Dr Goran Sekulović
Sreten Perović, Academician:
A WORD OF RECOMMENDATION (REVIEW)
The study of a prominent publisher Dr. Goran Sekulović Montenegrin identity represents a significant and very useful guide through the current issues of our society. It is about the realization of basic human rights, which modern Montenegro generally accepts and supports, but not in all segments of equal nurturing of its own spirituality. The subject of this study is the present position of the restored, historic, autocephalous Montenegrin Orthodox Church, which still has no minimum requirements for living and working in its own state, and for which it had been struggling for centuries, as the head of the Montenegrin people, making a worthy peaceful and patriotic contribution to its recent full national sovereignty. Despite these historical and contemporary merits, despite its sincere ecumenism and peaceful coexistence with other religious organizations and religious denominations in Montenegro, the Montenegrin Church and its believers, and many admirers – is still fighting for the elementary equality, the right to exercise its spiritual mission in its Montenegrin temples, which are still illegally „held under“ the Dioceses of Saint Sava’s Serbian Church preventing the clergymen of the Montenegrin church to serve in them. In this patient, peaceful and justified struggle, the Montenegrin church becomes more and wider supported by multiconfessional and humanized citizens of Montenegro, the press and modern historiography. Overviews of the current issues of this kind greatly help a fuller and immediate realization of civil and human rights in the pro-European state of Montenegro.
Dr Goran Sekulović
The book Montenegrin Identity is an expanded text of an article “Montenegrin Identity Rights and Freedoms”, which has been published in Matica, magazine for social issues, science and culture, by Matica Crnogorska (No. 44, Year XI, Winter 2010, Cetinje, Podgorica). This text is being published bilingually, in Montenegrin and English.
It has been seven decades since the publication of a discussion named Montenegro in the Yugoslav federation(Economist, Zagreb, 1940) by one of the most famous European lawyers of his era and the most famous Serbian and Yugoslav lawyers of all time – with an extremely rare, at least for the persons from the Western Balkans region, high international renownedness – academician Prof. Dr Živojin Perić. Also, it has been nine decades since the decision of the – regent-king of the state of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (hereinafter: SCS) Aleksandar Karađorđević on the abolishment of the autocephalous Montenegrin Orthodox Church (MOC). Although these two events appear to be apparently quite diverse in their characters, they essentially correspond and appear historically linked as they point to the vital interests of the sovereign state of Montenegro, its international status and human rights of its citizens. Perić critically analyzed the conclusions of the so-called Great National Assembly of Podgorica which directly served regent-king Aleksandar to announce the decision on abolishment of the autocephalous Montenegrin Orthodox Church (MOC) and its immersion in the Serbian Orthodox Church (SOC). Academician Prof. Dr Branko Pavićević writes that “this great scholar has given an utterly lapidary and brief socio-historical, socio-political and legal-sociological account of the event which has left serious scars on the soul of the Yugoslav people, especially Montenegrin one”. The aim of this text is to point to the need, importance and the necessity of making more appropriate decisions and acts on behalf of the official institutions of the Montenegrin state, which would ensure and strengthen the Montenegrin identity corpus of human rights and freedoms as a pre-political constitutional condition of its legitimacy and a stable democratic society.
Aleksandar Karađorđević, Serbian regent, later to become the King, abolished the Montenegrin autocephalous (Orthodox) church by means of an illegal and illegitimate act – based on an illegal and illegitimate decision of the so-called Great National Assembly of Podgorica and based on illegal and illegitimate session of the Holy Synod of the Montenegrin Orthodox Church. All these cases are known in jurisprudence as legal documents called inexistant (an act that does not exist), which further text is to prove. Democratic renewal of Montenegrin independence through a referendum in May 2006 practically abolished the decisions of so-called “Great National Assembly of Podgorica” held on November 13, 1918 on the “unification” with the Kingdom of Serbia. However, for the legality and legitimacy sake, it is necessary to confirm the annulment of the decisions of the illegal and illegitimate Assembly of Podgorica from 1918 – as academician Perić had scientifically proven and established apodictically in his discussion – by means of an appropriate decision of the Parliament of Montenegro. Especially, because it was the basis, that is – cause, the factor and the force, whose decisions and consequences have led to the illegal and illegitimate act of the Holy Synod of the Montenegrin Orthodox Church on its self-abolishment, on one hand, and which had led to the decision of the regent Aleksandar to create an act on abolishment of the autocephalous Montenegrin Orthodox Church. The Parliament of Montenegro is obliged to annul the decree of the regent on the proposal of the Government of Montenegro, because it was signed by the ruler of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (former Yugoslavia), who was a secular, not spiritual, person. This means that such a decision falls under its jurisdiction, thus not violating the contemporary constitutional provision on the separation of church and state. Act on the abolition of the Montenegrin autocephalous church is not based on the Constitution of the Kingdom of Montenegro, the Constitution of the Holy Synod of the Montenegrin Church or any other legal act. It is based on the illegal decisions of the so-called “Great National Assembly of Podgorica”, which are falsified and, as such, worthless acts by the Synod of the Montenegrin Church and the violence of the Serbian army. The annulations would restore the legal and legitimate state. In this way, the Montenegrin church recovers its autocephaly, and state recovers its property, which it had previously possessed. But let us go one event at a time.
Assembly of Montenegro is obliged to verify the annulment of decisions of the so-called Assembly of Podgorica in 1918
An extremely important document for the people of Montenegro, the state of Montenegro and all its citizens, by the famous Serbian scientist, academician Živojin Perić (1868-1953) – Montenegro in the Yugoslav Federation was published as a reprint in Liberal at the beginning of the nineties, and once again in 1999 by NGO DOB with an extensive afterword-study by the academician Prof. Dr Mijat Šuković. Perić was „one of the most prominent scientific figures of the Law Faculty in Belgrade between the two World Wars” (M. Šuković: Assembly of Podgorica in 1918, the second, amended, and revised edition, DOB, Podgorica, 2004) and one of the most prominent Serbian, Yugoslav and European experts in international law of all time. Serbian academician Prof. Dr Slobodan Jovanović wrote that Perić was „the most prominent figure of law in South Slavic nations.”
Perić was writing his work at the times of democratization and the early days of the initiation of the debate on decentralization and federalization of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. “Today, when it comes to corrections of political, not quite small, mistakes we made in these twenty years of Yugoslavia, there should also be revised the state-legal status of Montenegro, in order to recognize its position of a semi-sovereign Yugoslav state in the Kingdom, so that we could correct an injustice done to it, which was one of the causes of the current political unsettlement and disruption in our country” (Ž. Perić: 1999). Moreover, academician Perić believes that “among the problems that are being encouraged by the national and political reorganization of our country, the issue of Montenegro takes a prominent place. It is doubly complicated: from the standpoint of public and legal, and from the national aspect (if not in ethnical, then certainly in ethicalterms).” (Underlined by Ž.P.) Even from the standpoint of international law, the position of Montenegro can be discussed and is being discussed; although we speak of a theoretical discussion, it is only justified so that we would not make mistakes in the future – the mistakes which have taken place in Montenegro after the last World War”. (First World War, note by G. S.)
Mistakes in relation to Montenegro, which are discussed by the academician Perić, had their own prehistory. On the eve of and during the First World War, the Government of the Kingdom of Serbia, headed by Nikola Pašić, was planning to annex Montenegro to Serbia, and it succeeded in 1918. Historical facts indicate that it was a forced annexation. Serbian army, which was determined to enter Montenegro, was called “Skadar troops,” later being renamed into “Adriatic troops.” Dragan Milutinović, a Serbian officer, was appointed its Commander. Serbian government in Thessaloniki, formed a Committee for the Unification of Montenegro and Serbia, which was comprised of the following members: Svetozar Tomić, Petar Kosović, Milisav Raičević and Janko Spasojević, who was the only Montenegrin citizen and was on the payroll of the Serbian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Committee was renamed “the Montenegrin Central Executive Committee of National unity,” regardless of the fact that there was only one citizen of Montenegro – Janko Spasojević. The Committee met in Berane on October 25, 1918, and put down the rules for the selection of “delegates” to attend the so-called Assembly of Podgorica. The rules were designed to provide the pre-selection of the “delegates” for the sake of unconditional unification. The ”Assembly” was held on November 11, 1918 and, at that time, one of the “deputies” Savo Fatić said “… We are no longer Montenegrins, but Serbs …” The army was present at the venue to prevent any other solution that might have arisen. The authorities in Montenegro were the military ones , under the command of the Commander of the Adriatic troops.
Here are the words from a letter by the Chief of the Serbian Supreme Command, addressed to the commander of the Adriatic troops: „Strive most energetically and by all means to suppress any agitation on the territory which was occupied by our army, no matter where it comes from. For this end, all the means are at your disposal, and do not hesitate to use them“ (Božidar P. Božanović: The Roots of Montenegrins, 2002; Underlined by G.S.). Due to the unprecedented terror of the occupying Serbian forces, Montenegrin people lifted an uprising on Christmas of 1919 which eventually failed. However, we find the words of a Montenegrin, Nikola Petanović, publisher and editor of the magazine Montenegrin Mirror in San Francisco: “Montenegro is occupied, but it is not dead, and its tragedy gives a new shine to its name” (Nikola Petanović: 1927, 2006). Only a few of these facts speak of the scale of the Montenegrin tragedy at the end of the second and early third decade of the twentieth century. Montenegro joined Serbia by force in 1918 which was one more reason for Montenegrins, with members of ethnic minorities, to regain their independence on May 21, 2006.
The aim of his discussion on Montenegro is to avoid the future mistakes and injustices manifested toward Montenegro in the past, deems the academician Živojin Perić. They have begun to be corrected during the anti-fascist partisan struggle and national liberation struggle at the end and after the Second World War – when Montenegro gained legal equality and civil semi-sovereignty (to speak in Perić’s precise legal terms) within the new Yugoslav federal government. Its full national sovereignty, independence and international recognition were restored in a democratic referendum in 2006. Today, however, some scientific and academic institutions, and (pro) Serbian opposition parties in Montenegro, call for the respect of the decisions of the so called Great National Assembly of Podgorica in 1918. Recently, an member of the Montenegrin Parliament from one such party, whose leader claims that it could successfully “continue” the process of accession to the EU (being at the same time a big opponent of NATO), said, in a reaction to the statement of the President of the Montenegrin Parliament Ranko Krivokapić that it is necessary to stand in front of Cetinje monastery, which was usurped by the Serbian Orthodox Church (SOC), using “laws and justice”, that “there are also other Assemblies, such as Assembly of Podgorica”, although “it is both anti-Serbian and anti-Montenegrin to bring up the Assembly of Podgorica in 1918. to the political life and the decision it had made, which should legally and practically be placed in the ‘Museum of Antiquities’ ”. (M. Šuković: 2004).
Anti-Montenegrin forces which do not want to place the Assembly of Podgorica in the ‘Museum of Antiquities’, are using the advantage that legal and legitimate Montenegrin authorities had not corrected all the mistakes and injustices against the state of Montenegro, the Montenegrin nation and Montenegrin citizens, and nationals as a whole. The preamble to the Constitution does not state that Montenegro is a state of Montenegrin and all other peoples who live in it, or that Montenegrin people is historically entitled to the state of Montenegro. This would not perturb, but it would actually affirm the civil state, through a historically legitimate, national and stately, establishment of Montenegro as a single line of defense of the safe future for all its peoples and citizens.
Priests, believers, and admirers of the Montenegrin Orthodox Church, nationally recognized as Montenegrins, are unable to visit and perform religious rites in the Orthodox Church in Montenegro, because they are all currently owned by the Serbian Orthodox Church, although the exclusive religious jurisdiction have been under the autocephalous Montenegrin Orthodox Church on the whole territory of the former sovereign and internationally recognized state of Montenegro until 1918. In this period, the Montenegrin government was the owner of the Orthodox Church property that was only ceded to the management and use of the Montenegrin Orthodox Church. “Even when the ruler became a secular person, the state did not change, and material goods of the church remained his own…” (Valtazar Bogišić: 1999).
All this was violently and unlawfully changed in 1918 with the so-called “Great National Assembly of Podgorica” and the abolition of the autocephalous Montenegrin Orthodox Church by the act of the regent-king Aleksandar Karađorđević in 1920. When it comes to these issues, the current situation in Montenegro is almost the same, an entire century later, substantially unchanged and full of consequences of the past illegal and violent acts and actions. State of Montenegro has no control and supervision of industrial and commercial activities, and property transactions regarding the status of parts of church property, currently carried out by the Serbian Orthodox Church. Moreover, there are no adequate prerogatives or possibilities of appropriate intervention for the protection and conservation, presentation and social, educational, pedagogical and civilizational evaluation of the Orthodox religious heritage as an inseparable part of the total Montenegrin cultural heritage. Serbian Orthodox Church acts extraterritorially in the Montenegrin state for decades now, completely ignoring its organs and institutions.
Academician Perić recognizes that “great-Serbian imperialists and chauvinists” do not want Montenegro to regain its state-legal individuality which belongs to it, regaining, at the same time, the status of a federal unit in the former Yugoslav state. Therefore he stood up in the defense of justice and ethnic, ethical and national rights of the Montenegrins and historical, national and international law of Montenegro (this is what he had done in The Hague in 1929 and 1933, and Lyon as well, when it was prohibited to write about it in Yugoslavia). “Montenegrins have so many peculiar features that they can be, without any exaggeration counted among the most original and interesting people in Europe, whose originality is even more prominent because they are not a big nation: they present an ethnic and ethical greatness concentrated on a very limited space.”; “Montenegro has been a separate state for centuries… and it has never been completely conquered by the Turks, while Serbia was completely under the Turkish government.”; “Is it not enough of victimizing Montenegro by pushing it as a sovereign international entity (state), into a new country without its consent conforming to its Constitution, therefore, destroying its international sovereignty, contrary to the regulations of international law, only to be joined to a second autonomous unit of the state, thus becoming an extension of the Užice County in Serbia.”; “We can not understand, from the standpoint of law and justice, that one should create such a difference between Montenegro and Serbia… with Serbia, not only restored, but even rising to the rank of a Greater Serbia, while Montenegro, arbitrarily, becoming a mere part of its former ally.” (Underlined by Z.P)
As for the decisions of the so called Assembly of Podgorica in 1918, “the key content of the decisions were the first two points” (Šuković: 2004): “1. King Nikola I Petrović Njegoš and his dynasty are overthrown from the Montenegrin throne; 2 Montenegro shall unite with the fraternal state of Serbia into a single state under the Karađorđević dynasty, and thus united they shall form a country of our nation with three names: Serbs, Croats and Slovenes”(Šuković: 2004).
Hungarian Academician Prof. Dr Jozef Bajza writes about these decisions in his book named “The Montenegrin issue”: “Decisions in Podgorica provoked contempt and unbelievable outrage throughout Montenegro. Montenegrins, driven to despair because of the atrocities that were committed by Serbs the ‘liberators’, revolted on Christmas in 1919 under the leadership of Jovan Plamenac, a former minister in Montenegro. In order to avoid massacres, Wilson addressed to King Nikola, who was in Neuilly, asking him to restrain the rebellion with his royal word. On January 22, 1919 King Nikola sent a telegram to his homeland, which was compiled by Wilson. Certain number of rebels handed their weapon in, while the rest left Montenegro with Plamenac.
Freeing themselves from the most dangerous of patriots, the Serbs conducted a terror egregious and inappropriate to the European culture. Once subjected to Belgrade, Plamenac described the events in the Montenegrin capital to one newspaper: “In 1918 and 1919 Montenegro has been reduced to the cemetery. Thousands of homes were torched and thousands of Montenegrins were slaughtered … Women, children and helpless old people were thrown alive into the fire, children who were thrown from the windows fell on the bayonets that were readily waiting them. The unfortunate people who gave signs of life had their ears, tongues, noses mutilated … Women were raped, wild cats were tied up below their skirts mutilated and torn the bodies of these unfortunate women. They formed gangs similar to the Huns, which devastated the area one after another, plundering the poor Montenegrins, desecrating the graves of their ancestors … dragging through the mud and dirt the bones of St. Vasilije of Ostrog and St. Petar of Cetinje only because they were Montenegrin saints.”
Montenegrin politicians in refuge published a documented memorandum on Serbian atrocities. English and Italian press has spread this news, but of course, in such a manner so that the Peace Conference (at Versailles, remark by G.S.) would not be obliged to intervene. Former ambassador of England at the Holy See, Count Salis, Canadian Colonel Burnham and the U.S. Embassy envoy at Quirinal, Arnold, fully confirmed the news released by the Montenegrin emigration. The Metropolitan of Cetinje, Mitrofan, said to Count Salis that he recognized and approved the union with Serbia, because was threatened. On his deathbed Metropolitan openly admitted this and asked for God’s forgiveness for his betrayal. On March 11 1920, Lord Curzon explained why he did not intend to publish the report of Count Salis in the English Parliament, as he feared that once published the report would outrage Serbian revenge toward a large number of Montenegrins.” (Jozef Bajza: 1927, 1928, 2001; Underlined by G.S).
Dr. Novak Adžić’s research published in his book Fighters for an Independent Montenegro 1918 – 1941 Vol. 1confirms that this was all true: „Under the rule of the Karađorđevićs in Montenegro, from 1918 to 1941, who were imposed as an occupation dynasty through the decisions of the so-called the Great National Assembly of Podgorica, numerous crimes were committed toward the Montenegrin people. Thousands of homes in Montenegro were burned (a figure of approximately 6,000 thousand houses, which, according to the Serbian press, and Belgrade newspapers Balkan and Tribuna were burned from the end of 1918 to 1921) About 9,000 Montenegrin citizens were killed, while 4,000 of the most prominent Montenegrins and the Montenegrin citizens who were against the destruction of Montenegro were arrested … “ (N. Adžić: 2008)
Analyzing the decisions of the so-called Great National Assembly of Podgorica, Serbian academician, Živojin Perić, recalls the article 36 of the Montenegrin Constitution: “The state possession and territories of the Princedom of Montenegro can not be separated or alienated. Its boundaries can not be reduced, or exchanged without the agreement of Prince (King) and the National Assembly.” “Consequently, no one – he stresses – but legislative power was entitled to limit or reduce state borders , let alone someone who is not a legislator on the whole area of Montenegro to annex it to another state. Therefore, the so-called Great National Assembly of Podgorica, which had no support in the Constitution of Montenegro, could not do that.” Montenegro entered, Perić writes, “the Yugoslav government not as it should have according to its valid right, which should be the only relevant here: it became a part of Yugoslavia, only by the unilateral will of Serbia and its war allies, with its factual authority. Here we have an interesting case of the first kind – debellatio … debellatio by conquering (la conqvete, Eroberung), not to the detriment of the enemy or a defeated country, but to the detriment of a wartime ally, therefore, to the detriment of one of the winners. Victory ended with the disappearance of the victor!” (Underlined by Ž.P.). Prof. Perić is explicit: ”The decision of the Great National Assembly of Podgorica on the annexation of Montenegro to Serbia has no constitutional and legal value: it is a case, known in law, as a legal act inexistant (an act that does not exist) and, hence, the acceptance by the Serbian state of such an offer and such a decision is also an act of no value, or to be precise inexistant, from the standpoint of law.”
