejoice because of an honorable and worthy heir, brothers and sisters.
In his farewell words at the Podgorica airport, Pat. Porfirije spoke of the competing emotions he experienced during his stay in Montenegro:
I am leaving this blessed country and people, I hope not for long,with mixed feelings. I am very happy because we have done the work of the Church, enthroned the Metropolitan according to the will of the Church and the people of this diocese, the people who deeply love the Church of St. Sava.
But I am also more than sad, even horrified by the fact that there were some people in sight who intended to prevent this act of love for everyone with a sniper rifle. I thank everyone, I feel sorry for everyone who was injured in any way and I ask them for forgiveness. I pray to the Lord for this country, for this people and for all people, and I ask them to pray for me, because they are closer to God.