Cetinje, Montenegro, January 30, 2023
The Serbian Orthodox Church prays at every Divine service for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which, despite the fact that it suffers together with its people during the war, is being persecuted by its own state, the head of the Church in Montenegro said yesterday.
Following the Divine Liturgy at Cetinje Monastery yesterday, His Eminence Metropolitan Joanikije addressed the clergy and laity of the Cetinje and Bar Dioceses of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Bar, reports Svetigora.
The most dangerous thing is the divisions being wrought among the same people, His Eminence said:
The Ukrainian Orthodox Church is canonical, independent, and the only one recognized by all Orthodox Churches. But in this time of war, it suffers along with its people. Especially dangerous are those wars that bring division among the same people. The first divisions began in Ukraine itself. There are those who talk about it. But somehow the fact that the churches of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church were already being seized by schismatics went unnoticed.
Met. Joanikije recounted how 15 years ago, he saw how the Ukrainian faithful defended a church that the authorities had taken the keys to in order to give them to schismatics. Even then it was clear that it would lead to problems for Ukraine, he said.
“It was a bad sign. Of course, the boomerang will return to anyone who encroaches upon the holy sites. It won’t benefit anyone,” His Eminence said.
And now the schismatics have even reached the holiest site in all of Ukraine—the Kiev Caves Lavra.
“They took the two biggest churches,” Met. Joanikije lamented. “First they were confiscated by the state, and then given to the schismatics.”
“And this is familiar to us,” he continued. “It was supposed to be the same here. They planned to do the same thing here, but, thank God, they weren’t able to.”
In late 2019, Montenegro passed a law that would give the state the right to seize property from the Serbian Orthodox Church, but the faithful refused to give up their holy sites. Hundreds of thousands of faithful took to the streets weekly to pray and process in defense of their churches, under the leadership of His Eminence Metropolitan Amfilohije of Montenegro of blessed memory. In the end, President Milo Đukanović’s ruling coalition lost its first election in 30 years.
“This is an ancient holy site, one of the most famous,” Met. Joanikije said, referring again to the Lavra in Kiev, “and the whole world is silent. But let it be silent. God will reveal His justice, and we will pray to God.”
“And prayer—not by our power, but the power of God—truly works wonders. It’s up there, in the heights, moving everything and eliminating evil between peoples,” the Montenegrin primate said.
Met. Joanikije also noted that the Metropolis of Montenegro had recently collected assistance to be transferred to His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine.
“His Beatitude came to us when it was most difficult for us, and led the procession—the largest synaxis of believers ever held in Montenegro. And now we want to help the Ukrainian Orthodox Church—now that it’s literally being persecuted,” Met. Joanikije said.
Met. Onuphry visited Montenegro in March 2020 and led one of the regular processions of the faithful against the state persecution that were held throughout the year. He also led a procession in honor of St. Symeon the Myrrh-Gusher.
Met. Joanikije also added that Met. Onuphry prays for and helps everyone, regardless of their political position:
Even in these most difficult days, he established a fund to help all those in need. And he shares everything he has with everyone. That’s how he feels about injustice. He forgives everyone, pours out his forgiveness on everyone, like the Lord Jesus Christ on Golgotha. And we need to know this here in Montenegro. And the whole world should know about it.