From the scientific point of view, it is right to propose that the Parliament of Montenegro should annul the decisions of the Great National Assembly of Podgorica from 1918. This stems from the arguments of academician Perić related to the emphasis on the political events and processes from the time when he wrote his treatise, which reasonably and objectively refute the decisions, and consequences of the so-called Great National Assembly of Podgorica from 1918. “… Everything we have already spoken about, takes out any plebiscite value of the Assembly in Podgorica, especially today when it can no longer be regarded as its indisputable expression (although it had no value itself, even before, at least from a legal standpoint). Even the last elections for the National Assembly (December 11, 1938) in which … Montenegrin federalists seized a half of the seats assigned to the Province of Zeta, smear the importance of the Assembly as a national plebiscite. (Is it not also smeared by the renewal of Montenegrin sovereign state? Note by G.S.) However, the difficulties and the events that resulted in the Assembly as well as the unitarian organization of our country are an eloquent criticism of the policies that resulted in the Assembly of Podgorica“.
Comparative analysis, with all due respect towards the contemporary political events, which are mentioned by academician Perić, addresses the value and the absolute advantage of a democratic referendum on state-legal status of Montenegro (the real national plebiscite) and the restoration of a sovereign state in 2006. Also, it addresses the completeness and the utter need of the legal, historical and civilizational grounds which prove that highest political authorities should annul the decisions of the Podgorica Assembly from 1918. Not to do it immediately would be an example of the legal-political and national blindness, and civilizational and historical irresponsibility toward the highest interests of the state of Montenegro, Montenegrins and all its peoples, citizens, present and future generations.
Academician Perić established an attitude, which is informative and functional even for today’s Montenegro, particularly for its legal and legitimate authorities: “The decisions (of the Great Assembly of Podgorica) should be rejected and annulled as if they had never existed, and, in doing so, there shall not be any violence toward anyone … It is the duty of all those in whose hands lies the protection of rights and legality.” For – “state is law, and law is state.”
In a report compiled upon his return from Montenegro in 1919 “the British Minister at the Vatican, and perhaps the greatest British authority on the Balkans” Count de Salis, said that “Montenegro is now occupied by the strong force of Serbian troops … The Serbian government refuses to withdraw its troops, with the explanation ‘that Montenegro is part of Serbia’, and this claim is based ‘on the decisions of the Assembly held in Podgorica, in November 1918’ … Elections were not legitimate by all means … Elections were held and the Assembly adopted the decision in front of the bayonets of Serbian troops … Excessive haste and an unscrupulous use of the Balkan methods (Underlined by G.S.) compromised this decision which now meets vigorous opposition by a large portion of the population, perhaps the most significant portion in our time. Opposition grows with hopes…that the free Yugoslav state is now possible… They desire the possibility, as they say, to enter the Yugoslav state, but to enter as Montenegro, and not as Serbianprefecture, as free Montenegrins in accordance with the traditions and history of their country and not as servants of Belgrade, to enter into it in the same way as Slovenes, Croats and Serbs themselves … One, possibly fatal, obstacle to such a union is the policy of ‘Greater Serbia’, which comes from Belgrade … Decisions of the Assembly of Podgorica, illegal and irregular, not provide a valid basis for any action … Which option in Montenegro represents the majority, can only be conclusively shown in free elections”.
Similar to the academician Perić’s and Count de Salis’ thinking is the one of the academician Bajza: “King Nikola and his government have repeatedly asked for a plebiscite willing to acknowledge its decisions, no matter what they might have been. Contrary to this, Serbia has never approved of any kind of plebiscite. These circumstances suggest that we think that the Montenegrins would have voted for the renewal of the Montenegrin state … Today, Yugoslavia is a big prison in which several million of Serbs keep under a harsh discipline millions of peoples of other nationalities. Surely, the time of settling the bills will come and little Montenegro will resurrect overcoming the great difficulties which had struck it.” (Jozef Bajza: 1927, 1928, 2001). Visionary writing, similar to Bajza’s, comes from an American architect Whitney Warren in his bookMontenegro – Crimes of the Peace Conference: “Where the Turks and Napoleon did not succeed, the Serbs, as well, can not hope to win. The obvious success of the intrigues of Belgrade was only possible due to a complete change of events in the world … The fierce guerrilla war in Black Mountains continues and will continue until the usurpers subside. Montenegro can not be conquered. It will continue to fight until it succeeds to come back, even if it takes a whole century! … When the forces of freedom and justice, inside and outside its borders, start to act in harmony, Montenegro will be restored” (Whitney Warren: 1922; 2000; Underlined by G.S.). In the same spirit of hope for a free and independent Montenegro, Nikola Petanović published “Our Appeal to America” in the Montenegrin mirror: ”America! Beloved land of freedom and democracy, perhaps a million souls speak through these lines… You might want to hear about who we are? We descend from the famous people who lived here many centuries ago … We are Montenegrins and we are proud to be Montenegrins… we need you now, because Europe can not hear our lamenting cry – our cry for justice and freedom … We are proud of our great poet Njegoš who was our great national teacher. He said: There is no resurrection without death, and we add: There is no honor without shame. Since the war ended, our small country has gone through the shame and death that was caused by her closest sister. But the day of glory and resurrection is near … Montenegrins are a thousand years old nation … Montenegrins, as a people, are the product of the Slovenian-Illyrian blend … The spirit of Montenegro is not dead and will never be … Montenegro will rise and overcome its monstrous enemy that is no longer Turkey or Austria, or Germany; we find the worst enemies of Montenegro in Serbia … our full freedom and independence in a referendum should be the biggest future national destiny for the Montenegrin people.”(Nikola Petanović: 1927, 2006; Underlined by N.P.)
“Resurrection”, which as an option proved to have the majority in Montenegro, was seen in the course of historical destiny, after nearly a whole century, in 2006 in a free and democratic referendum on the state-legal status of Montenegro. “Unscrupulous use of the Balkan method“ is the best of formulation of everything that characterizes the treatment of the Serbian political elite, the Kingdom of Serbia – Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (Yugoslavia) and the Serbian Orthodox Church toward the Montenegrin people, the Kingdom of Montenegro and the Montenegrin church in the period between the two World Wars. It also characterizes chauvinistic, imperialist and clerical circles of Serbian political and religious elite and paramilitary armed forced during the nineties which took part in the bloody war which accompanied the breakup of the former Yugoslavia. In essence, the same actions are being used today, particularly in relation to the renewed autocephalous Montenegrin church. All this is evident in the analysis of the decisions of the so-called Assembly of Podgorica and the regent’s act on the abolishment of the Montenegrin Orthodox Church, attempted falsification of the autocephaly of Montenegrin Church by the Metropolitan of the Serbian Orthodox Church Amfilohije, and statement of recently elected Patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church Irinej and total current attitude of Serbian church toward the Montenegrin nation, the sovereignty of Montenegro and the Montenegrin state church .
It is clear what kind of non-free, threatening, abusive, and a criminal atmosphere accompanied the whole process of destruction of the Montenegrin state, and soon afterwards its church, which was followed by the denial of Montenegrin name of the Montenegrin nation and Montenegro as a whole. Although this act was completely illegal, illegitimate, and anti-Montenegrin in its character, it has served its function to destroy the Montenegrin statehood and independence and to utterly drown it in the Serbian nation and Serbian state.
Illegal and illegitimate “decision” of the Holy Synod of Montenegrin Orthodox Church on the “unification” with the Serbian Orthodox Church
After the so-called Assembly of Podgorica, which served the violent abolition of the Montenegrin state, the Montenegrin autocephalous church came under attack. It was an introduction to the denial or repudiation of the Montenegrin people, i.e., the Montenegrin nation. The goal was one and only: to destroy the holy trinity of free Montenegro – Montenegro’s historical unity of the people, its church and state. So, after the Assembly of Podgorica on November 13, a “session” of the Holy Synod of the Montenegrin Orthodox Church was held the on December 16, of the same year.
It should be said that the composition of the church administration, i.e. of the Holy Synod of the Montenegrin Orthodox Church which had seven members, was given in the State calendar of the Princedom of Montenegro for 1910: ”The President – Metropolitan Mitrofan, members: Bishop Kiril Mitrović, Archimandrite Mihailo Dožić, Abbot Prokopije Vračar, Archdeacon Filip Radičević, archpriest Aksentije Bojović and Pavle Petrović. Secretary – Deacon Ivo Kaluđerović. “From this composition it is clear that the Secretary of the Holy Synod was not its member.
In order to briefly highlight the importance of this body and its spirit, let’s look at a typical letter of the Holy Synod of the Montenegrin Orthodox Church from its first meeting, addressed to Prince Nikola I Petrović Njegoš on May 1 1908. It reads: “His Royal Highness Prince Nikola I the Lord – God, as a faithful guardian of Montenegro through a long and difficult time, has preserved its political independence and the autocephaly of its church. This merit belongs to your elevated house, from which came, at the helm of our state and church, great men, pastors and spiritual world rulers, who have always known to keep a high reputation of Montenegro. Among numerous contemporary reforms Your Royal Highness undertook, for the purpose of the happiness and treasure of Montenegro, our church also found its happiness with spiritual laws by Orthodox consistories and Orthodox Holy Synod. According to the Constitution of the Holy Synod, the Synod members gathered today for the first time, in the first place, to declare their allegiance and unswerving loyalty to your Royal Highness and your elevated House. At the same time, this Synod most humbly thanks Your Royal Highness for the countless goods that you have done to his church. Holy Synod recommends Your Royal Highness and Your Divine Home to the Almighty”. (In the book by Ranko Perović: On Montenegrin Church, Podgorica, 2008; Underlined by G.S).
As for the scope of work and the decision-making process, the Holy Synod precisely regulated these two issues. In the Art. 25 of the Constitution of the Holy Synod we find: “Holy Synod may make valid decisions when the following members are present in the meeting: President (Art. 12) and at least three members of which two members according to the law and one optional”, i.e. at least four out of seven, and three who are there according to their position (Metropolitan of Montenegro, Bishop of Zahumsko-Rasijska Bishopric and Archimandrite of Cetinje, Art. 11) and one optional (one of three protopresbyters (Article 11). Secretary of Holy Synod of the Kingdom of Montenegro was a member with no right to vote, so that he could not vote or sign in such an act anyone’s name (Art. 25, 26 and 28).
As for the “decisions”, normally to be signed by those present, at the last „session” of the Holy Synod of the Montenegrin Orthodox Church – when this body “self-abolished itself” and thus “abolished” Montenegrin church, which eventually served as a basis for the decision by the regent King Aleksandar on the Abolition of the autocephalous Montenegrin Orthodox Church and her integration into the new Serbian Orthodox Church – out of seven members (a president and six members), it is stated that there were only three members of the Holy Synod of the Montenegrin Orthodox Church (as well as the secretary who was a non-voting member) present, while the other four members were absent.
Minutes from this, as it stands, “extraordinary session of the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church in Montenegro from December 16, 1918”, were signed by only three members and a secretary who was not a full member of the Synod, serving only as a technical person without the right to vote. Present were: president of the Holy Synod and Metropolitan of the last Montenegrin autocephalous church Mitrofan Ban, Metropolitan of Pec, Dr. Gavrilo Dožić and Bishop of Nikšić Kiril Mitrović, and the Secretary of the Synod – Deacon Ivo Kaluđerović.
It is obvious that the “session” of the Holy Synod of the Montenegrin Orthodox Church did not stand a slightest chance to have a quorum. Their decisions, especially this kind of decision, could not be made by the Holy Synod, according to the legislative principles of the sovereign state of Montenegro, and they could not be ratified without the approval by the princely (royal) government. The Constitution of the Holy Synod from 1903 says, for example, that the church can not appropriate estate and other material property without the approval of Prince Nikola. The legal basis for this problem is given in the Constitution of the Principality of Montenegro adopted in 1905, in which the Article 133 precisely reads: “Priests and ecclesiastical institutions subordinated to the earthly laws regarding the civil relations and properties, in terms of interior organization and administration, are being managed according to the statutes, which are confirmed by the princely power.” Article 22 of the same Constitution is explicit: „So that decisions of the Holy Synod on the external affairs could become executive and obligatory, they need a supreme princely approval”, which, of course, was not the case with the controversial decision in the disputed minutes. Article 21 determines the external affairs which cover the area of the disputed decision.
In addition, the illegal “solution” reads: “Since the Great National Assembly of the Serbian people in Montenegro that was held in Podgorica on November 13, 1918, had decided that an independent Montenegro should unite with the Kingdom of Serbia, The Holy Synod found that the decision to unite the autocephalous church in Montenegro with the independent Orthodox Church of the Kingdom of Serbia was purposeful and justified, therefore uniting itself with the whole Serbian Orthodox Church in the new state of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes”.
According to the Constitution, the Holy Synod could not make such a decision, because the Constitution itself would not allow it and, as we saw, there was no quorum for the decision making process. The Secretary was only a technical person involved, and his signature has the same importance as the signature of a minutes making person (Article 14 and 27). He was there only to confirm the agreement. Even if the minutes were signed by four members, as was enough to reach a decision, or even by all seven members of the Synod (and not just three, the president and two members), it would still be null and void in a legal sense, because under the Constitution of the Montenegrin Orthodox Church no one could cancel or merge our church with any other church. Any act of this kind could not be legitimate. Being an illegal act, it was not signed by the necessary four, but only three members, out of seven of them. Thus, this record is absolutely not a legally valid document. Moreover, the Constitution of the Principality of Montenegro from 1905, art. 136, reads as follows, „Any action directed against the Eastern Orthodox Church in Montenegro, is strictly prohibited.“
The whole tone of the “minutes” of the “session” is the one of capitulation, and inferior in relation to the state of Serbia and its leadership. In the section “Subject matter”, where the key issue of the “session” was defined – that was, allegedly, “thoroughly researched” – we find the following: “To unite the independent Serbian Orthodox Holy Church in Montenegro with the autocephalous Orthodox Church in the Kingdom of Serbia.” Nonsense is obvious: the Orthodox Church in Montenegro is named Serbian, which has not been done with the Orthodox Church in Serbia!? From this seemingly unimportant, but in essence extraordinary important detail, we perceive the need for subordination, for the proving of loyalty and obedient devotion toward Serbian forces embodied in the army, state and church. Or, if you take a look at the essence: what a pressure of the Government and the Church of the Kingdom of Serbia was put on the re-occupied andannexed Montenegro and, due to such conditions, weakened Montenegrin autocephalous church! At the very end of the “minutes” from the last “session” of the Holy Synod of the Montenegrin Orthodox Church there are true addresses of the people responsible for the verdict on the “self-abolishment” of the Montenegrin Orthodox Church and who really inspired, planned and dictated the entire course of trying to destroy the Montenegrin government, church and the nation: “The above decision has to be delivered to His Eminence Metropolitan of Serbia Mr. Dimitrije and the Prime Minister Mr. Stojan Protić”.
A newspaper, “Voice of the Montenegrin” of October 28, 1920, published the following upon the news of the death of the Metropolitan Mitrofan Ban: ‘”One of these days Cetinje saw the death of a former Montenegrin Metropolitan Mitrofan Ban, who cowardly and illegitimately betrayed his king, his parishioners and heroic Montenegro, which had ascended him to the throne of the Church of Montenegro; the throne where many a knightly metropolitan-ruler had sat, led by the martyred Bishop Danilo and Saint Petar I – who did not withdrew before any violence or threat, nor their heads fell under the nothingness of life, but gloriously struggled in the defense of honor, liberty and the rights of Montenegro, living eternally now … The Montenegrin people will not allow any head of the Montenegrin church to follow the footsteps of Mitrofan Ban”.
In the book “Serbian Crimes in Montenegro”, issued by the Montenegrin Royal Printing House in Rome 1921 we find: “Metropolitan of Montenegro (Mitrofan Ban) died in late September 1920 aged 76, in Cetinje. At the moment of dying he said that he had acknowledged the annexation of Montenegro to Serbia in December 1918 under the threat of death by Serbs. This was said to count Salis, envoy of the Great Britain for the purpose of his survey in Montenegro. The last words of the metropolitan were a touching appeal to the King and the people of Montenegro, asking him to forgive what he himself thought to be a betrayal of his homeland.” (R. Perović: 2008; Underlined by G.S.)
Metropolitan of the Orthodox Church and the future Serbian Patriarch, Dr Gavrilo Dožić, a member of the Holy Synod of the Montenegrin Orthodox Church, which signed its “death sentence”, disappointed with the procedures of the new state government – the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (KSCS) and the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (KSCS) and the fact that there was a “play with the rights of the honorable and deserving people” wrote a letter to Marko Petrović Njegoš, in Nikšić on November 19, 1921, resignedly concluding with : “I am about to throw everything aside and return to the two acres I own in fatherland to shepherd, if possible. I got bored and I see that I can not do anything for the Church and its priests, so it would be better to take shelter, at least not to carry the name of the undertaker of the Montenegrin church”. However, it was already too late, so he bore the name in question: the name of the undertaker of the MOC could not be erased!
Since Montenegro was not included in the composition of the new Yugoslav state in 1918, as it should have and as it was prescribed by her future continuity of the enduring valid positive law, but only by means of the unilateral will of Serbia, Serbian army and its war allies, through the use of the armed force and power, i.e. by means of its factual authority, it is clear that no importance, value, legality and legitimacy can not be attributed to any of the consequences or decisions of an organ, whether secular or religious, which stem from a legally unfounded and void source of “unification”, which is the so called Great National Assembly of Podgorica. If its decision on the annexation of Montenegro to Serbia is a case known in law as a legal document inexistant (an act that does not exist), then so is any other act or decision that would follow from it. This refers to the “decision” of the Holy Synod on the “self-abolishment” of the own autocephalous Montenegrin Orthodox Church and the “unification” with the autocephalous Serbian Orthodox Church, and the decree of the regent Aleksandar from 1920 on the abolition of the Montenegrin Orthodox Church.
Cancel the decree by regent Karađorđević on the Abolition of the Montenegrin Orthodox Church from 1920
Before the regent Aleksandar passed the resolution on the unification of all Orthodox church “areas” in the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes on June 17, 1920, which practically meant the abolition of the Montenegrin Orthodox Church, of course, completely illegal and illegitimate, that is contrary to law in a sovereign and internationally recognized state of Montenegro, there was held a “Council of all Serbian Orthodox archpriests of the Kingdom of SCS” on May 13/26 1919. On that occasion the decision “on the unity of all Serbian Orthodox church areas” was made. In his decree, the regent Aleksandar calls upon, among other things, the “Decision of the archpriests at the Second Conference of the United Serbian Orthodox Church of 13/26. May 1919 , in the case of the unification of the Serbian Orthodox Church: We expresses the spiritual, moral, and administrative unity of all Serbian Orthodox Church area, which will defined and accordingly adjusted when the whole Archpriest Serbian Council of the United Church, as an independent (autocephalous) body, convenes under the chairmanship of the Patriarch. Until then, this union is expressed in an interim committee of bishop, elected by the Episcopal conference …” It is clear that this decision brings together “all areas of the Serbian Orthodox Church” and the Montenegrin Orthodox Church obviously was not one of the several orthodox Church areas within the Serbian Orthodox Church, since it was independent, autonomous, autocephalous Orthodox Church, which had its own two Orthodox Church areas (archdiocese of Cetinje and Zahumsko-Rasijska diocese, and the third – the Diocese of Peć since 1913, because Metohija region was liberated by the Army of the Kingdom of Montenegro!), so this teritory became an integral part of Montenegrin Kingdom according to the Treaty of London in 1913; its bodies were led by the Holy Synod and the appropriate legal framework, including the Constitution of the Holy Synod and the Constitution of the Orthodox consistories in the Princedom of Montenegro.
