04 Jun 15
Montenegro ‘Crucifying’ Serbian Church, Bishop Says
The Serbian Orthodox Church’s senior bishop in Montenegro, Metropolitan Amfilohije, has again lashed out at the government, accusing it of trying to steal its property.
Metropolitan Amfilohije on Wednesday accused the Montenegrin authorities of “crucifying and persecuting” his Church and of wanting to “grab Church property”.
At a service in Cetinje, Bishop Amfilohije said Montenegro was also trying to obstruct the legal residence of his clergy.
“These people, although they want to be in Europe, have no plans to return plundered Church property. Not only that, they are still trying to seize our churches,” the bishop said, mentioning several buildings about which Church and state authorities have been disputing ownership for years.
As Montenegro has no law on religious communities, it leaves room for different interpretations between the government and the Serbian Orthodox Church when it comes to property rights. The last such law was abolished in 1979.
In the absence of a clear legal framework defining ecclesiastical property, Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic’s government has lent support to arguments that churches and religious buildings do not belong automatically to the Serbian Orthodox Church but to the people of Montenegro.
“Today, the Montenegrin government, pupils of those who destroyed churches, say there is no Church. It needs to be registered first – and then blackmailed by those who want to create their own ideological Church and religion,”Amfilohije said.
The row between the Serbian Church and the Djukanovic government has gone on for years. The Church opposed Montenegrin independence and, as its name suggests, champions close national as well as religious ties to Serbia.
Meanwhile the ruling coalition’s junior partner, the Social Democrats, SDP, have further angered the Serbian Church by pushing for the government to support the rival Montenegrin Orthodox Church – which the Serbian Church does not recognise.
Most baptised Montenegrins belong to the Serbian Orthodox Church, which remains widely trusted, especially among the 30 per cent of the population who describe themselves as Serbs.
Three years ago, the government signed an agreement defining the status of property rights of the small Catholic Church and the tiny Jewish community, but it is still stalling over an agreement with the Serbian Orthodox Church.
Source: Balkan Insight (Montenegro)