26 Dec 14
Montenegro’s Churches Row Over Royal Home
Supporters of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro are up in arms over the decision of a town council to allow the rival Montenegrin Orthodox Church free use of a royal villa.
Supporters of two rival Orthodox churches in Montenegro are feuding over which of them should have the right to the old summer home of King Nikola, Montenegro’s last monarch.
Several dozen people protested on Thursday over the decision of the local assembly in the town of Niksic to hand the summer house to the Montenegrin Orthodox Church.
The protesters gathered in front of the building to join the opposition parties, which boycotted the session at which the decision was made.
The protesters said it was an “illegal decision” because the deal was the result of direct negotiations with the clergy of the Montenegrin Church and did not follow a public announcement.
They also said it was wrong to give the summer home to a “de-frocked priest”, which is how the Serbian Orhodox Church refers to the Montenegrin Orthodox Church’s senior bishop, Metropolitan Mihailo.
“We need to talk some sense into the municipal leaders and show them all the damaging effects of such a decision,” one of protesters, Spasoje Tomic, said.
The summer house in Niksic was a “holiday home” for the last king of Montenegro, who was dethroned in 1918 to make way for unification of Serbia and Montenegro into the new state of Yugoslavia – the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes as it was initially called.
However, the property is long abandoned and is now in a poor condition, which is one reason it has been handed over to the Montenegrin Church, which will be obliged to restore and maintain it.
Montenegro’s religious breakdown is complex, as no faith group claims the allegiance of a majority of the population. The country is home to Orthodox and Catholic Christians as well as a sizeable Muslim community.
The Serbian Orthodox Church is both the largest Orthodox denomination and the largest single faith group in the country.
But there is also a smaller Montenegrin Orthodox Church. Formed in the 1990s, it bases its claim for recognition on the fact that Montenegro had its own Orthodox Church before the country was merged into Yugoslavia.
The Serbian Church disputes its existence and calls it a schismatic organisation. It has not been recognised by any other Orthodox churches, either.
The rival churches have been in fierce dispute for years over ownership rights to church heritage, including buildings and land.
Source: Balkan Insight (Montenegro)