Montenegrin church independently adopted an Act – Law on priesthood in Montenegro in 1909. Accordingly, this decision named “Association of Serbian Orthodox archpriests of the Kingdom of SCS” was illegal and illegitimate, when it comes to the Montenegrin autocephalous church. There is simply no way it could relate to the Montenegrin church, so from (its) legal point of view, this decision its non-existent, inexistent, and as such it can not produce any impact on the Montenegrin Orthodox Church.
The same is the case with the act of the regent Aleksandar, which practically “abolished“ the Montenegrin Church. In the “Messenger”, the official gazette of the United Serbian Orthodox Church, Aleksandar Karađorđević’s decision “On the unification of all Orthodox churches in the area of the Kingdom” from June, 17 1920, was announced on July 14, 1920. The decision reads: “On behalf of His Majesty Petar, and by the grace of God and the will of the People’s King of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, Aleksandar ,We, the successor of the throne – On the proposal of the representative of the Minister of Religious affairs, Our Minister of Education, after the hearing of the Ministerial Council and in accordance with the decision of the Association of Serbian Orthodox archpriests from the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes from the May 13/26 1919, decided to proclaim the unification of all Orthodox churches in the area of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, namely: Archbishopric of Belgrade and Metropolitanate of Serbia, Archbishopric Karlovac and Serbian Metropolitan archdioceses of Dalmatian and Istrian and the diocese of Boka, Archbishopric of Cetinje and Metropolitanate of Montenegro, hills and the littoral, Metropolitanate of Skopje, Metropolitanate of Raška-Prizren, Veles-Debar, Pelagonija, Prespa-Ohrid, Strumica, a part of Metropolitanate of Vodenska, archdiocese of Poleanska, Metropolitanate of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Dabar-Bosnia, Herzegovina-Zahum, Zvornik and Tuzla, Banja Luka and Bihac – into one Autocephalous unified Serbian Orthodox Church of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. The representative of the Minister of Religious affairs, Our Minister of Education, shall carry out this decree. Aleksandar, signed.
A Decision of the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate no. 2056 from March 19, 1920 is ‘to recognize the unification of Serbian, Montenegrin and Karlovac Churches, and two Dalmatian dioceses.” There is an official account of it in the „Messenger“ of the Serbian Orthodox Church from October 14, 1920, where it says that the Constantinople patriarchate “recognizes the declared unification of the autocephalous Serbian,Montenegrin and Karlovac Churches, and two Dalmatian dioceses” (Underlined by G.S.). Serbian Orthodox Church of was twice anathemised by the Constantinople patriarchate, because „its autocephaly was uncanonically established” (Novak Kilibarda: 2010). It was formally recognized in 1879 (as a Metropolitanate) only after the proclamation of the independent Serbian state at the Berlin Congress in 1978, so it came as a yet another confirmation of the orthodox principle that independent state coincides with autonomous, autocephalous national church within its borders.
Promoting the Serbian Metropolitan, Dimitrije Pavlović, into the Patriarch of the Serbian patriarchate, “Messenger“, the Official Gazette of the Serbian Orthodox patriarchate, no. 1, Year I, October 1/14, 1920, page 102, reads: “Similar was establishment of all national autocephalous areas in all Orthodox countries. Thus, episcopies were raised to the level of the autocephalous Serbian archbishopric with its seat in Belgrade, Cetinje was the seat of the church in Montenegro, Bucharest for Romania, Sofia for Bulgaria, and Russia has raised the Archbishopric seat of the Moscow to the degree of patriarchate.” From this official historical document, the Serbian Orthodox Church is seen to have no factual basis for its current, efforts and claims on the occasion of the recent visit of the Ukrainian patriarch to the Montenegrin Orthodox Church, that there are no national Orthodox churches, but only one, Apostolic Orthodox Church. The official newsletter of the Serbian Orthodox Church, as we have seen, apodictically claims “national autocephalous Orthodox areas in all states,” and lists: Greek, Serbian, Montenegrin, Romanian, Bulgarian and Russian Orthodox national churches. This is another evidence and insider recognition (own goal!) of the Serbian Orthodox Church that the Serbian government (Kingdom of Serbia – Kingdom of SCS) and the newly established Serbian patriarchate, forcibly and unlawfully terminated autocephalous, legal and legitimate, national Montenegrin Orthodox Church in 1918 and 1920, which was, at that time, recognized by all national, autocephalous, regional Orthodox churches (and even by the former Serbian Metropolitanate of Belgrade). Serbian church, in this document, actually says: “Yes, there is a Montenegrin national church, because there was an independent and internationally recognized Montenegrin state, as there still exist all national autocephalous Orthodox Churches in all existing independent states. However, there will not be Montenegrin Church any more, because there is no longer any state of Montenegro! Very simple. This is yet another proof in the sea-mosaic of evidences that, after restoration and renovation of a sovereign and internationally recognized state of Montenegro, there are all legal and legitimate historical, legal, governmental, and canonical preconditions to establish and restore the previous status of the national autocephalous Montenegrin Orthodox Church in the state of Montenegro.
As the decisions of the so-called Assembly of Podgorica and the Holy Synod of the Montenegrin Orthodox Church from 1918 fall under the act inexistant (an act that does not exist), the same is the case with the act of regent Karađorđević on the Abolition of the autocephalous Montenegrin Orthodox Church and its “unification” with the autocephalous Serbian Orthodox Church. This regent’s act should be annulled, and “rejected and denied as something that never existed, and, by doing so, there shall not be any violence toward anyone … It is the duty of all those in whose hands lies the protection of rights and laws.”
Autocephalous Orthodox Metropolitanate or the Montenegrin Orthodox Church
Serbian Orthodox Church claims that “neither the church nor the state archives until 1918 hold a document from which it is possible to see that the Metropolitanate of Montenegro and the Littoral had the name ‘The Montenegrin Orthodox Church”. It seems that the Serbian Orthodox Church does not deny the autocephaly of the Montenegrin Orthodox Church (it was autocephalous and still is) – because the supporting documents, even in the archives of the Serbian Orthodox Church, are abundant, so it’s obvious. As for the name “The Montenegrin Orthodox Church“, denying that it existed has no meaning and significance, that it is, essentially, even completely, irrelevant. However, behind this statement remains an unchanged attitude of the Serbian Orthodox Church on non-recognition of the Montenegrin people and the nation and internationally recognized independent Montenegrin state, and national Montenegrin Orthodox Church, Orthodox Church of the Montenegrin people – Montenegrin Orthodox Church. However, it is important to follow the succession of events.
There is an abundance of scientific literature and historical documents, of the state-law and canon-law origin, from the archives of Montenegrin Church, Serbian Orthodox Church, Patriarchate of Constantinople, the Russian church, etc., which show that the Montenegrin church was completely autonomous and autocephalous in the free and sovereign territory of the Montenegrin government, and that it was absolutely equal with all other independent, autocephalous Orthodox churches, and that it was not in any way dependent on any one of the other churches – neither the Serbian nor the Russian, independent even from the Constantinople Patriarchy, but that it was only tied with them through the “peace and love”. Here we can mention only the essential documents, and of these only some, which is quite enough to see that this is an autocephalous Orthodox Church that we are talking of, under the full name of the Montenegrin Orthodox Church. Autocephaly of the Montenegrin Orthodox Church and its full title – “The Montenegrin Orthodox Church” (which is being apodictically denied by the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro, as we can see), are the two sides of the same issue, namely, they are objective facts and the truth of the Montenegrin Orthodox Church, the Montenegrin government and the Montenegrin people and for the total domestic and international public and all people of good will, on one hand, and subjective problems and denial of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro and the Serbian Orthodox Church (Patriarchate of Belgrade) in general.
The process of shaping and building the actual autocephaly of the Montenegrin Orthodox Church begins with the establishment of the Montenegrin “theocratic“ government around 1500. “It is very important that metropolitans were chosen by a General people’s assembly, ever since the last of the Crnojevićs left Montenegro. There are several documents in which the Montenegrin metropolitans emphasize the legitimacy of their rule they received from the hands of the Crnojević Dynasty” (Dr Danilo Radojević: 1991). Montenegrin „Theocracy”, i.e. Princedom or Dioceses, was “a unique example in the world, particulate in Orthodoxy. The historical fact itself is sufficient for a full specialty and uniqueness, and independence of the Montenegrin Orthodox Church”. (Sreten Zeković: 1997; Underlined by S.Z).
Montenegrin Orthodox Church, that is the Metropolitanate of Montenegro, “finally” became autocephalous right after the battles of Lješkopolje (1603/4) and of Kosov Lug (1612), in which Montenegrins, led by Metropolitan Ruvin Boljević II, defeated the Turkish army. (Ibid. pp. 36). At the time of Bishop Danilo, Russia recognized the real autocephaly of Montenegrin Orthodox Church. Strengthening of the liberation struggles of the Montenegrin people, the Montenegrin government and autocephaly of Montenegrin Orthodox Church continued in the days of all other bishops and rulers of the dynasty Petrović-Njegoš. Petar I Petrović used to sign himself as the “Metropolitan” of Montenegro, so he was addressed in that manner by foreign rulers, and a letter from the 1819 reads: “Firstly, in a place called Stanjević… there is … a medieval monastery, which my predecessors recently built on their own property on the national church land, – secondly, the monastery is not mentioned in the royal estate, but it was built on our Montenegrin territory”. Njegoš mentions, in the contract of the sale of the monastery Stanjević in 1839: “For themselves and for their successors and predecessors and for all those who represent Montenegrin nation and the same nation”. (R. Perović: 2008). In a diptych of the Russian Orthodox Church from the 1850, the metropolitanate was listed as the Montenegrin autocephalous church. Dr. Nikodim Milaš (1845-1915), a canonist and a church dignitary of the Serbian Orthodox Church, says in his book “Orthodox canon law”: “According to the catalog of the Istanbul Patriarchate, published in April 1855, there were the following regional churches with their own administration (autocephalous): 1. Constantinoplean, 2.Alexandrian, 3. Antiochian, 4. Jerusalem, 5. Cypriot, 6. Russian, 7. Karlovac, 8. Sinai, 9. Montenegrin and 10. Church of the Kingdom of Greece.” (Underlined by G.S.) Subsequently, the churches that received their autocephality after the Berlin Congress were added to the,including the Church in the Kingdom of Serbia.
Lawyer with international reputation, Valtazar Bogišić, before the establishment of constitutional and legal basis of the Montenegrin Orthodox Church (MOC), conducted a scientific survey of its status and position:
“1. Is the Montenegrin Church autocephalous, and if not, under whose jurisdiction is it, under the Patriarchate of Constantinople or the Holy Synod of St. Petersburg?
MNE. (Montenegro, note by G.S.) It is fully autocephalous and has a peculiar hierarchy.
H. (Herzegovina, note by. G. S) Under the Patriarchate of Constantinople, thus not autocephalous.
2. Does the Montenegrin church share gifts with the Holy Synod of St. Petersburg or the Patriarchate of Constantinople? Does it support, on an annual basis, the latter, as Serbia and Greece do? Are there any other relations between them?
MNE. There is no reciprocity. However, the Synod sends, from time to time, certain items such as garments, books, etc. this is also done by certain individuals from Russia. Emperor Paul Petrovich determined the annual aid of 1000 sequins for the Monastery in Cetinje. This amount is being sent even today to the Metropolitan himself since the church is governed by him. Montenegrin government used to receive the sum prior this change during previous years.
The patriarch of Constantinople was never given anything by Montenegrin church nor did he ask for any contribution. There is no other relation, except that recent Montenegrin bishops took over their canonical duties in St. Petersburg.
3. What is the relation between the Montenegrin church and Serbian Patriarchate in Karlovac, the Metropolitanate of Belgrade, the Bulgarian autocephalous exarchates and other churches?
MNE. There is no official relation but that of peace and love”. (V. Bogišić: 1999)
Mitrofan Ban, the “Metropolitan of Montenegro and the mountains”, as it was written on the front page, translated The Seven Secrets of the New Testament by Bishop Sylvester from the Russian in 1896, which was printed by Cetinje State Printing House. The Metropolitan wrote a Short Church Constitution for the priests and students of the Religious teaching college in 1901 following Mihailovski and Nikolajevich. The highest legal act of a church could only be created by the head of the autocephalous Orthodox Church, which Mitrofan Ban was at the time. The Encyclopedia named Slavari (St. Petersburg, 1903) stated: “The Montenegrin Church is autonomous (autocephalous)”. Encyclopedia Britannica provides not only information about the autocephalous Montenegrin church, but also, in the context of the Montenegrin language, speaks about literary culture conceived in Obod printing house. In its eleventh edition from 1911, in a sub-section on religion in Montenegro, it says: “The Montenegrin Orthodox Church is an autocephalous Eastern Orthodox branch. In 1884 this church formally defended its independence from the pretensions of the Russian Synod”. However, the text on the language in Montenegro, “The Montenegrin language is virtually identical to the Serbo-Croatian: it demonstrates some dialectical variations and borrows to a certain extent from the Turkish and Italian. Existing manuscripts and printed books, especially the Psalter and the Gospel, witness the period of literary culture in priesthood during the operation of the Obod printing house. It was established in 1493, only a few years after Caxton established his first printing press in Westminster. It was destroyed by the Turks in 1566, after it had managed to circulate copies of the Gospel in the Slavic countries”. (R. Perović: 2008) As for Montenegrin language, academician prof. Dr. Jozef Bajza writes: “As far as the language is concerned, Montenegro has a special place among the South Slavs … Even the language reflected the state and national independence of Montenegro,”(J. Bajza: 1927, 1928, 2001). Academician Radoslav Rotković in the book Where Do the Ancestors of Montenegrins Come from says that “the Montenegrins are South Slavic people of the West Slavic origin, originally related to the northern Russians and Poles, especially those from their Western Shore Lands (Pomorze Zachodnie)” (R. Rotkovic: 2000). Dr. Čedomir Bogićević, in his “Montenegrin Legal-historical dictionary”, claims that the Montenegrin people are “the only one among the South Slavic peoples, who have 33 sounds (phonemes) and 33 graphemes (now, according to the official Orthography, 32) in their own language” (Č. Bogićević: 2010). In his bookMontenegrin Orthography, Academician prof. Vojislav Nikčević points out that “we do not accept, because it is unscientific and politically damaging to the Montenegrin language, to treat it as a sub-dialect of Serbian language. Montenegrin language genetically, typologically and structurally speaking, is nothing but a sub-system, a variant of Slavic language system, markedly formed in a distinctive national language depending on the origin and development of Docleans (People from Zeta) – Montenegrins” (Vojislav Nikčević: 1997).
The Article 1 of the Constitution of the Holy Synod “in the Princedom of Montenegro” from 1903 says: “Autocephalous Orthodox Metropolitanate in the Princedom of Montenegro, as a member of the only, holy, and Catholic Apostolic Church, whose shepherd and head is our God Jesus Christ, keeps and maintains unity in dogma and canonical institutions with all other Orthodox, autocephalous churches, and this unity will be kept and maintained for ever. The 2nd and 15th articles of the mentioned Constitution speak of the autocephaly of the Montenegrin Orthodox Church. In the Constitution of the Princedom of Montenegro from 1905, and in its Article 40 we find : “The state religion in Montenegro is the Eastern Orthodox. The Montenegrin Church is autocephalous. It does not depend on any other foreign Church, but maintains the unity of the dogmas with the Eastern Orthodox Church. All other recognized religions are free in Montenegro.”
In the book Fifty Years on the Throne of Montenegro 1860-1910, from 1910, he writes: “Back in 1888, Metropolitan Mitrofan was delegated, by the Lord Prince, as a representative of the Montenegrin church to attend to the celebration in Kiev, concerning the 900th anniversary of Christianity in Russia – and on that occasion, on July15, he held a church service, together with Plato, the Metropolitan of Kiev and Mihail, the Metropolitan of Belgrade” (Dr Lazar Tomanović, reprint, DOB, 1997). On the occasion of the twenty fifth year of the archpriesthood services of Metropolitan Mitrofan Ban, in 1910, a congratulation from Antonio, Metropolitan of Petersburg, expresses a desire for the “well-being of Montenegrin Church”; Ecumenical Patriarch Joachim writes “May the Lord…give gifts … to the Holy Montenegrin church” and the Archbishop and Metropolitan of Belgrade and Serbia, Dimitrije Pavlović, sends greetings “to dear and brotherly Montenegro” and says that “Serbian church is a sister in faith and nationality to the Montenegrin one and that it shares its joy”. Constitutional, legal and ecclesiastical canonical autocephaly of the MOC was historically self-formed and complete by 1910 because it was „a prerequisite and preparation for the Kingdom”. (S. Zeković: 1997, Underlined by S.Z).
Patriarchate of Constantinople issued a tomos in which it “recognized the proclaimed unity of autocephalous churches: Serbian, Montenegrin and Karlovac, and two Dalmatian dioceses” on February 19, 1922. It is apparent from all these documents, and different sources and origins, that it is an undeniable historical, legal and ecclesiastical-canonical fact that the Montenegrin Orthodox Church was autocephalous and acted absolutely independent and equal in comparison with all other Orthodox churches, and under its full name as Montenegrin Orthodox Church. So much for the canon!
So-called “Orthodox Church in Montenegro” consists of four dioceses of the Serbian Orthodox Church
That the Metropolitanate – the one referred as such by Bogišić, Constitution of the Holy Synod of Montenegrin Orthodox Church, the Constitution of the Princedom of Montenegro, Dr Nikodim Milas and many other prominent canonists, historiographers and lexicographers, documents and historical sources – is the old, true, and historical autocephalous Montenegrin Orthodox Church, as opposed to the current “Metropolitanate” of Montenegro and the Littoral of the Serbian Orthodox Church , which is one of several dioceses of the Serbian Orthodox Church, not Montenegrin at all, is confirmed by the decisions of the Serbian Orthodox Church. One of the most prominent is the decision by the Serbian Orthodox Church (Patriarchate of Belgrade) from 2006, immediately after the restoration of the sovereignty of the Montenegrin state, that it has formed “new” church organization in Montenegro, so called “The Orthodox Church in Montenegro” – which was announced only in 2010. This is yet another indication that the whole of Montenegro came under the jurisdiction of the Serbian Orthodox Church (Patriarchate of Belgrade) as a religious organization with its seat out of Montenegro, i.e. in Serbia (Belgrade). Also, this is an evidence to suggest that no part of the territory of Montenegro is under the jurisdiction of the spiritual seat of the so-called “mother Orthodox Church“ based in Cetinje, the so-called “Metropolitanate of Montenegro and the Littoral”, which is supposedly “independent” from the Serbian Orthodox Church. So how was this “new’” church organization established, even though it is no longer mentioned by the Serbian Orthodox Church at all, and which serves its needs only to make the traces of her bad conscience towards Montenegro disappear, to preserve usurped and to steal the material and spiritual wealth of the Montenegrin state?
Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church whose dioceses cover and share the state territory of Montenegro held a session of their Council and they requested that the Metropolitanate of Montenegro and the Littoral and all the other dioceses of the canonical “territory“ of the Serbian Orthodox Church just call themselves – Orthodox Church in Montenegro.The decision reads: “Orthodox Church in Montenegro is made up of the dioceses of the Serbian Orthodox Church: Metropolitanate of Montenegro and the Littoral and the following Dioceses: Budimljansko-Nikšićka, Zahumsko-Hercegovačka and Mileševska”. What will now say those who “argumentatively” claimed that the Orthodox Church in Montenegro should not be seen as a Serbian Orthodox church, but as the “Metropolitanate of Montenegro and the Littoral”? Visiting the TV show ”Nothing but the Truth“, current Montenegrin President Filip Vujanović said that it seemed that it was only he and the Metropolitan Amfilohije who called the “Cetinje metropolitanate” by the name of “Metropolitanate of Montenegro and the Littoral”, while everyone else called it by the name of “Metropolitanate”, i.e. a diocese of the Serbian Orthodox Church (Patriarchate of Belgrade).
Although he precisely observed the issue, Montenegrin President Filip Vujanović, unfortunately, has not drew the conclusion that something was “rotten” in the “Metropolitanate of Montenegro and the Littoral” so he continues with “unprovoked” cordial “close encounters” with various representatives and leaders of the Serbian Orthodox Church (on the contrary, the Serbian Orthodox Church constantly throws “boxing gloves” into to face of the Montenegrin government and its multicultural-intercultural being). Because, both from the standpoint of a sovereign and internationally recognized state it is rather difficult to explain that part of its territory falls under the jurisdiction of religious organizations whose seat is abroad (if the Metropolitanate of Montenegro and the Littoral is treated as a coastal diocese of the Serbian Orthodox Church, as it was said in the previously cited decision, then this refers to the entire Montenegro)? Here we also speak of Zahumsko-Hercegovacka, and Mileševska Dioceses of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia. Current Montenegrin President Filip Vujanović could and had to look up at the Montenegrin Prince and King Nikola I Petrović Njegoš who sent a letter in 1878 to the Croatian Archbishop Štrosmajer, in which he asked for the restoration of the Bar archbishopric and the Bishop’s mediation with the Holy See: “Montenegro, as a recognized independent state, could not bear that part of its citizens, even only in the spiritual view, depends on a government that is not in its border …” Today’s Montenegro, although in the same rank, i.e. being sovereign, can “suffer” the situation of which our king Nikola spoke. It all boils down to the fact who the leader is!
The decision of the Serbian Orthodox Church Bishop whose dioceses cover the territory of Montenegro (i.e. the territories of foreign, sovereign states, which proves that Serbian Orthodox Church does not recognize the Montenegrins, the Montenegrin nation and Montenegrin language, and no Montenegrin state in any way, and that Montenegro is taken as provincial, geographical, or territorial part of a Greater Serbia) on the “establishment” of the Orthodox Church in Montenegro, was met with great public interest. Serbian historian from Belgrade, Čedomir Antić, sees this decision as a lobby to the future in which there will not be any further mention of the “Archbishopric or Metropolitanate of SOC”. According to him, “Orthodox Church in Montenegro is the future autocephalous Montenegrin Orthodox Church”.
As for the accusations and suspicions that they are slowly preparing a “secession’” from the “mother” church, the leaders of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro vigorously deny it. The “parent” to them, however, says: “These are, however, only views – written words that remain – acts are those who give a definitive answer.” The acts, however, were translated into the facts that we presented here. In the late second and early third decades of the twentieth century, autocephalous Montenegrin Orthodox Church and Montenegrin sovereign state have disappeared, and there were attempts to erase the name of the Montenegrin people. It turned out that the fate of the Montenegrin Orthodox Church was inseparable from the renewal of the Montenegrin state and Montenegrin people.
Not recognizing the territorial integrity and international recognition of Montenegro, not respecting the Montenegrin history, nation, church, believing that it is just a temporary, transient state, a representative of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro, Velibor Džomić, says that “Metropolitanate and other dioceses of Montenegro were created long before Montenegro and their boundaries can not possibly be the lines which dates from the Second Session of the Antifascist Council of the Liberation of Yugoslavia in Jajce in 1943.”
It is easily noted that the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro is continuously carrying out “reforms” in terms of its organizational structure. Once they were insisting on the Metropolitanate of Montenegro and the littoral, later it was “filled” with several dioceses, and from the very beginning there were added (which means that the territory of Montenegro is outside the jurisdiction of Metropolitanate) the dioceses whose seats are outside our country. Still there is no way that “Orthodox Church in Montenegro” could cover the entire national territory of Montenegro – without help from abroad, that is the seats abroad – as it was within the autocephalous Montenegrin Orthodox Church, which had its seat in Montenegro at the Monastery of Cetinje and under whose jurisdiction was the entire independent religious organization and life in the country. Of course, this is not possible when it comes to the Serbian Orthodox Church and its current “Metropolitanate” – the Diocese of Montenegro and the littoral. This is not possible for a simple reason: the seat and the head, the autocephaly of Serbian Orthodox Church is in Belgrade, and clerical and nationalistic circles in the Serbian church and the state of Serbia constantly dream of a restoration of the conquering Dušan’s empire. The events of 1918-1920 such as the annexation of Montenegro, the abolition of the Montenegrin Orthodox Church, and restoring the Patriarchate in Belgrade, was, as Prof. Dr. Branko Petranović well noted: “the fulfillment of the covenant of the tsar Dušan, for the Serbian Orthodox Church“. Therefore, whatever the reorganization of the Orthodox Church is being undertaken under the jurisdiction of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro, which is being done from time to time, the result is always the same: denial of the autocephaly of the Montenegrin church, the nation of Montenegro, Montenegrin culture, the Montenegrin language, Montenegrin multireligious, multiethnic, multicultural and intercultural existence, sovereign and internationally recognized state of Montenegro.
It is obvious that all historical, legal, and religious documents show that the so-called “Orthodox Church in Montenegro,” is not, and cannot become, nor will ever be the former (violently abolished by the army of Serbian Kingdom – the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes and the Serbian Orthodox Church) and current autocephalous Montenegrin Orthodox Church, which was restored on its historical, Montenegrin, sovereign, legal and canonical autocephalous ecclesiastical foundations of the Montenegrin Orthodox Church and the Orthodox tradition of its centuries long previous existence.
The real Montenegrin Metropolitanate is Montenegrin Orthodox Church, and “Metropolitanate” of the bishop Amfilohije (or the latest scam, in the form of a decision of the Serbian Orthodox Church on the institution of the so-called “Orthodox Church in Montenegro,” which is another, insider recognition that it consists of several dioceses of the Serbian Church), is only feigned, and falsified Montenegrin church of whose truthfulness and authenticity speak numerous and various historical, governmental, legal and ecclesiastical-canonical documents.
Serbian Orthodox “Metropolitanate” of Montenegro and the Littoral continues to falsify and usurp the name, history, and (presently) proprietary rights of the historical autocephalous Metropolitanate of Cetinje, i.e. Montenegrin Orthodox Church
This is why we must repeatedly underline that the Holy autocephalous church in Montenegro, i.e. Montenegrin Orthodox Church (or as it was named by regent Aleksandar in 1920: “Archbishopric of Cetinje and Metropolitanate of Montenegro and the Littoral“ in a decision on its abolishment and an insider recognition), historically and currently, can have any continuity or connection with the current so-called Metropolitanate of Montenegro and the Littoral (again, established by an act of King Aleksandar in 1929 as just one of many dioceses of the Serbian Orthodox Church, without any connection, in its essence and being, with the name “Metropolitanate”, i.e. the former Montenegrin autocephalous church), which does not cover the entire state territory of Montenegro.
Article 12, Provision 20, of The Constitution of the Serbian Orthodox Church from 1931, reads as follows: “Listed, among the parts of the Serbian Orthodox Church, is ‘Montenegrin and the Littoral diocese with its seat in Cetinje.’ The Constitution of the Serbian Orthodox Church from 1957, with all its amendments until 1985, has an Article 14 on the position of the Montenegrin and the Littoral diocese of the Serbian Orthodox Church, whose archpriest carries the title of a Metropolitan, is regulated in the same way as in the Constitution from 1931”. (Novak Adžić: 2010). Therefore, all these acts of the Serbian Orthodox Church are not essential, because the period between 1920 and 1929, and even further to this day, saw no respect towards the national territory of Montenegro by the usurping Serbian Orthodox Church. Montenegro is therefore interspersed with religious authorities, both inside and outside national borders, by various Serbian dioceses of the so called “Metropolitanate” of Montenegro and the Littoral and the other, now new, sovereign states of the former Yugoslavia.
The current “Metropolitanate” of Montenegro and the Littoral of the Serbian Orthodox Church is not the former Montenegrin autocephalous Orthodox Church, but an ordinary diocese of the Serbian Orthodox Church, one of many existing. It is called “the Metropolitanate” for the sole purpose of historical fraud and deception, in order to somehow cut off the memory of the autocephalous Montenegrin (Orthodox) church. That is why the Serbian Orthodox Church falsely presents Cetinje as their outpost – “the Metropolitanate” as a former Montenegrin Orthodox Church, i.e. Autocephalous Orthodox metropolitanate in Montenegro or Autocephalous Archbishopric metropolitanate of Cetinje and Montenegro, Hills and the Littoral (only, of course, without mentioning autocephaly and montenegrinism!) and present (violently and unjustly terminated) Montenegrin Orthodox Church as a “sect”. Montenegrin Orthodox Church, let us remember, was restored on the St. Luka’s day in 1993.
The “episode” of the formation of the “Orthodox Church in Montenegro,“ shows that the “dispute” between the Montenegrin and Serbian Orthodox churches is not an issue of autocephaly – and supposedly about whether or not the Serbian Orthodox Church would “allow” the autocephaly of Montenegrin Orthodox Church, or whether the present “Metropolitanate”-a diocese of the Serbian Orthodox Church, would become autocephalous (which is essentially a pseudo problem as a previous one – whether Montenegro should be “separated” from the Serbia and become independent) – but it is an example of a classic usurping, violent, illegal and illegitimate action of the Serbian Orthodox Church, the former state of Serbia and the State of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (Yugoslavia) towards the state of Montenegro and Montenegrin autocephalous church. This can be seen from all the decisions of the state and church, from the so-called Great National Assembly of Podgorica in 1918, illegal meeting of the Holy Synod of the Montenegrin Orthodox Church, the regent Aleksandar’s decision on the abolishment of autocephaly Montenegrin Orthodox Church, up to modern times Metropolitan Amfilohije’s attempts to falsify the historical facts about autocephaly of Montenegrin Orthodox Church, the recent announcement of the Serbian Orthodox Church on the establishment “of the Orthodox Church in Montenegro” and Metropolitan Amfilohije’s “explanation” of the possible proclamation of the present “Metropolitanate” – Eparchy of the Serbian Orthodox Church, as “autocephalous“.
The root of all these events, and unlawful and illegal action towards the state of Montenegro and the autocephalous Montenegrin Orthodox Church, which spans over a century, is a denial of the existence of the Montenegrin nation, its special, authentic culture, permanent sovereignty and internationally recognized state of Montenegro and Montenegrin autocephalous church, by the government of Serbia and the Serbian Orthodox Church. This is a basic problem, not a “yes“ or “no“ to the autocephaly of the Montenegrin Orthodox Church. And it is, in fact, not our problem, because it is not Montenegro that produces it. It is an everlasting problem of the state of Serbia and the Serbian Orthodox Church, which try, throughout the modern history, to persevere in their quest to become political hegemons in the Western Balkans region, through expansive, clerical, nationalist and chauvinist approaches. Therefore, after the wars in former Yugoslavia, and a democratic referendum 2006 through which Montenegro has renewed its own sovereign state, and after the loss of international legal dispute with the sovereign state of Kosovo, Serbia is back to the undemocratic and authoritarian, centralist and imperial conflict with Vojvodina and Sandžak.
Serbian church aggressively and exclusively identifies ethnic and national, on one side, with religious affiliation, on the other side, so that a member of any confession out of Orthodoxy can not ethnically be a Serb. These ethnical, clerical and nationalist policies (associated with a similar concept by which an Orthodox can not be a Croatian national, or if you are a member of the Islamic religion you can not ethnically be a Serb or a Croat), led to the bloody inter-ethnic and inter-religious war in former Yugoslavia and constantly produced more reduction of the territory and jurisdiction of the sovereign government in Serbia, which still has not fully defined the basic attributes of its statehood: territory, population, sovereignty. Perhaps this kind of war has not visited Montenegro of all the former republics of Yugoslavia, precisely because of the various ethnic and religious reasoning, and coexistence, which were real facts of life for a longer period of time on its territory. These positive ethnic and religious processes in Montenegro, which contribute largely to the stability of the country, led to the fact that Montenegrin nation today is comprised not only of members of the Orthodox, but also of Islamic and Catholic religions.
Montenegro is an example, of an international kind, of a tolerant, democratic, civilized and stable inter-religious and inter-ethnic coexistence and it receives recognition from the European Union and the entire international community. Montenegrin Orthodox Church has a heritage of such a civilizational and intercultural traditions and values, as opposed to the Serbian Orthodox church, which, in its modern history, transferred its particularly damaging practice since 1918 to Montenegro. The result of such policies is devastating for a long time, mostly to Serbia itself, its nation and church, all its citizens, but also for the overall stability, security, cooperation and Euro-Atlantic perspective of all countries and peoples in the region. Montenegro has a highly existential commitment to its citizens, present and future generations, to use all available state resources to prevent a development of such a disastrous clerical nationalist and assimilatory practice on its territory.
Metropolitan of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro Amfilohije’s attempts in 1992. to falsify the canonical autocephaly of Montenegrin Orthodox Church
We have seen that there exist overwhelming evidences and documents from various historical, religious and political sources that clearly and factually confirm that the Montenegrin Orthodox Church was autocephalous. This is well-known even to the Metropolitan of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro Amfilohije, who acknowledges and confirms this by attempting to falsify the historical documents on autocephaly of Montenegrin Orthodox Church. Specifically, he “appropriately” anticipated the future events and sent a letter to then Russian Patriarch Aleksei II on June 10th 1992. with a request “to adopt a resolution on a non-canonical and erroneous entry in the Diptych of the Russian Orthodox Church from 1850., according to which the Montenegrin Metropolitan was registered as an autocephalous church, in order to refute the statement, because the circumstances in our sacred Serbian Orthodox Church show that there are tendencies of the rift in Montenegro. Those supporting the autocephaly of the so-called Montenegrin church claim their right exclusively from the Russian Church Diptych of 1850, on the basis of which they entered the phrase ‘autocephalous Montenegrin metropolis’ in the ‘Syntagm of the Holy Canons’ (Ralis ipotlis) (1856) among other autocephalous churches.” (R. Perović: 2008). Thus, the Serbian Orthodox Church Metropolitan Amfilohije asked the orthodox and authentic, original and authentic document to be nullified, and claimed as the non-existent and forgery, in order to prevent the restoration of the autocephaly of Montenegrin Church. This attempt at forgery and denial of the canonical autocephaly of Montenegrin Church by the Metropolitan Amfilohije is also a real evidence of its existence and a confirmation of the “canonical” story of the Serbian Orthodox Church and, unfortunately, some of the current political champions of Montenegro. This is proof that any possible declaration on autocephaly of the current Serbian Orthodox Metropolitanate of Montenegro and the Littoral could be only a cheap political farce and a fraud, without any historical or legal foundation.
At the same level of “denial” and falsifying of the autocephaly Montenegrin Orthodox Church was a recent “explanation” by Metropolitan Amfilohije on what “conditions” one could talk about talk about the autocephaly of Montenegrin Church. Serbian Orthodox Church Metropolitan Amfilohije, using this occasion, said that King Nikola of Montenegro granted autocephaly to the Metropolitanate and that it did not ask, though it should have, recognition of the autocephaly from other churches. It is true that the Montenegrin church had not asked for this kind of recognition, because it had been de facto autocephalous for centuries. Chronologically speaking, it is then de jure accepted and confirmed by all Orthodox instances, from Moscow to Istanbul, including Belgrade, that is, Belgrade (Serbian) metropolitanate. Montenegrin Church does not need to seek the recognition of autocephaly, because according to all historical documents, it had proven its autocephaly… “King Nikola did not consider asking someone for a tomos (approval) to have a fully independent, autocephalous and by all recognized, Montenegrin Orthodox Church. Had it been necessary, he would have easily got a tomos. Indeed, the legal and canonical status was such that a special and new tomos was generally not seen as an issue and there was no real the necessity for it.” (S. Zeković: 1997, Underlined by S.Z).
Serbian Orthodox Church Metropolitan Amfilohije’s introduction of the relationship of the Kingdom of Montenegro and autocephaly is essentially an urgent attempt to show that there cannot be any further talk of reconstruction and restitution of the former (and current, of course) Montenegrin autocephalous church. Primarily because of the real possibility that the Serbian church in the territory of Montenegro might be deprived of its significant material goods, having in mind that it acted as a state within a state so far. Therefore, it invents a thousand reasons to prevent the afore mentioned restoration: that it is now harder to reach autocephaly, that this or that area of Montenegro has not previously been part of the Montenegrin state, and Metropolitanate (which is a ’de facto’ recognition that the former, historical, and rightful Metropolitanate was the Montenegrin Orthodox Church itself, and that “his” present Metropolitanate of the Serbian Orthodox Church is yet another forgery of the old one, the earlier and the present, therefore true, Metropolitanate and the Church of Montenegro – the autocephalous Montenegrin Orthodox Church).
Speaking of ”autocephaly”, Metropolitan Amfilohije mentions neither Montenegrin Orthodox Church nor the country of Montenegro and its people, all of which are the subjects that must be taken into account when speaking of spiritual values as well as material goods and religious and cultural (state) heritage. Montenegrin church has been de facto autocephalous for centuries, and its autocephaly was de jureaffirmed and accepted for a long period of time by the Russian church and Ecumenical Patriarchate, as well as by all the other autocephalous orthodox churches, including the Orthodox church of Serbia until 1918. Even if the current „Metropolitanate“ becomes „autocephalous“ within Serbian Orthodox Church (SOC)-Belgrade Patriarchate as a „mother church“, it can, under no circumstances, represent the „Autocephalous Church of Montenegro“. It would be, at most, an attempt of SOC to retain its possession, one way or another, over all those enormous material goods that it has been using for decades. Those usurped goods belong to Montenegro, all its citizens and Montenegrin church. We are talking about the very last line of defense of Serbian Orthodox Church (SOC) )-Belgrade Patriarchate in Montenegro. When Montenegro proclaimed independence in 2006, a new era has began, an era where it became increasingly difficult for Serbian Orthodox Church to retain its position of a “state within a state“, disobeying the positive laws of Montenegro.
