Metropolitan of Montenegro in support of persecuted Ukrainian Metropolitan-Abbot of Svyatogorsk Lavra

Podgorica, Montenegro, May 21, 2024

Met. Joanikije of Montenegro (left) wrote a letter of support for Met. Arseny of Svyatogorsk (right). Photos: Met. Joanikije of Montenegro (left) wrote a letter of support for Met. Arseny of Svyatogorsk (right). Photos:     

The persecuted Metropolitan Arseny of Svyatogorsk, abbot of the Holy Dormition-Svyatogorsk Lavra, is a wise pastor, respected well beyond the bounds of his native Ukraine, says the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church’s Metropolis of Montenegro.

Earlier this month, His Eminence Metropolitan Joanikije of Montenegro wrote a letter of support for Met. Arseny, another hierarch of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church who is being unjustly detained by the Ukrainian Security Service and now faces years in prison.

The Serbian hierarch is himself no stranger to state persecution. He was Bishop of Budimlja and Nikšić when the anti-Orthodox government of Montenegro was attempting to seize Church property in 2019–2021. The people of Montenegro, led by His Eminence Metropolitan Amfilohije and the other hierarchs, rose up against this injustice, holding weekly cross processions in defense of the Church, gathering tens and hundreds of thousands of people.

Then, in May 2020, police detained Bp. Joanikije and several other clerics for three days for participating in a cross procession in honor of the greatly beloved St. Basil of Ostrog during the time of the coronavirus. In February 2023, Vladyka Joanikije, by then the Metropolitan of Montenegro, and the other clerics were acquitted of all charges.

And seeking to comfort and strengthen Met. Arseny, who is facing much fiercer persecution, Met. Joanikije writes:

Your Eminence and reverend fathers, dear in Christ brethren of the Lavra!

We have learned from the media about the criminal prosecution of the abbot of your holy monastery, the Holy Dormition-Svyatogorsk Lavra, Metropolitan Arseny.

We know Metropolitan Arseny as a wise pastor who is respected by his fellow bishops both in Ukraine and beyond, by the brethren of the Svyatogorsk Lavra, its numerous parishioners, pilgrims, and refugees who have found shelter in the holy monastery since the beginning of the war. Since 2014 and to this day, the monastery, at its own expense and with the support of many social missions from various dioceses of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, has been consistently conducting humanitarian activities, supporting local residents not only in the difficult circumstances of wartime but—quite often—in the most severe conditions for survival.

We express our sincere support for Metropolitan Arseny and the brethren entrusted to his abbatial care. We hope for a democratic and impartial approach to resolving the case of Vladyka Arseny, after which he could return to managing the monastery and continue its social activities.

In these holy days, we believe that the Risen Christ will not abandon His faithful servant, will bless the triumph of law, and will guide Metropolitan Arseny to return in good health to his immediate duties as the abbot of the Lavra.

In March of last year, Met. Joanikije also sent a letter of support for the brotherhood of the Kiev Caves Lavra, whom the state is still trying to expel from their monastic home.

Last week, His Grace Bishop Gerasim of the Gornji Karlovac Diocese of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Croatia, published an open letter in defense of all the persecuted hierarchs, clergy, monastics, and faithful of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

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