Following the promulgation of the law robbing the churches and ecclesiastical goods of the Orthodox Church in Montenegro, the members of the Episcopal Council of the latter published the following press release
Podgorica, December 29, 2019
The Episcopal Council of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro which, by decision of the Holy Assembly of Hierarchs of the Serbian Orthodox Church in May 2006, is made up of the bishops of the Metropolitan Diocese of Montenegro and the Coast, of the Diocese of Budimlje -Nikšić, of the diocese of Mileševo and of the bishopric of Zahumlje-Herzegovina and of the Littoral, met in Podgorica on December 28 and 29 of the year of the Lord 2019. The diocesan bishop of Methodius, Vicar of the Metropolitan of Montenegro-Coastal, who was detained at the Military Medical Academy in Belgrade on December 26 due to the use of physical force over him by the Police at the Tara Đurđević Bridge on December 26, did not participate in the gathering. His fellow bishops wish him a speedy recovery and return. At the end of prayers of intercession to the Most Holy Mother of God – celebrated during times of misfortunes and trials – and which took place on Saturday December 28 in the Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ in Podgorica, the Episcopal Council held a session during which the hierarchs discussed the newly created situation, in which the holy Orthodox Church of God found itself after the adoption by the Parliament of Montenegro of the openly anti-ecclesial, discriminatory and unconstitutional law, on “religious or confessional freedom and the legal situation of religious denominations”. The bishops agreed that the promulgation of such a law without prior dialogue, with numerous procedural violations and incompatibilities with international standards, is undoubtedly directed against the Orthodox Church, specifically against the Patriarchate of Serbia, since the other Churches and traditional religious denominations have already settled the contentious issues by agreement with the Montenegrin State, which has not been granted to the Serbian Orthodox Church. This is confirmed both by the statements of the highest state officials and members of the ruling party, as well as by the discussions of the deputies of this party in the Montenegrin Parliament, and in particular by the refusal of the Montenegrin authorities to accept any solution proposed by the Church. For days now, we have witnessed the jubilation of all those who hate the Orthodox Church and the fierce neo-Montenegrin nationalists, most of them militant atheists, who celebrate victory over the Church of Christ. They forget the ancient truth of Sacred Scripture that “the gates of hell will not prevail” against the Church of God. Many powerful came and went, but the Church of God remained and survived. The hierarchs of Montenegro reject all accusations that the Church of God in Montenegro is a representative or a vestige of some imperialist or political ideology. It is exactly the opposite, because the adoption of this law and the spoliation of ecclesiastical goods must somehow serve to discipline the Church so that it is not the servant of the ideological-political matrix of the current Montenegrin regime. The only “ideology” of the Church and its only ministry over the centuries has been and will remain the Gospel of God and the service of Christ our God, crucified and risen. The bishops confirmed the conclusions of their conference call of December 26, 2019 and expressed their determination to oppose this injustice which the Church faces, by all national legal mechanisms, but also by addressing the international institutions competent for the defence of human rights and freedoms. The Episcopal Council informs the public that it knows that provisions very similar to those concerning the seizing of ecclesiastical property in Montenegro are also pending before the authorities of Priština, whose intention is to deprive the diocese of Ras- Prizren of the Patriarchate of Serbia of their property rights on our ancient holy places and churches in Kosovo and in Metochia. The Episcopal Council and all the bishops individually express the attachment to our eight century old tradition and remain faithful to the end of the canonical structure of the Patriarchate of Peć / Serbia, recalling that each of its dioceses is the heir of bishoprics which were founded in the 13th century by Saint Sava, the first archbishop of Serbian lands and the coast. The bishops call on the faithful Orthodox people of Montenegro not to despair and to put their trust in God and His power. In these days before Christmas, we must come together in the churches to pray with our Christian dignity and determination, without giving in to the provocations of those whose goal is the separation between brothers, and we show that the Montenegrin regime has in no way shaken or frightened us in our determined effort to defend our holy places and our religious rights and freedoms. “Hard is the nut, a strange fruit, you tried to break it but you broke your teeth” [Niegoch]. All the ecclesial communities of our dioceses are free to express, in a spirit of prayer, in a spirit of Christian peace and fraternal harmony, their position against the threat to the fundamental rights and freedoms of believers. We urge all police forces and their leaders, all up to the President and the Prime Minister, not to use force, even against bishops, who come together peacefully to defend and realize their religious rights. We remind them that we have repeatedly told them publicly that the contempt for the Orthodox Church, which has been manifested for almost the past two decades, and which has been demonstrated in the process of the preparation and enactment of this shamefu legislative act, can have serious consequences for Montenegrin society, and also that it destroys peace and fraternal harmony which are the priceless treasure of all contemporary society. The promulgation of such a law does not serve the honour and does not attract the blessing, neither on those who proposed it, nor on those who voted and promulgated it. In doing so, all those who are Orthodox, we note with sadness, have excluded themselves from the Orthodox Church and consequently are excommunicated. Also, we order our pious clergy, to administer to them “no ecclesial rite” according to the expression of S. Pierre de Cetinje, until their repentance, for which we pray. We call on those in power to join forces and, as soon as possible, to open a real dialogue in order to rectify what can be done, before the possible application of this law becomes the source of serious divisions. of society with unpredictable consequences. Only an agreement could be a real victory for Montenegro and all Montenegrin citizens.
AMPHILOQUE, Archbishop of Cetinje, Metropolitan of Montenegro and the Coast, ATHANASE, Bishop of Mileševo, JOANNICE, Bishop of Budimlja-Nikšić, DIMITRI, Bishop of Zahumlje-Herzegovina and of the Coast, ATHANASE, Bishop Emeritus of Zahumlje-Herzegovina