Everything that Metropolitan Amfilohije said regarding the possibility of proclaiming so-called Metropolitan of Montenegro and Littoral of Serbian Orthodox Church autocephalous, is nothing but another humiliation of Montenegrins, Montenegrin state and its history, honor, freedom and legitimacy, as well as centuries-old struggle of its tribes from hills to unite with the mother country, old Montenegro and Cetinje as the symbol of Montenegrin political independence and church autocephaly, as it was stated in the letter assigned to Prince Nikola from the first assembly of Holy Synod of Montenegrin Orthodox Church. From a historic point of view, it was and is one whole. “Montenegrin Orthodox Church is a Christian church of orthodox confession in Montenegro. In time, it acquired the meaning of community, an assembly gathered so as to take care of community affairs and render believers’ affections. It consisted not just out of Montenegrins in narrow sense of ethnicity, but also of the members of other ethnic groups that inhabited Montenegro. It also cherishes the work of earlier church communities in Montenegro.” (Nikola Racković: Lexicon of Montenegrin Culture, DOB, 2009)
Independent state borderlines are at the same time borders of autocephalous orthodox church
The representatives of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro keep wondering why and who would find it suitable to match the borders of religious jurisdiction of eparchies in the 21st century with the borders of states, which, as they put it, ”change every now and then with various regimes.” Serbian Orthodox Church (SOC) Metropolitan Amfilohije also wonders what shall be done with some other dioceses such as Bokokotorska, Pivska, Zahumsko-raška, Budimljansko-Nikšićka, since, allegedly, they have never belonged to Cetinje Metropolitanate. Using the relevant historic, state, church and legal documents and canons, we are about the show that not a single Metropolitan Amfilohije’s statement or part of it coincides with the facts. We are about to analyze the fundamental orthodox standpoint, which is not accepted by the Serbian Orthodox Church (SOC) nor ever had a practical usage, which states that borderlines of independent state are at the same time borders of autocephalous church as well. We are also going to see if some parts of the Montenegrin state were historically out of religious jurisdiction of Metropolitanate of Montenegro.
Orthodox tradition, the rule of identifying the borders of an autocephalous church jurisdiction with borders of an independent state (nation, state, church), alongside glorious Montenegrin past have given answers to these questions long ago. In the mid fifth century, on the Fourth Ecumenical Council, a decision that independent state has as independent church, or in other words that the borders of independent state match those of church jurisdiction, had been brought. (Academician Danilo Radojević: 2010). “According to the original teaching of the theory of pentarchy (the rule of five) and then quadarchy, the rule of four Patriarchs is admitted. (Besides Rome, those are: Constantinople, Alexandria, Antiochia and Jerusalem). The following interpretations of “pentarchy”, note that having its own autocephalous church is not just a possibility, but more of an obligation for every state and its people. Orthodoxy defines bond between church and state as an organic, inseparable. ”The Eastern rule” (Ferdo Šišić: The chronicles of the Priest Dukljanin), applies here, which states that free people and independent state need an independent (autocephalous) church as well. (S.Zeković: 1997).
In a letter from the 6th of December, 1785, Petar I Petrović Njegoš decisively established and emphasized the importance of the “Eastern rule“. Replying to the Synod of Russian church, who tried to make him dependant, although Montenegrin ruler was autocephalous, Njegoš said: “Aren’t they aware that the jurisdiction of Russian Synod doesn’t exceed the borders of Russian state?“ On the General Montenegrin Assembly from the 13th of January, 1804, the representatives of Montenegrin people stood up for Petar the First and Montenegro. In a protest letter to the Russian tsar, Aleksandar the First, they explicitly stated: “Our Metropolitan has never been subjected to Russian Synod, but solely under the moral patronage of Your Imperial Highness, in a way that we haven’t been actually defended from anyone so far. Instead of being defended, we are being persecuted. The Holy Synod has whatsoever no jurisdiction over archpriests out of Russian borders, who are not subjected to Him; therefore, doings of our Archbishop are none of his concern. (R. Perović : 2008.)
Metropolitan Amfilohije should also read above mentioned Valtazar Bogišić’s book Legal traditions in Montenegro, Herzegovina and Albania, where the following is stated:
„7.“ Do the borders of metropolitanate precisely coincide with state borders, or jurisdiction of metropolitanate exceeds state and to what degree?
MNE. When speaking of Montenegro, it precisely coincides with state borders.
H. When speaking of Herzegovina, it coincides with political borders. (The answer regarding Herzegovina is important because it proves the universal and canonical features of rules regarding the identifying of the church and state borders when it comes to the jurisdiction of autocephalous communities in Orthodoxy, note by G.S)
8. What changes regarding the Metropolitanate are brought with recent changes in Montenegro borders? Are there any areas that once belonged to Metropolitanate and now don’t? Are there any areas that just recently became part of Metropolitanate?
MNE. Again we speak of Montenegrin borders. Those areas that after new demarcation were left out of Montenegro, ceased to belong to Metropolitanate. Again, those areas that are now part of Montenegro are also a part of Montenegrin Metropolitanate – although those areas were once under jurisdiction of Mostar Metropolitanate, this Metropolitanate doesn’t interfere anymore. Montenegrin Metropolitan has also been called many times to consecrate a church situated on the other side of the border, especially in Kuci region, but he declined. However, in 1815, Boka Kotorska and Kuči became parts of the Montenegrin Metropolitanate (part of Vasojevići on the other side of Komovi Mountain belonged to Metropolitanate only in wartime, under the reign of Prince Danilo). All Montenegrin Metropolitans prior to Peter the Second had titles either “Metropolitan of Montenegro and the Littoral” or “Skenderian”. After demarcation took place, Grahovo, Drobnjaci and Župa, became parts of Montenegrin Metropolitanate. Jezerci and Šaranci are utraquists in political sense as well.”
H. All that Herzegovina lost, Montenegro gained recently.” (V.Bogišić: 1999).
Bogišić’s survey is yet another confirmation of universal presence of the fundamental orthodox rule regarding sameness and accordance of borders of sovereign states and autocephalous churches. From the historic point of view, everywhere in the world, regardless of geographic coordinates and differences, independent and internationally recognized borders of states are at the same time borders of autocephalous orthodox church. Current interstate circumstances and sovereignty are always to be appreciated, if the sovereignty itself is internationally recognized. In that sense, all those territories that are now within a specific state, but which have not previously been its part, fall under spiritual jurisdiction of a certain orthodox church within that specific sovereign state. Those territories that no longer belong to the state in question, even though they had belonged to it previously in history, are not under the jurisdiction of the church. Orthodox religion and tradition deem political, territorial and state factors are canonically crucial when it comes to territorial jurisdiction of a certain church. The survey also sends a moral and civilizational message: pride yourself only on what’s yours, not on what’s somebody else’s. Metropolitan Amfilohije does completely the opposite. While denying everything that’s Montenegrin, he still dreams of Greater Serbia borders of Karlovac, Karlobag, and Virovitica line. He has, of course, already taken Montenegro for granted as a victim, that is, as a part of Greater Serbia, an assimilatory regional and imperial project.
Even a theological book of Serbian Orthodox Church (SOC), dating from 1934 and approved by the Holy Synod of SOC, says: ”Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople had never had aspirations over Montenegrin church, bearing in mind a canonical rule according to which church borders must not include parts of other independent states.” This is another proof, another acknowledgement coming from the inside of SOC itself, that the current situation regarding the religious jurisdiction within the territory of an independent state of Montenegro cannot be tolerated anymore. It has to be changed, because SOC itself admits that it is not canonical to have church borders of an independent state encompassing territories that belong to other independent states, which is the case with Serbia and Serbian Orthodox Church on one side (also including eparchies of SOC on the territory of internationally recognized and independent state of B&H) and Montenegro on the other.
The following question imposes: why doesn’t SOC obey its own rule (may it be purely normative or a rule just by principle) which is at the same time universally orthodox canonical rule (both, normative, as well as practical) regarding the relations between borders of an independent state and autocephalous church? Why does it allow interference of borders of orthodox churches under its jurisdiction, such as those in Serbia and B&H with the border of an independent state of Montenegro? It is not possible to have an orthodox canon that is applicable solely on a sovereign state of Serbia and its autocephalous church, and not on Montenegro and its autocephalous church. This is not a good will gesture or a gift of SOC to Montenegro and Montenegrins, and all other citizens of Montenegro, or other religious groups such as agnostics, atheists or even other non-orthodox confessions – it is one of fundamental principles of orthodox confession that SOC refuses to carry out in Montenegro, primarily due to a potential loss of unconstitutionally and illegally gained benefits, although SOC is at the same time aware that current situation is unsustainable in the light of recently established independence. Serbian Orthodox Church and Metropolitan Amfilohije use all kinds of euphemisms and Machiavellism as well as its parole “The end justifies its means“. They treat orthodox tradition and maxims with utmost carelessness, using them selectively and manipulatively. All they care about are material goods, as new Serbian Patriarch had put it: “All spiritual that is from here to Karlovci, belongs to us“. The public of Montenegro would love to see things different, it would love to see evangelic, genuinely true messages of SOC, messages that are aimed at mutual love and peace, mutual respect and trust among nationalities and confessions, which would only add to Montenegrin and regional stability. Then again, one cannot expect too much, bearing in mind that Radovan Karadzic, charged for war crimes in Former Yugoslavia (Srebrenica genocide and shelling of Sarajevo) was among those present when Radović was appointed Metropolitan in Cetinje monastery. Fully-armed paramilitary formation of Željko Ražnatović Arkan was also amongst those who entered the monastery and received his blessings.
The European Court in Strasbourg restores the autocephalous status of the Metropolitan Church of Bessarabia in Moldova
Due to all the irrefutable historical, political-legal and religious-legal-canonical facts, the Montenegrin government is required to address the gap between the two Orthodox churches, as the International Convention on Human Rights stipulates. This is not a matter to be settled by the Church, but rather, by the state, as Serbian Orthodox Church Patriarch Irinej and Serbian Orthodox Church Metropolitan Amfilohije had said. The state cannot go imposing “canon laws” at will, as some of its most senior representatives do, in order to favor one and discriminate against another church. The verdict reached by the European Court in Strasbourg in a lawsuit that the applicant, the Metropolitan Church of Bessarabia, filed against the defendant, i.e. the Government of Moldova, seeking restoration of the autocephalous status of the Metropolitan Church of Bessarabia in the litigation with the Metropolitan Church of Moldova, clearly indicates that the separation of church and state, and “neutrality” of the state cannot justify the concept of non-interference in a conflict between two churches. This verdict will serve as the “corner stone” for Montenegro.
The most desirable solution would be if the state of Montenegro solved this problem on its own, without engaging in international legal processes. Especially because the Montenegrin Church, according to all historical, political-legal, civil-legal and church-legal facts, had indeed been an autocephalous, autonomous religious organization, whose jurisdiction extended to the entire territory of a sovereign and internationally recognized state of Montenegro. The entire corpus of ownership and property rights of the Montenegrin state, in respect to all the movable and fixed assets which the state had consigned to the autocephalous Montenegrin Church, was arranged in a legally valid and legitimate way, in line with the set of positive laws of the sovereign state of Montenegro, which goes to show that the Orthodox heritage was an inseparable part of the overall state, cultural, material and spiritual heritage of Montenegro. This is no longer the case in the Montenegrin sovereign state of today. All of the facts mentioned above are valid reasons for the Montenegrin government, as an international and national-indigenous entity of public life, to mediate relations between the Serbian and Montenegrin Orthodox Church in Montenegro (as is thus required by international treaties and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Freedoms). It is obvious that the Serbian Orthodox Church enjoys “more extensive rights,” than the Montenegrin Orthodox Church, which is detrimental to Montenegrin believers and the state of Montenegro, to its internal, regional and international stability, and to human rights and freedoms that are guaranteed to the Montenegrin nationals and citizens by all legal acts, both local and national, as well as international.
Believers and admirers of the Montenegrin Orthodox Church are unable to profess and practice, demonstrate and promulgate their creed, respect and all the religious, cultural, national, civilizational and historical sentiments towards the Orthodox denomination, culture, tradition, history and the state of Montenegro, in any of the traditional religious sanctuaries, in any Orthodox church within the territory of their own sovereign and internationally recognized country, whose citizenship and nationality they bear. The doors of the all the Montenegrin Orthodox sanctuaries within state borders are closed to them. This, without doubt, is absurd and nonsensical, and one of the most serious violations of universal human rights and freedoms. This violation is primarily found in the fact that these Orthodox believers and admirers, individuals that are citizens of Montenegro that belong to the Montenegrin Orthodox Church and identify themselves as ethnic Montenegrins, whose mother tongue is the Montenegrin language, and who treasure the Montenegrin national culture heritage and historical tradition, may not, as such – and precisely because they have a sense of affiliation and belonging to these particular religious, ethnic and other societies and communities – even so much as physically access and stop over at orthodox facilities in the territory of a sovereign state of Montenegro. This constitutes the first discrimination of individual civil rights.
It is glaringly obvious that the current situation in Montenegro does not allow the Montenegrin Orthodox Church to provide religious services for its members and admirers in Orthodox churches in Montenegro. This constitutes another violation of collective human rights. Members and followers of the Montenegrin Orthodox Church are discriminated against, as they are prevented from accomplishing and continuously practicing one of their fundamental human rights and freedoms: the right to gather and jointly profess their creed in a church to which they belong in historical, state-building, national, autocephalous and denominational sense, embracing all of its identity features -and to be able do so in all the Orthodox churches and facilities in the territory of Montenegro. Montenegrin Orthodox Church does not deny followers and admirers of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro the right to do the same in those very same Orthodox facilities. On the other hand, Serbian Orthodox Church curbs those same rights of the Montenegrin Orthodox Church in the territory of Montenegro, the rights guaranteed in all international documents, with Montenegrin state institutions standing aside, allowing and watching this kind of behavior with benevolence and „neutrality“.
Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro does not wish to enter any dialogue with the Montenegrin Orthodox Church, and therefore abstains from it. Thus, the Serbian Church creates an additional problem, making the social, legal, religious, cultural and civilizational framework for the potential solution to this problem gain a very negative, intolerant, frustrating and incident-related connotation. The latest US State Department report on religious freedoms in Montenegro highlights the deeply-rooted conflicts between the Montenegrin and Serbian Orthodox Church and the pending litigation over church property. For all the reasons stated, and in order to display the necessary preventive action, the Montenegrin government has the constitutional-legal, political, moral and civilizational obligation to mediate the dispute between the Montenegrin and Serbian Orthodox Church, as is required by the constitution and law. The European Court in Strasbourg, in reference to the Moldovan “case,” points out that “a state is obliged to remain neutral and impartial in performing its regulatory jurisdiction in this field, and in its relations with various religions, religious communities and creeds. The preservation of pluralism and proper functioning of democracy is at stake here, as one of the basic features of democracy is the one which seeks solutions to state problems through dialogue, without resorting to coercive methods, even when these problems are unpleasant.” (Underlined by G.S.).
The “neutrality” they are referring to is not the neutrality that the state of Montenegro displays when addressing the problematic relations between the Montenegrin and the Serbian Orthodox Church. The former refers to neutrality in the true sense of the word, i.e. the obligation of state to provide a completely equal, free and dignified status and social position to all religious communities, irrespective of their member count, of whether they are “canonical” or not, regardless of their formation dates etc. The verdict of the European Court in Strasbourg is very clear about what „neutrality“ of a state implies: “The obligation of a state to maintain neutrality and impartiality, as regulated by rules of practice of the Court, is incompatible with any power of the state to assess the legitimacy of religious sentiments“ (Underlined by G.S.). The state, as we can see, has no right or authority to assess the “canonicity” and “legitimacy” of religious sentiments of its citizens and religious communities that bring them together. In contrast, a significant, even a predominant, segment of the official political reality and balance of the current political forces in Montenegro reaches a conclusion that the Montenegrin Orthodox Church is not a “canonical” and thus a “legitimate” church, as opposed to the Serbian Orthodox Church. Even Montenegrin President Filip Vujanović, who is also one of the leaders of the largest and most powerful political parties in the country, advocates this position.
The Court also notes that “in principle, the right to freedom of religion, for purposes of the Convention, does not stipulate that state should evaluate the legitimacy of religious feelings or the way they are expressed. State measures that would give priority to a leader or selected branch of the divided religious community, or exert pressure on the community or part of the community to involuntarily place themselves under a unified leadership, would also constitute a violation of freedom of religion. In a democratic society, government need not implement measures to ensure that religious communities remain under one leadership or get placed under it.” In contrast to these European, democratic, civilized, sustainable, legal and ethical principles, the state of Montenegro is currently harshly discriminating against the Montenegrin Orthodox Church and violating its right to have an equal and fair treatment as all other religious communities in the country. This discrimination is undoubtedly exercised even by the very emphasis on the ”canonical” character of the Serbian Orthodox Church and the “non-canonical” character of the Montenegrin Orthodox Church, even when such emphasis is expressed “informally” since the current Montenegrin President Filip Vujanović advocates this stance in his capacity as “private citizen”. Vujanović is also one of the deputy chairmen of the Democratic Party of Socialists, the largest party in the country’s ruling political bloc (still, he advocates this stance personally, as so far no one from any state authority, government or those political parties that amassed the highest voter confidence, have officially confirmed this position; as the matter of fact, Milo Đukanović, the former prime minister and current head of the Democratic Party of Socialists – the strongest political party in the country, claims that the Montenegrin Orthodox Church is autocephalous and that this issue must be addressed).
The European Court finds that the state must invest effort to make sure that interests of various groups are aligned and that respect for every creed is ensured in a democratic society whose population is made up of several religions. The verdict of the European Court in Strasbourg concludes that the role of the government in such circumstances is not to remove a source of tension by eliminating pluralism, but to ensure that opposed groups tolerate each other, and that peace in society and understanding among followers is preserved. “This is, in its religious facet, one of the most vital elements that integrate the identity of believers and their view of the world, but also a significant asset for atheists, agnostics, skeptics and those that are uninterested. Pluralism that is inherent in a democratic society, and was obtained through great and the ages-old sacrifices, depends upon it”. It is generally known that human rights and freedoms stipulated in all international documents – the European Court in Strasbourg also insists on the practice based on universal principles of equality, justice, freedom – the rights pertaining to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, referred to in Article 9 of the Convention on Human Rights, which the Strasbourg Court also advocates, are the very foundation of every democratic society. “Since religious communities are, by tradition, organized structures, Article 9 must be interpreted in light of Article 11 of the Convention, which protects co-existence from unwarranted interference by the state. In this respect, the right of believers to freedom of religion, which includes the right to promulgate religion in community with others, implies expectation that believers will be allowed to associate freely, without arbitrary government interference.”
Serbian Orthodox Church is always aggressive in its attempts to present the Montenegrin Orthodox Church as a “sect” and “renegades,” in order to convince the domestic and the international public that there is only one Orthodox Church in the territory of former Yugoslavia – the Serbian Church. According to the Serbian Orthodox Church (the Patriarchate of Belgrade), Montenegrin Orthodox believers and admirers of orthodoxy can only be members of the Serbian Orthodox Church and declare themselves as Serbs and members of the Serbian nation. In contrast with such practice of the Serbian Orthodox Church, the European Court in Strasbourg says that “independent existence of religious communities is even necessary for the existence of pluralism in a democratic society, and is therefore given a central place in the set of measures of protection stipulated in Article 9 of the Convention on Human Rights.”
