Montenegro hierarchs: we won’t divide the people by party, we will follow Christ

Podgorica, Montenegro, February 4, 2022

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Against the background of the current political turmoil in Montenegro, the four hierarchs of the Serbian Orthodox Church serving there issued a joint statement this week, affirming that they do not and will not divide the people by party affiliation, but will only seek to follow Christ.

In August 2020, after 30 years in power, President Milo Đukanović’s anti-Orthodox ruling coalition lost a majority of Parliamentary seats to the opposition coalition. The new Prime Minister Zdravko Krivokapić immediately went to seek the Church’s blessing, and the anti-Orthodox “Law on Religious Freedom” was amended to stop the threat of the state seizing Orthodox Church property.

However, as the hierarchs note in their statement, the advent of a new government didn’t immediately solve all the problems in the Montenegrin. There is now a push to oust PM Krivokapić, but the Church will continue in its fundamental mission.

Metropolitan Joanikije of Montenegro, Bishop Atanasije of Mileševo, Bishop Metodije of Budimlja and Nikšić, and Bishop Dimitrije of Zahumsko and Herzegovina state:

After fraternal consultation and consideration of the current position of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro, we, its hierarchs entrusted with the archpastoral ministry in Montenegro, address the faithful and the general public with our joint statement:

We, the undersigned hierarchs, will follow Christ the Savior with our clergy and believing people, following St. Basil of Ostrog and St. Peter of Cetinje, and we will not divide the people entrusted to us by God by party affiliation, but we will, as before, build the Church and the unity of our people in the holy Orthodox faith and the communion of the Holy Spirit. Wanting every person to acquire full freedom of thought and conscience, especially freedom from sin, we respect the differences of national expression and party affiliations and believe that, regardless of differences, we should all work for the common good and opt for honest dialogue instead of quarrels and discord. It is with such a sincere dialogue that we will best solve problems and achieve the desired harmony of national unity, while respecting all the mentioned differences.

We are obliged to remind our pious people that the fight for freedom of religion is not over yet and that the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro has been suffering disgusting slanders and injustices from the former regime for decades, whose political representatives spread hatred and intolerance against our Church. Due to the injustices we still suffer today from the remnants of the former regime, we do not see a solution to the existing social problems in the return of the former government, nor in support for any minority government. How, dear brothers and sisters, will those who threaten a new persecution of the Church, deportations of priests, and the confiscation of holy sites ever solve the accumulated social problems and apply the standards of civilization!? Do you notice how these days they meekly and tenderly offer the “gifts of the Danes” to the people of Montenegro who defended their holy sites from them?

The victory over the previous God-fighting regime on August 30, 2020, did not bring a solution to all the problems in society, but all the same, it was a great democratic turning point. Therefore, we are convinced that the will of the people should be preserved and respected. A good goal can only be achieved by good means. It’s not our intention to hamper social processes, and in that sense we expect that the winning politicians from the last parliamentary elections will find a common solution for this or some new government, which will soon sign a fundamental agreement with the Serbian Orthodox Church. This would contribute to calming tensions in Montenegro and would achieve equality for all religions in our country.

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