By displaying such attitude, Serbian Orthodox Church seriously disturbs and damages the inter-ethnic and inter-religious harmony that Montenegro has been developing over centuries. On the one hand, it completely narrows the tolerant, democratic, civilizational and intercultural framework of the Montenegrin daily life, and, on the other hand, it stages a radical and public violation of the constitution and human rights and freedoms guaranteed by international laws. It is worth recalling that, apart from the Montenegrin, the Serbian Church also denies the Macedonian Church. Thus, the Serbian Church wishes to obtain exclusive monopoly rights to religious jurisdiction over the whole area of the Western Balkans, by tyrannically denying, both in theory and in practice, the existence of other national sentiments, primarily Montenegrin and Macedonian. This way, the manipulative and cheap political status of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro is fully harnessed to the function of the ultimate and essential goal of the Serbian Orthodox Church and the political and official Greater Serbia concept, which, without doubt, is what the denial, fabrication and contempt for the Montenegrin history, nation, culture, language and independent and internationally recognized state of Montenegro ultimately boil down to.
The Court ”requires the state to ensure that the conflicting groups tolerate each other, even if stemming from the same origin. In this case, the Court considers that, by assuming the position that (Metropolitan Church of Bessarabia) is not a new religious community, and by conditioning its recognition by decision of authorities of the church that is canonically recognized – the Metropolitan Church of Moldova – the government failed to meet its obligation of neutrality and impartiality”. The verdict indicates that the Government of Moldova must allow believers of any church to profess their faith and have free access to all places of worship in accordance with human rights and freedoms, and make sure that no one restricts these rights. Each religious facility of a single “umbrella” religion must be open to members of all churches within one identical denomination.
The Court’s decision further states that: “Although religious freedom is primarily a matter of personal conscience of an individual, it also implies, inter alia, the freedom of ‘promulgation of [their] creed,’ individually or in community with others, in public, with others who share the same faith. The existence of religious feelings is closely bound up with verbal and physical manifestation of their existence. This freedom entails, among other things, the freedom of belief or disbelief in God, and the freedom to confess or not to confess one’s creed.” All of the abovementioned clearly outlines the character and profile of an inter-cultural, civilizational, tolerant, pluralistic and democratic freedom of religion, both individual and collective, which is completely aligned, both historically and in the present, with the concepts and practice, ideas and life, words and deeds of the Montenegrin Orthodox Church, as opposed to the Serbian Orthodox Church, which resorts to aggressive, clerical-nationalist and cheap political means in order to impose its totalitarian position in the Montenegrin society and to place itself as a non-democratic hegemony, not only in matters of religion and spirituality, but of nation, history, culture and state as well. This aggressive, nationalist, chauvinist, clerical-nationalist and fascist activity of the Serbian Orthodox Church has a severely negative impact on security, political and overall social life not only in Montenegro, but also in the entire Western Balkan region. Apart from having served as one of the key triggers of interfaith and interethnic war in former Yugoslavia, this behavior of the Serbian Orthodox Church displayed even in the present, after nearly twenty years, remains to be one of the biggest hindrances to stabilization and democratization of the region, which blocks the revamp and establishment of inter-ethnic and inter-religious confidence, and reconciliation that is a necessary prerequisite for a peaceful coexistence and a prosperous and civilized future of the Western Balkans that is an integral part of European and Euro-Atlantic integration.
“Canonical” rights cannot possibly be used to impede the exercise of religious (human) rights and freedoms guaranteed by the national constitution and international documents, especially in those cases, such as that of the Montenegrin church, when a specific religious organization used to be autonomous, but saw this status violently and unjustly terminated. Even if it had not autonomous, Montenegrin Church would still be enjoying the same rights as all other churches within the Orthodox denomination, including the Serbian Church. The state of Montenegro has to provide a conflict-free, secure and peaceful conduct of religious life in all places of worship, including the undisturbed practice of religion to members of all churches within the Orthodox denomination. It is up to the state to decide whether it will allow Montenegrin and Serbian believers to practice religion in all Orthodox churches for the purposes of efficiency, rationality and peace, or, if this, for some reason, proves unfeasible, irrational and unproductive from the standpoint security or any other social aspect, decide to distribute religious facilities with regard to historical, factual and realistic criteria to those belonging to the Montenegrin and those belonging to the Serbian Church, as academician Radoslav Rotković had proposed.
Despite specific features that mark both the Moldovan and the Montenegrin “cases,” the general principle pertaining to the unconditional respect for human (and religious) rights and freedoms is identical. In addition, the state is obliged and required to allow all of its citizens to freely and safely access and linger in facilities of religion they belong to and, if it be their will, perform religious ceremonies in accordance with their religious sentiments. The Montenegrin “case” is much more clear-cut. Montenegrin Orthodox Church has for centuries been the pivot of the Montenegrin independent state, unaffected by any outside influence, but instead turned to Montenegro, the Montenegrin nation, but also to members of all other nations and religions. In historical retrospective, it has always been open to everyone, regardless of creed, and this precisely is one of the prominent common features of the MOC and the state of Montenegro – the open-mindedness, interculturalism and a great acumen. All of this makes it distinguishable from the other Orthodox church in Montenegro, the Serbian Orthodox Church, which had linked its religious existence in the Montenegrin state to a particular political concept that denies and annihilates the Montenegrin state, and later did everything in its power to deny and annihilate the Montenegrin nation, its name and even the memory of it, and its overall state, its centuries-long identity and tradition. Accordingly, the SOC has solely been advocating recognition of Serbian values, language, heritage, nation, state, church even in the present times and during the recent renewal of the Montenegrin state, with absolutely no regard for fundamental values, history, state, church, language and culture of Montenegrins, the nation and people who have created the Montenegrin state, which they have been denying and destroying continuously and in an unprincipled manner.
An incomplete response of the Montenegrin government to the European Commission Questionnaire’s chapter on human rights in the section pertaining to religious communities and the relationship between the Montenegrin Orthodox Church (MOC) and the Serbian Orthodox Church (SOC)
The answers to the section of the European Commission Questionnaire’s chapter on human rights, which the Government of Montenegro has provided as part of the process of EU accession, and which refer to religious communities and the relationship between the Montenegrin Orthodox Church (MOC) and the Serbian Orthodox Church (SOC) – speak volumes of the position that the Montenegrin government advocates in these issues. The incompletes response provided by the Government of Montenegro testify to their failure to adequately define the legal, political and science-wise position that is internationally and scientifically underpinned and formulated, but also, to their essential and actual, and not just manifested, formal-legal and distorted view of this very important social sphere.
The question „What religious communities does the state back financially?“ is followed by the government’s response which, among other things, reads that the state aid is allocated “mostly in the form of investments in religious facilities, especially in the protection of those facilities regarded as cultural monuments.” The response also says that “Montenegro financially backs: 1. the Serbian Orthodox Church; 2. the Montenegrin Orthodox Church; 3. the Islamic religious community; and 4. the Roman Catholic Church.” The government concludes its response by noting that “religious communities have been allocated 320,000 Euros in 2009,” but does not specify how the funds were distributed among individual religious communities. Therein lays the main inadequacy of this response, as it makes members of the public (irrespective of which religious community they belong to, if at all) get the impression that Montenegrin church is the one to see lowest allocation of funds. There is no information on whether the government had invested funds for the construction of a religious facility for the needs of the Montenegrin Church, but it is known that few of these facilities have been funded through voluntary donations and actions of individual donors, believers and admirers of the Montenegrin Church. In contrast, the government and other state institutions and local governments have been providing ample funds to the Serbian Church, especially during the first decade of this century (when the Montenegrin Church was particularly discriminated against), but also later, when its funds were mainly geared towards the construction of the new SOC religious facilities, investments that the Serbian church values the most, as it aspires to establish a dominant rule in the state territory of Montenegro, and, ultimately, annihilate the Montenegrin nation, country, culture, language and church.
Political parties, institutions, media, the Serbian Minority Council, cultural NGOs and other organizations and individuals that closely cooperate with the Serbian Church, deny the Montenegrin state, nation, church, culture, and claim that the Montenegrin language does not exist, by saying that it lacks the scientific and linguistic basis, that it is a downright political fabrication, and often conclude by saying – those who think that Montenegrin language exists are free to speak this language, if that is what they call it!? Moreover, proponents of such fundamentally unrefined and anti-civilization notions are given extensive media coverage! However, the biggest paradox is definitely found in the fact that the abovementioned Serbian Minority Council regularly receives state funds of almost 1 million Euros (from the Fund for Minorities, the Ministry of Human and Minority Rights etc) and uses these funds to deny Montenegro, the Montenegrin nation, culture, language and its church through the media, publications and other activities. This response of the government does not reflect the numerous and extremely serious difficulties, which bear significant consequences, that the state of Montenegro is facing due to its lack of respect for the Serbian Church, the cultural-religious-Orthodox, as well as the oldest Christian heritage, and due to its unwillingness to cooperate with adequate state cultural and scientific institutions in the protection of facilities that are currently in its ownership, especially those religious facilities designated as cultural monuments.
The following question concerns “relations between the Serbian and Montenegrin Orthodox Church”. The government provides a response divided in three sections, and notes that „the nature of relationship between the SOC and the MOC is primarily determined by three facets – the national, state and property-related. This response of the government also indicates that the relationship between the Serbian and Montenegrin Church, the issue of restoration of autocephalous status of the Montenegrin Church and the relationship of the Serbian Church and the state of Montenegro, is, in fact, a state-related, political and legal-proprietary issue, and certainly not a so-called “religious issue,” as the Serbian Church claims, because the status quo suits its interests, as does their supposed “canonical” status that allows them to act as an arbiter of autocephaly status of the Montenegrin church. They remain “a state within a state,” the owner of vast material resources that have nothing to do with religious activity and spiritual role of church in society, but were gained by abuse of their position, even by trading gifts and donations amounting to hundreds of thousands and millions of Euros that had been collected from church followers. The government obviously sees and acknowledges all of this, but fails to make the right conclusion about the political and legal necessity to adequately restore state, legislative and political relations in all of the three areas – national, political and proprietary – to previous state, and, at the same time, align them with present circumstances, in accordance with the internationally-recognized state of Montenegro whose independence has been restored.
The government response to the previous question’s section referring to the national sphere, reads the following: “The SOC (which recently changed its official name to „Orthodox Church in Montenegro“) is represented in Montenegro by the Metropolitanate of Montenegro and the Littoral, based in Cetinje. According to previous research, the majority public opinion has a positive attitude towards its traditional religious activities“. The analysis of this government’s position starts from the (un)questionability of the statement issued in the second sentence. In 2003, the Council of Europe – when inter-culturalism was given priority over limited multiculturalism, which, although created with good intentions, is now considered to spur segregation and misunderstanding – states that the cultural (religious, linguistic etc) diversity cannot only be applied to terms such as “majority” and “minority”, as different communities thus become clustered in stagnation, in which social behavior and religious, ethnic and cultural stereotypes become sufficient prerequisites for their status and position. (Opatija Declaration on Intercultural Dialogue and Conflict Prevention, 2003). Three years later, the CoE emphasizes that “cultural diversity is the defining factor in Europe. Our commitment to strengthening intercultural and inter-religious dialogue, to which we pledged at the International Tirana Summit, 2004 (Declaration on Inter-Religious and Inter-Ethnic Dialogue in South-East Europe), is an expression of our willingness to maintain European standards in this respect.” (Opatija Declaration, 2006).
The government’s statement quoted above, as one of the “premises” for resolving the dispute between the Serbian and Montenegrin Church, was called into question after the survey that Matica crnogorska and CEDEM conducted last June in order to probe Montenegrin public opinion on the issue of identity. The survey found that 31.6 per cent of citizens think that “the SOC and the MOC should be given equal status”. (Public survey: “Montenegrin citizens’ views on identity”, Matica, No. 43, Autumn 2010, p. 75). It the government aspires to treat all religious groups in an equal and balanced manner and create inter-cultural, democratic, tolerant, civilized and ecumenical-interfaith environment (as is required by the adopted international standards) – the government must not succumb to aggressive pressure of that part of the public that advocates the existence of a single religious community. According to the survey, 26.6 per cent of respondents advocated the existence of churches other than the Serbian Orthodox Church, whereas only 6.7 per cent thought that the Montenegrin Orthodox Church should be the only religious community in Montenegro.
The government’s statement quoted above fails to focus on the essence of “a formal change” in the name of the Serbian Church in Montenegro, for which a mere quotation of the relevant decision of the Serbian Church would have sufficed. The decision states that the “new” church is literally made up of four dioceses of the Serbian Orthodox Church, one of them being the Metropolitanate of Montenegro and Littoral, which in itself clearly discredits, exposes and demythologizes the false and manipulative stance of the Serbian Church, according to which this „Metropolitanate“ is the former Archdiocese of Cetinje and Metropolitanate of Highlands and Littoral, i.e. the Montenegrin autocephalous church, which the Serbian Church does not recognize.
The very decision of the Serbian Church to form the so-called Orthodox Church in Montenegro, as previously quoted in this paper, in which the current Cetinje-based Metropolitanate is labeled as one among several others dioceses of the Serbian Church, clearly dismisses and nullifies the government’s position that it is the so-called Metropolitanate of Montenegro and the Littoral based in Cetinje that is at the helm of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro. This is the key evidence that “Metropolitanate” is not some “Montenegrin,” “separate,” “independent,” “authentic,” “autonomous,” and specific Orthodox religious community, as Montenegrin President Filip Vujanović labeled it in a recent interview with the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Irinej. Instead, it is tagged as just another one in a series of other dioceses, and a religious administrative unit of the Serbian Church which, as the SOC leaders say, covers the area (by denying the Montenegrin national being and affirming the Greater Serbian nationalist assimilation and unity of „one people“) and the territory of Montenegro (of course, not „the state“ of Montenegro, as they continually deny it). The government here makes yet another oversight by not indicating that the current “Metropolitanate” of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Cetinje does not have religious jurisdiction over the entire area of the Montenegrin state, as religious jurisdiction over one-third of state territory does not belong to it, but to other religious and administrative units of the Serbian Church, and even to some units from other sovereign and legal states, such as Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The government did not seize the opportunity to present the European Union with the centuries-old Orthodox religious practice, political-legal and religious-legal principles of assimilating borders of sovereign states with those of Orthodox churches within their territory, an opportunity missed owing to the petty political, non-canonical and – from the standpoint of the Montenegrin state – detrimental work of the Serbian Church in Montenegro. This was an opportunity for the government to take into account the state, national and even international, dignity of Montenegro, and inform the EU about this political and religious absurdity that yields very serious repercussions on the stability of both the Montenegrin state and, particularly, on the overall regional security of a very delicate region of the Western Balkans, where religion, in addition to the standard liberal pro-European, has an additional civilization and national value. None of this results in drastic negative consequences, primarily due to the ages-old ethnic, religious and cultural tolerance of Montenegrins, as well as of all other citizens of Montenegro. Despite this, it almost turns out that the government has relinquished one part of the territory of the state of Montenegro, or has perhaps adopted a highly patronizing, subservient and subordinate relationship towards the Serbian Church along the lines of “do not wake a sleeping giant”. There are many other, in fact, almost all events and relations of the state of Montenegro towards the Serbian Church, which lead to this potential conclusion, primarily referring to the failure to abide by the final court order and remove the illegally-built “religious” facility on Mt Rumija, which destabilized and brought turmoil to the centuries-old religious coexistence and tolerance in the area. In his book The Metal Church and the Kosovo myth Prof. Dr. Novak Kilibarda points out that mounting of the metal church was a stab with a “bloody knife” into the multi-ethnic being of Montenegro (N. Kilibarda: 2006). Prior to publication of his book, Prof. Kilibarda had resigned his membership in the Council for the Rights of National Minorities and Ethnic Groups, after addressing a protest letter in which he warned Montenegrin President Filip Vujanović, also a former chairman of the Council, of the potential negative consequences. The letter carried in Kilibarda’s book was recently published in the daily newspaper Pobjeda.
The US State Department 2010 International Religious Freedom Report reads, in the section pertaining to Montenegro, that “the Ministry of Economic Development, despite their announcement, did not implement the decision on the removal of the church from the Rumija mountain top”. Thus, other religious communities in Montenegro are discriminated against, i.e. placed in an unequal and disadvantaged position in contrast to the Serbian Orthodox Church, which thus enjoys the para-religious, para-political and para-state form of existence, operation and influence. It is clear that the Serbian Orthodox Church is taking advantage of the indecision and fear of possible negative political and electoral consequences, and the gap that divides the Montenegrin state leadership over “the church issue” and continues to hold the state of Montenegro and its citizens in a checkmate position.
The government responses, even in the sections referring to differences between the Serbian and Montenegrin Orthodox Church in terms of property, do not call forth restitution of the Orthodox-church property into the ownership of the state of Montenegro. Nowadays, when the question of restitution of property is becoming an inevitable precondition for EU membership, the state must seek solutions to the problem of land acquisition and political-religious “property nationalization,” i.e. the theft and pillage of Orthodox-church property of the Montenegrin state (an internationally recognized Kingdom of Montenegro) – which had been ceded to the Montenegrin Orthodox Church by the former Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes-Yugoslavia and the Serbian Orthodox Church (i.e. the Serbian Orthodox Church that was the official religion at the time). US State Department 2010 Report stresses the following point: “The restitution of property of religious communities remains to be the problem. The Law of Restitution prescribes that the restitution of property of religious communities be addressed by a separate law, but such law was never adopted”. This report tags the Montenegrin Church as one of the four main religious communities.
The government of Montenegro analyzes the “national” aspect of the Serbian Orthodox Church, and notes that “the presence of national markings in the official name of the church is taken by the part of the public as their adherence to functions other than religious, as if its national markings make way for other potential public functions.” The government is clearly too lenient towards the Serbian Orthodox Church. The problem is not in the national markings found in the „official name“ of the Serbian Orthodox Church, but in the nationalist, chauvinist, fascist activities of the church in practice. Its leaders deny the Montenegrin nation, state, church, language and culture. Therefore, qualifiers such “implies” and “potentially” are inadequate when the actual, explicit, and public attitudes of the Serbian Orthodox Church are concerned.
The government notes that “the MOC, apart from performing its religious role, tries to establish its public engagement as geared towards defense of national and cultural identity of Montenegrins, in contrast to the SOC, which, according to them, only affirms Serbian national interests.” The government once more engages in euphemisms and avoids to directly point to the facts about negative public activities of the Serbian Orthodox Church in their relationship towards Montenegro, but emphasizes that this is the stance expressed by the Montenegrin Orthodox Church by saying that „according to them“! this was a simulation of neutrality and an inadequate knowledge of arbitrariness and “separation of church and state,” which is particularly indicative of the government and the state of Montenegro.
The government’s finding – stated at the beginning of the response on “state differences” between the Serbian and Montenegrin Orthodox Church – that the SOC, or Metropolitanate of Montenegro and Littoral is organizationally linked with the Holy Synod of the SOC in Belgrade as its member, and in whose work Metropolitan of Montenegro and the Littoral, also one of the candidates for Patriarch, has participated – does not clearly and precisely define the status of the Cetinje Metropolitanate, as, according to the Serbian Orthodox Church, is it merely one more of its dioceses. The very phrase “organizationally linked” leaves the possibility of questioning the “autonomy” and “independence” of the so-called Metropolitanate of Montenegro and Littoral. Above all, it supports and “confirms” the fraudulent thesis of the Serbian Orthodox Church, which says that this alleged “Cetinje Metropolitanate” was present in Montenegro for over eight centuries. In accordance with precise facts – the current Metropolitan of Montenegro and Littoral of the Serbian Orthodox Church, based in Cetinje, was not established until 1929. The 1931 Constitution of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Article 12, item 20, designates it as an integral part of the Serbian Orthodox Church and as “A Diocese of Montenegro and Littoral, based in Cetinje”.
The government’s condescending and subservient attitude towards the Serbian Orthodox Church, its unwillingness to present the international public with all the negative and disparaging statements that the Serbian Orthodox Church (Patriarchate of Belgrade) and the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro, as its integral part, have been addressing to the sovereign and internationally recognized state of Montenegro, the Montenegrin nation and its statehood, history and culture over a long period of time; this, as well as the indecision to abide by law and justice, and join the parliament in preparing and enacting laws and regulations that will permanently solve and stabilize this sensitive social issue, is also prominent in their explanation of the position, views and aspirations of the Montenegrin Orthodox Church. “The MOC, headed by the Montenegrin Metropolitan, predominantly operates on the territory of Montenegro by stressing their loyalty to the parent country. At the same time, they keep recalling the restrained attitude that the SOC maintained towards the independence of Montenegro, or the publicly aired negative attitude of some of its representatives regarding certain decisions that Montenegro adopted once it became an independent state, such as the decision pertaining to the recognition of Kosovo.”
Perhaps the government’s greatest oversight lies in its explanation of “differences between the Serbian Orthodox Church (SOC) and the Montenegrin Orthodox Church (MOC)” in the section on “property issues”. Therein, the government should have provided a review of events following the so-called Assembly of Podgorica in 1918, at least a brief review of major events, as this assembly enacted a forced abolition of the internationally recognized Montenegrin state, the Kingdom of Montenegro, starting with an illegal and illegitimate decision of the Holy Synod of the Montenegrin Orthodox Church on “self-abolishment” adopted in 1918, to a similar act adopted by regent Aleksandar, who abolished the autocephalous Montenegrin Orthodox Church, owing to which the state of Montenegro lost its ownership of property that it had ceded to the autocephalous Montenegrin Orthodox Church. The government was obliged to state how the state of Montenegro and the autocephalous Montenegrin Orthodox Church were abolished. Along with restoration of sovereignty of the state, it is necessary to restore the “sovereignty” i.e. the autocephalous status and independence of the Montenegrin Orthodox Church in the sovereign state of Montenegro, in accordance with Orthodox-religious canons, principles and practices. For nine decades, the state of Montenegro has continually been failing to get hold of and retrieve its original property encompassing fixed and immovable assets of the autocephalous Montenegrin Orthodox Church. A famous Serbian scholar on religion, Mirko Đorđević, comments on this by saying that “all the property of one state, therefore, the land, belongs to the state. That is how this is regulated in France. In Russia, as well. And, as far as I know, this issue is still unresolved in Montenegro. All property belongs to the state. In line with the Constitution, the state shows respect to citizens of any religion by ceding them cathedrals, churches, chapels. That is the legal patter in modern Europe. Serbia and Montenegro, as well as other Balkan states, have not adequately revised and regulated this issue in recent period of history. (M. Đorđević: Pobjeda daily, Jan, 23, 2011; Underlined by G.S.).
The response provided to the European Commission shows the government’s “unawareness” of the fact that, from 1918 to 1920, the state of Montenegro was forcibly and illegally deprived of ownership over the Orthodox Church property. Serbian Church is nowadays some sort of para-state, an imperial, cheap political and clerical-nationalist centre of a foreign country in the Montenegrin state. This was an ideal opportunity for the government to provide a detailed list of all abuses regarding “ownership” and the use of former state property of Montenegro by the Serbian Church. The Serbian Church does not appear as the owner of one segment of “church” assets before the nineties – a wartime, a completely illegitimate period of time, when the Serbian Church was engaged in financial speculation and teamed up with paramilitary and para-nationalist and chauvinist forces, which, as we can see, is the trend they maintain to this very day. Abuses have been registered in the reconstruction and construction of religious cultural heritage, constantly performed without consulting the Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments. Registration of property and real estate in the name of the Serbian Church rendered some specific abuses. The Director of Montenegro’s Real Estate Administration Mićo Orlandić issued a statement that contradicts the government’s report: “The usurpation of state property by the Serbian Orthodox Church dates back to 1918 and was carried out in a forced and noncanonical method … By 1913, Montenegrin Church is divided into two dioceses: the Metropolitanate (of Montenegro) and the Diocese of Zahumlje and Raška. All their facilities were funded by state or the royal assets. So, is it logical that these sanctuaries still remain in the property of the Belgrade Patriarchate and that Belgrade authorities keep managing them?” (‘’Pobjeda’’, January 21. 01. 2011.)
In spite of all this, the government reluctantly said that “Montenegrin Church back their claim for property restoration by reason such as historical justice, as, according to them, their property was confiscated through unification of Orthodox churches in 1920, when the autocephalous status of the MOC was abolished. In contrast, the Serbian Church bases its right to the property currently in their possession on the fact that this church is listed in official registries as the sole owner of the Orthodox church property, invoking the principle of continuity and legitimacy of formal ownership. In such a relationship, the state of Montenegro fully affirms the two key principles of democratic countries – freedom of religion and separation of state and church.”
The question is why the government, i.e. the state does not determine and specify its position on the relationship between the Serbian and the Montenegrin Church based on authentic historical, political-legal and legal-ecclesiastical-canonical documents? It is obvious that the state has “not” adopted its own position, or perhaps, it is the balance of political powers within the ruling coalition that prevents them from publicly presenting an unequivocal and pro-active, legal and legitimate, fair and just, Montenegrin, state, national, cultural, religious and civilizational attitude in this matter. This means that the ruling political coalition in Montenegro did not make a political decision on a move the state would make in relations between the Serbian and Montenegrin church, in accordance with authentic historical and legal facts and the local-national and international laws and regulations governing human rights and freedoms, including religious freedom. Its current “carefree” position of “mediator” and “regulator” in the conflict between the Serbian and Montenegrin church will soon have to give way to respect for human rights and freedoms. The government simply maintains and preserves the existing negative situation, using it for political and electoral purposes. This issue must be resolved properly. Why have the government and other state bodies succumbed to such fear, when law and justice are on the side of the Montenegrin state, which can only benefit its citizens? The Montenegrin Church is openly discriminated against, because all Orthodox sanctuaries in the country are closed to them. As the following stages of accession and integration in the EU are becoming increasingly imminent, Montenegro will have to start implementing all anti-discriminatory laws in the field of human rights and freedoms, including religious freedoms. The seven requirements that the EC prescribed for Montenegro as precondition for EU accession negotiations include religious freedoms, which are to be found in sections pertaining to rule-of-law legal state and anti-discrimination. Simply, the government must put in practice the right of all citizens to religious freedom, to individual or joint, collective, promulgation of creed and the right of Orthodox believers to use religious facility in the country for these purposes.
The government’s conclusion to the property-related section of the European Commission Questionnaire states: „Even though both churches apparently expect the state to “settle the dispute” regarding their differences, the recognized European principles are the only way towards a permanent resolution in these relations, without interference of state and politics into their autonomy in performing religious activities”.Even though the Government of Montenegro acknowledged the national, state and property aspects of the “dispute” between the Serbian and Montenegrin church, which can be solved only through the response of the state, it goes on to mention the so-called “their” differences, i.e. differences between the Serbian and Montenegrin Church, without acknowledging that “their” differences concern the very government of Montenegro and its citizens, regardless of whether they are believers or not, and irrespective of their ethnic, religious and any other origin. At least, it is the Montenegrin citizens, the regular taxpayers of their state, that should be informed as to why the Serbian Church, with its enormous property in Montenegro, remains an extraterritorial “company” that is not subject to the Montenegrin legal and economic system; the church that, let us recall, acquired that very property with the help of a former state that had occupied and destroyed the Montenegrin state by means of illegal and unlawful actions, as far back as nine decades ago. Therefore, this is not only the issue of national, political, Christian and civilized apology, but the issue of property restoration, and the billing of those that robbed Montenegro and its citizens by means of illegal transactions, sales and trading of unlawfully acquired property.
The government emphasizes that “the respect for the affirmed European principles,” which imply respect for human rights and freedoms, whose main objective, in terms of religious freedoms, is that all the Orthodox facilities in the country are open to all believers and admirers of Orthodoxy, and therefore of the Montenegrin Church, as well as to all other citizens of different cultural, religious and ethnic backgrounds, regardless of whether they are believers or not, which is currently not the case in Montenegro. In addition, the affirmed European principles imply a regular payment of taxes. However, the aforementioned US State Department Report says that: “Public Revenue Administration received no reports of profits liable to taxes from religious communities.”
The government made a bad judgment (or, perhaps, their wording is only a compromise imposed by the current balance of political forces in the leading party of the ruling coalition in the country), when stated that the Serbian Church also expects the state to “settle” the “differences” between itself and the Montenegrin Church. The reason is simple: the Serbian Church is completely satisfied with the current state and non-interference of the government of Montenegro in this „inter-church“ dispute. The attitude of “separation of church and state” allows the Serbian Church to maintain an undisturbed, legal, religious, ecclesiastical and property usurpation of Montenegro and its own authentic political, spiritual and material values.
The Government of Montenegro does not recognize that the state is not to “settle” “differences,” but that it has a moral, historical, civilizational and axiological commitment towards itself, i.e. towards its legal, national and international continuity and its future peaceful, safe and stable perspective; its commitment to put into effect the regulations of its most senior constitutional and political authorities when addressing the political and Orthodox-church violence imposed by the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes and the Serbian Orthodox Church from 1918 to 1920 on the state of Montenegro (the Kingdom of Montenegro), its royal dynasty Petrović-Njegoš and its last ruler King Nikola I and autocephalous Montenegrin Orthodox Church. Because, “state is law, and law is state,” according to a Serbian academician Perić. Events that took place in late second and early third decade of the 20th century, and were addressed in this paper, had forcibly, willfully and illegally shifted the essential parameters of the political and religious-Orthodox life and organization of Montenegro with decades-running negative consequences. Sovereignty and the international and legal recognition that the state of Montenegro forcibly lost when succumbed to military conquest of the Kingdom of Serbia (despite the fact that it was considered as one of the winners in the First World War: “A victory in which the victorious ceased to exist,” as academician Živojin Perić noted), were democratically restored in 2006, and, as all principles of international law stipulate, the state of Montenegro can now go back to its state prior to 1918.
The latest statements of the Serbian Orthodox Church superiors and continuation of campaign against the Montenegrin Orthodox Church, Montenegrin nation and the state itself
Activities of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro are not inspired by evangelistic dogma that postulates immutable respect for all people regardless of nation and religion, thus in turn for other orthodox Christians – adherents of the Montenegrin Orthodox Church in particular. All the actions undertaken by the Serbian Orthodox Church point in direction of its pretensions to keep its illegal, illegitimate, privileged and monopolistic, discriminational and extraterritorial status in Montenegro. Montenegrin state is under an obligation to outlaw discrimination of the Montenegrin Orthodox Church, as well as discrimination of Montenegrin citizens, their individual and collective civil, national and other rights which is based on their adherence to MOC. Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro shows persistent disrespect for the Montenegrin state and its symbols of national identity- primarily Montenegrin national feeling and Montenegrin Orthodox Church as being the most authentic and the most deeply rooted the history of the people.
Dignitaries of the Serbian Orthodox Church deem the sovereign and internationally recognized Montenegrin state to be of ephemeral and temporary character and negate the existence of Montenegrin nation which in turn implies denial of its identity attributes, with Montenegrin Orthodox Church being one of them. Thus, during the recent official visit to Montenegro, Patriarch of the Serbian Church Irinej gave another statement with such a message “Politicians may create their borders, but there will still be one nation, with one Church that will spiritually unite the people with all the saints and spiritual grandeur of our ancestry“. If only Irinej added “one leader“ as well, the pleasure of the moment would have been complete. We have barely defended our lives, yet the state still remains in the “Procrustean bed” of the Serbian Church. For this Church, national borders are not borders between the sovereign and internationally recognized states, but only borders made by politicians, people who are both “ephemeral and transitory” in this world. In other words, these are highly subjective and relative creations that can change depending on the will of the politicians, i.e. individuals in given circumstances, especially in times of alterable correlations of political forces. In the light of the above, the superiors of the Serbian Church could be identified as the leaders of conservative and destructive nationalistic forces in Serbia which are withdrawn only temporarily since it is not the right time for them to act. Yet, they wait for the change of global and regional geopolitical order, so that they, once again, can try to reach the goals of the greater-Serbian, imperial and assimilatory project by warring.
By claiming that there is only “one nation“ and “one church“ Patriarch of the Serbian Church Irinej sends the message that the orthodox flock and all the citizens of orthodox origin cannot be, nationality-wise, anything else than Serbs, and Serbian people , and that their church, of course, can only be Serbian Church. So, it is precluded that someone can assume another nationality, and as being a part of that nationality with its historical, linguistic and cultural distinctiveness, may request to practice religion with those sharing the same allegiance within some other orthodox church, or, in this case – Montenegrin Orthodox Church. This is the case of flagrant breach of fundamental human rights and freedoms, and the state that tolerates and justifies it breaches these rights, guaranteed by all the international provisions and regulations even more seriously. This is an undisputable fact in today’s Montenegro since the adherents of Montenegrin Church, despite the legal recognition of the religious community, can not fully take part in religious life for they are allowed neither access nor stay in any of the orthodox temples on the territory of Montenegro on grounds of their membership and allegiance to Montenegrin Church. The still greater absurdity of this stems from the fact that all these temples are, historically speaking, the property of the autocephalous Montenegrin Church.
It is interesting to see the separation of the church and the state in practice, i.e. relations of the Serbian state and Serbian Church. All the activities of the Serbian patriarch in Montenegro were attended by the official representatives of the Serbian state: the Minister of Religious affairs, the Advisor to the President of the Republic of Serbia on Serbs in the Region (present in Montenegro during the previous elections and in permanent contact with the Serbian political, cultural, media, civil and other subjects in Montenegro), the ambassador of Serbia in Podgorica… Serbian Church is the driving force behind the Serbian state politics in the West Balkans region. That is probably why Serbia is so “successful” in it. Given such involvement of the Serbian state in the activities of the Serbian Church, and vice versa- influence of the SOC on political trends, it sounds rather discursive, insufficient, naive, quixotic and utopian to say that church and state are separated entities as the President of Montenegro, Filip Vujanović often claims. If we concede that the misuse of this universal principle of the modern civil state may even stem from its very essence and nature, it comes as no surprise that this same misuse becomes more pronounced in the context of clerical-nationalistic and anti-Montenegrin praxis of the Serbian Church. This church is an embodiment of the ” absolute historical oneness and orientation towards the state. This is a phenomenon of Caesarean Papistry. We would name it Byzantine Patriarchism or the brotherhood of state and church, and in this specific case “Serbian state religion. ”(S. Zeković 1997).
During their the recent meeting, the Patriarch of the Serbian Church and the President of Montenegro both pointed out, on several occasions, that the church and the state are entirely separated, as if this claim was the salutary medium and an all-resolving attitude that will settle all the existing issues both between the Serbian Church and the Montenegrin Church, and The Serbian Church and Montenegrin state. However, the facts speak for themselves: the Serbian Church in Montenegro uses this alleged “separation’” to “keep guard on (illegally and noncanonically obtained) church establishment (“legitimation“)“ (S. Zeković: 1997).Montenegro should not deal with religious affairs in an anti-modern, anti-civilizational and antidemocratic fashion like Serbia; yet, it has to defend itself from violent attacks of the Serbian state and the Serbian Church upon its religious, national, cultural and linguistic independency and indigenousness. If the measures needed are not undertaken, Montenegrin state will be the only one to be held responsible for its future and its citizens when the consequences “ensue” both from the deeds not done or those done poorly. These consequences are already conspicuous – fortunately, at this stage, they take on a form of sporadic exacerbation of interethnic and religious tolerance, yet it is menacing enough as to call for a wise and energetic state policy that will put an early end to it. What is more, Montenegro was never, historically speaking, a stronghold for such praxis.
Announcement that was issued by the cabinet of Montenegrin President, Filip Vujanović, following a meeting with the head of the Serbian Church clearly shows that at least the President’s, if not the state policy concerning the conflict of Montenegrin and Serbian Church (given that it exists) is certainly not aimed at its resolution. President of Montenegro, with the best of intentions (even though the Stalinism and other dystopias witness that it is the possible road to hell) called on the Serbian Church to stop interfering in affairs of the Montenegrin state. Such reaction, even though aimed at protecting the state in the name of its people, puts the president of a sovereign and internationally recognized state in an inferior, dependent and dishonorable position. One does not have to ask the Serbian Church to do something that it will do of its own accord given that it pays no respect for the state whatsoever. They will, for sure, do whatever it takes for the Montenegrin state to disappear, as it had disappeared long ago from the hearts and the minds of the Serbian Church superiors. They have no conscience for what they have been doing against Montenegrins and their state for the last nine decades, so they will neither admit it, nor ask for forgiveness. To the contrary, they do all that is in their power to completely wipe Montenegrins out, to banish their name, state, nation, language and history.
Such attitude of the Serbian Church superiors in Montenegro became particularly obvious during the New Year and Christmas holiday season 2011. As a matter of fact, the Metropolitan Radović put a curse upon those wanting to enforce the law in conformity to the principles of rule-of-law-state and remove the so called church from Rumija Mountain (illegal object that is used for pseudo-religious purposes thus provoking inter-ethnic and religious conflicts). The so called church was built on the Holy Mountain of Rumija near Bar in 2005 with the aid of the former State Union of Serbia and Montenegro Army. It was a blatant attempt to destroy multi-centennial inter-cultural, inter-ethnic and religious harmony personified in the cult of the saint of the Montenegrin Orthodox Church and the king of Doclea, Jovan Vladimir (a thousand year long statehood continuity Doclea-Zeta- Montenegro). Metropolitan Radović had also spoken in an offensive manner of other ethnic and religious groups (particularly of the Islamic confession- Muslims and Albanians). For this attempt of provoking religious and ethnic hatred Metropolitan Radović is put on trial.
Even after all these incidents, Metropolitan of the Serbian Church in Montenegro has the courage to express his “concern“ over potential religious conflicts in Montenegro both at the meeting with the Prime Minister dr. Igor Lukšić and in the letter that he sent to the media. This is, in fact, a classic example of blackmail and an unacceptable pressure on the Government of a sovereign, democratic and free country in the 21st century. The letter reads as follows: “The Metropolitanate of Montenegro and the Littoral and all the Eparchies of the Orthodox Church in Montenegro feel deeply threatened in all of its rights more than ever in the history, including the times of revolution as well. Favoring of the so called MOC by the state organs and the media (TVCG, Pobjeda, etc.), persistent defamation of the Church, statements that it is an ”occupant church”, the threat of confiscation of its assets, demolishing of its temples (the church on the Rumija Mountain), as well as many other things, cause our grave concern. What is more, it all heats up the “silent” religious war that leads up to polarization of the orthodox corpus with potential catastrophic consequences for the peace in Montenegro. Typical example is the harangue against the Rumija church. We have received serious threats that, if the church on Rumija is destroyed, some mosques in Bar will be demolished as well. In other words, there are threats of bloodshed on religious grounds. So called MOC, is but an arriviste, religious community (founded in 2000) not recognized by the Orthodox Church. The only thing it has in common with the Orthodox Church in the Kingdom of Montenegro is its usurped name. This church, supported by your tomorrow’s reception, inspires hatred amongst people and, together with its supporters, infringes the fundamental rights, and damages the name, dignity and property of the centennial Metropolitanate of Montenegro and the Littoral. Bear in mind, Mr. President, that by receiving and supporting such institutions you undermine the very foundations of Montenegro and jeopardize its future. This can only happen in a state in a legal vacuum.“
The only truthful thing in this letter is the claim that the Montenegrin state is in a legal vacuum, which is proved by the fact that the Government has not reacted to such inadmissible behavior of Amfilohije Radović. Now that the favorable conditions are created, the Government led by its Prime Minister dr. Igor Lukšić, should act in accordance with the principles of rule-of-law-state, i.e. reach an official decision on removal of the church from the Rumija Mountain. If such actions, also supported by the European Union (Regarding this case, Jelko Kacin, European Parliament Reporter for Montenegro stated that he expects that Montenegro will carry out the legal decision) are not undertaken, the Serbian Metropolitan in Montenegro will continue with his brigand behavior, his attempts to destabilize the country and, together with the Serbian church limit its sovereignty, negate Montenegrin nation, language, history as well as its very nature of civil and intercultural society.
The reason for such behavior of Metropolitan Radović and the Serbian church lies in the fact that since the proclamation of independence in 2006, Montenegrin Government has not yet nullified the decisions of so-called Assembly of Podgorica (1918) and illegal regent Aleksandar Karađorđević’s decree (1920) which abolished autocephalous Montenegrin Church and annexing it to the Serbian Orthodox Church (SOC). In accordance with decisions of nullification, all the assets of the Orthodox Church in Montenegro would become the property of the state as it was the case until 1918. It is not yet too late to remove this largest anti-Montenegrin and anti-European bomb from the foundations of Montenegro. Historical, legal and canonical documents all confirm that Montenegrin Orthodox Church was multi-centennial national autocephalous orthodox metropolitanate of Montenegrins and all the other orthodox believers in the sovereign and free Montenegrin state. On the other hand, Metropolitanate of Montenegro and the Littoral is but a counterfeit of the autocephalous Montenegrin Church.
In the letter to the Prime Minister Igor Lukšić, Serbian Metropolitan Amfilohije Radović confesses that the Orthodox Church in the Kingdom of Montenegro was in fact Montenegrin Orthodox Church. As viewed from this perspective, it is perfectly understandable why the so called “The Orthodox Church in Montenegro” was established immediately after proclamation of Montenegrin independence in 2006. By categorically claiming that it is the “Serbian church” the Serbian Metropolitan sent a clear message concerning the hope of “The Orthodox Church in Montenegro” being open for all the orthodox believers in the country. Unfortunately, “The Orthodox Church in Montenegro” was the name submitted by Montenegrin Government in the answers to the European Commission questionnaire. On the other hand, Metropolitan’s letter clearly implies that this ”Orthodox Church” is comprised of (four) dioceses of the Serbian Orthodox Church.
Metropolitan Amfilohije fights in an all-scale war (religious war serves as means), defames and harangues anything Montenegrin, national, linguistic, cultural and independent in this state. He destroys the civil state along its religious “seam lines”, rattles arms, offends adherents of different national and religious groups, threatens, curses, exerts pressure, blackmails the state, encourages the state of anarchy, fear and hatred. The State Department has already reminded Montenegro that it is to carry out its decision on removing the illegal object from Rumija Mountain. Those who should start filling the “legal vacuum”, i.e. the state organs of Montenegro are to act immediately. It is expected from them to act in accordance with the principles of rule-of-law-state and, by doing this, to further strengthen their internal and international stability.
Being faced with clerical-nationalistic attacks, the only logical thing for Montenegro to do is to defend its vital historical and modern institutions and values: its nation, culture and language. Otherwise, the country is and will be inflicting harm upon itself by “helping” self-destruction and complete elimination from national and geopolitical map of the world. If our representatives on the highest positions in the state administration are not able to recognize the counterproductive and evil proceedings of certain anti-Montenegrin social, political and religious forces, they become the willing accomplices and propagators of the same ideology. Such state administrators and church dignitaries have never ruled Montenegro before.
It is precisely this fact that we have to bear in mind seeing President Filip Vujanović continually receiving official visits and maintaining contact with the representatives of the greatest of all anti-Montenegrin forces- the Serbian Orthodox Church. What is more, he does that in spite of their open disrespect (obvious in their statements over decades) for the sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity, international status and legitimacy of the Montenegrin state. On the other hand, the church that is the part of national heritage of Montenegrins receives no such treatment from President Vujanović. He neither pays due respect for it, nor treats it in a civilized manner. Dignitaries of the Montenegrin Church were never invited to pay official visit to the President. As far as we are informed, he has only spoken twice to Metropolitan Mihailo, both times almost in secrecy. The first time they met the leader of Montenegrin Church had to enter President’s office through the back door ( Vujanović did not want media attention), while the second time only the Metropolitan gave statement claiming that the President Vujanović received him. It is probably a unique case of discrimination practiced by the chief of a democratic state against the representatives of a religious community that is unfailingly loyal and devoted to this same state. It should be added that it is the same religious community that rests on historical, confessional and national heritage of the state, and finally, the same community the President himself belongs to identity and origin wise! The treatment given to Montenegrin church President Vujanović ”derives” from “knowledge” that “it is a non-canonical church” . Nonetheless, all the evidence and considerations adduced so far point to the contrary.
This clearly attests to discrimination of Montenegrin church, its believers and supporter on many grounds related to fundamental human rights and freedoms. The fact 20,3 of the examinees in the survey conducted by Matica crnogorska believes that the state does not treat equally all the religious communities, and that in fact favors Montenegrin Church is yet another evidence that the general public and the media are not familiar wit the real state of affairs. Montenegrin state, acting in accordance with its international responsibilities, is under an obligation to create all the conditions needed for eradication of discrimination against Montenegrin Church on any grounds. This, in turn, would imply repealing the forged, illegal, illegitimate and discriminatory acts against the state itself which will enable it to strengthen its internal legitimacy as well as the national, cultural, confessional, civilizational, intercultural, democratic and international dignity and identity. Montenegro has to react because it lies under an obligation to itself, to its citizens, to the future generations, its roots, memories, ancestors and descendants, and finally to the international community for the sake of regional safety and stability.
From the historical perspective, the holy liberating Trinity – free people, free state and free religion(church) – is precisely what kept Montenegro alive and made possible for the state to modernize and imbue itself with multiculturalism and interculturalism in a tolerant and civilized manner, at the same time being fully aware of the fact that Orthodoxy, Catholicism and Islam, as well as any other religions together with the common and universal cultural heritage, are the priceless fortune that connects us with the whole mankind. This is of additional importance in today’s globalized world.
Montenegro restored its sovereign state– built the house, the walls and the roof, yet it has not made a home of it, as the academician Radoslav Rotković points out. For this very purpose the highest state organs, both the Government and the Parliament should interfere and annul the decisions of the so-called Assembly of Podgorica and illegal regent Aleksandar’s decree that abolished autocephaly of the Montenegrin Church. We are not only obliged to our “home“ but to international community as well, the latter being, as we have learned from experience of the entire SFRY (Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia) region, the decisive factor when it comes to providing both the “superstructure of the home“ and its foundations.
Amfilohije Radović, Metropolitan of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro, often claims that he is sitting on the throne of Saint Petar of Cetinje, the founder of the modern Montenegrin state, one of its unifiers, legislators, educators, or, in other words, one of the most significant historical figures when it comes to reforms of both the state and legislation. However, deeds don’t follow his words – there is a wide, almost unbridgeable chasm between the unifier – Saint Petar of Cetinje and the destroyer – Metropolitan of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Amfilohije Radović. Since the very moment he came to Montenegro, Metropolitan Radović is but an embodiment of a complete antithesis to Saint Petar – he creates disorder and disunion, belittles, negates and insults primarily anything Montenegrin and antifascist, and secondarily, the entire corpus of the European values, human rights and freedoms. We would like to hear Metropolitan Radović encouraging and reconciling Montenegrins and Montenegro – our state and nation that is unique and distinguishing. What he does is quite to the contrary. As for Montenegro, I am sure that Metropolitan Radović would agree with the verse of the famous Serbian and Yugoslav poet, Branko Miljković I wake her in vain because you can not impose on people something that is not kept in the heart.
From what has been stated above, it is clear that there were series of actions undertaken to deprive Montenegro of its sovereign state, its church and nation. These same actions are now up to sovereign, independent and internationally recognized Montenegro to take if it is to recover what naturally belongs to her in full capacity. This time, though, it has to be done in a democratic fashion and in the best interest of all its citizens, not illegally and by exertion of force as it was the case when such things were done “in the name of Montenegro“. Montenegrin sovereign state is restored. It was the people who restored it – Montenegrins and all the loyal and supporting citizens. Montenegrin state is under an obligation to restore autocephaly of its Montenegrin church since it is in Orthodox tradition that the borders of the sovereign state are at he same time borders of an independent autocephalous religious community with its own organization and self-government. By taking a step in the right direction Montenegro will, through use of legal means, regain what has been, identity, religion and property-wise forcibly taken from it by decisions of the so-called Assembly of Podgorica and illegal regent Aleksandar’s decree.
All the necessary constitutional and legal conditions are met to finally make the Serbian Church in Montenegro act as any legal entity subjected to the laws of Montenegro in all spheres: from finances to the protection of cultural heritage. Now we are facing the opposite scenario with the Serbian Orthodox Church committing flagrant violations of Montenegrin laws in domains of economy and culture. Moreover, this Church negates anything that is Montenegrin – the name, the nation, the language, the culture, the state, and the church. Now that the sovereignty of the Montenegrin state has been restored, the national status asserted, and in the light of unassailable scientific, historical and factual evidence that the Montenegrin Church, as an inseparable part of Montenegrin authentic, historic and national identity, was also autocephalous, all these undertakings of the Serbian Church can be rightfully questioned.
Suggestions to the state organs of Montenegro
Upon the proposal of the Government of Montenegro, the Parliament of Montenegro, being the highest authority, is obliged to annul the regent Aleksandar Karađorđević’s decree because it was a secular person i.e. the sovereign of former State – Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes who signed it. This is important because out of all identity issues remaining after the restoration of the independent state of Montenegro, the issue of church remains the unsettled one. What is more important is the fact that the decree is not based on the Constitution and legal regulations, but on the forceful and corrupted acts of the Holy Synod of Montenegrin Orthodox Church. The annulment would result in restoration of Montenegrin sovereignty prerogatives which, in turn would imply restoration of the legitimate and legal state preceding the forceful abolishment of the autocephalous Montenegrin Church. This act of the Parliament of Montenegro would enable Montenegrin Orthodox Church to reclaim its autocephaly, whereas the state itself would regain its property. The part of this property, i.e. religious objects, could be evenly distributed between Montenegrin and Serbian churches.
Current situation is not going to change by itself i.e. without “interference” and involvement of the state. This is not a case of conservative, patriarchal and outdated traditional, collectivistic concept of state interventionism in every sphere of society. On the contrary, the state is obliged to mediate in a dispute between two churches and guarantee equal treatment for both Montenegrin and Serbian Church in order to create all the assumptions necessary for Montenegrin citizens to fully achieve human rights and (in this case religious) freedoms. This would develop and strengthen civilizational and European identity corpus of human rights and freedoms, conditio sine qva non for overall legitimacy and stability of the Montenegrin state and its democratic society. The survey of “Matica crnogorska” institution on identity issues shows that regardless of all contradictions and vulnerabilities of the still undeveloped Montenegrin nation and the renewed, sovereign and internationally recognized Montenegrin state “vast majority of citizens supports ecumenistic resolution which would provide for equality and coexistence of both religious communities. In this respect, inflexible attitude of the Serbian Church, precluding any dialogue with the Montenegrin Church and inclining towards preserving the present state of affairs related to disputable historical heritage, does not meet with the approval of most part of Montenegrin citizens.“ (Research: Montenegrin citizens’ attitudes on identity, Comment: Rade Bojović, Matica, No. 43, Year XI, Autumn 2010, p. 82).
The Government, being one of the key elements of political and social elite should not be led by archaic and regressive codes of conduct, but it should initiate, prepare, lead, and enable development of civilizational, democratic and progressive national and social options and alternatives even if they were not present in the general public. It has to be led by those transparent pro-European signals of Montenegrin public opinion in order to be able to consolidate and strengthen currently fragile and unstable internal legitimacy of Montenegrin state. Given that the opposition still holds the unchanged unionist and negational attitude towards Montenegrin statehood, political will of the ruling coalition is the only condition remaining to be met. We say the “only condition” bearing in mind that all the other prerequisites from legal, political, national and ethical sphere are present in the form of positively critical, loyal, democratically–European, cultural and civilization support of the general public. Bearing in mind the attempts of the Serbian Church to ‘block out’ both Montenegrin Church and its sovereign state, each delay can prove extremely costly.
The agony that deepens the chasm among citizens of Montenegrin state would endure as long as the issue remains unsettled by the state organs. Montenegrin state is obliged by Convention on Human Rights to mediate in the dispute between two churches (Serbian and Montenegrin). Similar issue was resolved by judgment of the European Court in Strasbourg whereby autocephaly of Metropolitan Church of Bessarabia in Moldova was regained. Montenegro has to learn a lesson from their experience if it is to avoid making the same mistake. “Otherwise, this case could end up in the Strasbourg Court with the damage for Montenegro being twofold: both economical and political. We should never forget the fact that the year of ‘to be or not to be’ in the EU is ahead.” (Academician Prof. Dr Blagota Mitrić: 2010).
We are left with the hope that the related political decisions of both the Government and the Parliament of Montenegro would provide all the missing prerequisites for the proper functioning of the Montenegrin State in all aspects in question at full capacity. This, in turn, would imply that Montenegrin citizens would be able to exercise their human rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution and international documents in a democratic and unrestricted fashion. According to Serbian academician Živojin Perić, law and legal studies have to be the efficient opponents to “every…violence and brute force, and to the cause of elemental struggle and disorder among people in general.” A representative example of this is still unresolved condition regarding the so called national identity issues of Montenegrin people, state and church. This is precisely why the state, being a sovereign national and international legal subject, is under an obligation to its citizens, present and future generations and their rights to peace, security, freedom, justice, spiritual and material prosperity and development. The following arguments of the academician Perić prove the point that Montenegrin national and religious issues are at the same time unique and universal in civilizational, humanistic, cultural, educational and democratic sense: “Analogous to Christianity, which functions as a base, the law is equated with peace and brotherhood among individuals. A jurist is, and is supposed to be, like a Christian priest, and a Christian priest is like a jurist. It could happen, and it often does, that the violence is successful if, and to a degree in which it makes jurists surrender when they find themselves in violent situations. Not ethically, of course, but only factually when compelled to fight violence with violence even though both legal science and their religious teachings and principles preclude this course of action. Even so, the jurist would not approve of illegal, unlawful actions or violence whatever its origins might be, i.e. both going back to the governing state organs (from above) or individuals (from below). If he would approve of such deeds, he would be no better than a Christian priest that had renounced Christ. Such jurist would be neither jurist nor Christian. By objecting to those illegal actions and violence, a jurist would wield beneficial influence on everyone in terms of their further evolution towards the strengthening of the legal awareness. Jurist would thus aid Christian actions of priests and the priests, on the other hand, would aid jurist’s efforts. It would be equally devastating for the very notion of law and justice and thus for the state, as the guarantee of peace and order that enables spiritual uplift, if the jurists would stand up for violence and unlawfulness. This would be comparable to a Christian priest glorifying murder (though, lamentably, we have witnessed such unfortunate examples)“ (Underlined by G.S.). Sadly, these “unfortunate examples“ were no rarities in the Serbian Orthodox Church during the last decade of the twentieth century. The Cetinje Monastery, for example, provided a refuge for the leaders of Serbian paramilitary formations and for the people accused for genocide and war crimes before the International Criminal Court in the Hague.
Perić’s considerations are fully applicable to Montenegrin legal system, i.e. Montenegrin state, as well as to the Montenegrin Orthodox Church. The task of the legal system is to set solid, safe and lasting foundations of the internationally recognized Montenegrin state, to raise legal awareness about the issue of historical sovereignty and independence of Montenegro, while the task of two latter institutions is to re-establish autocephalous Montenegrin Orthodox Church and to develop collective consciousness both of its multi-centennial historical independence and its role in spiritual and public life in Montenegro. In this way Montenegrin legal experts, legislators and the state itself support the Montenegrin Orthodox Church, while, on the other hand, the Church aids strengthening and development of the modern Montenegrin state. It is beyond any doubt that this is the same process developing along two directions, two sides of the same historical and civilizational task.
Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro establishes its position through the use of violence and coercion. The church as such, even with an effort of its will, can not be legitimate and can not ground its role, activity, position, mission, duties and responsibilities on legal provisions. In order to achieve legitimate status, it has to face the violence and illegal acts that the former state – Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, its regent Aleksandar, the illegal and illegitimate ”Great National Assembly of the Serbian people in Montenegro“ and the Church itself committed against both the Montenegrin state and autocephalous Montenegrin Orthodox Church. Since the Serbian Church, being mainly driven by selfish, nationalistic, chauvinist, political, totalitarian, imperial, assimilatory, non-civilized, non-modern and archaic conservative interest, is not willing to do it, Montenegrin state has to act and settle all the issues in lawful and legitimate fashion, as the academician Živojin Perić proposes. Now that the state has regained it sovereignty and international recognition, it is in possession of all the legal and political means to change this violently imposed condition and to introduce peaceful, civilized, democratic, constitutional, lawful, legal and legitimate measures and decisions. It is up to Montenegro to defend its legal system this time, and it is obliged to both its citizens and to the international community to do that, because it possesses the power to protect rights and legality. By taking this step, it protects the peace and safety of its citizens, of the region, the European Union, and in the final instance – of the whole international community. As academician Perić says: “state is law, law is state“, so we will only add: the essence of democracy is in abiding the law, and in the fact that all are equal before law.
Through the use of historical, scientific and legal arguments, the Government and the Parliament of Montenegro may settle certain remaining issues in the sphere of human rights and freedoms primarily related to national identity and feeling as well as those concerning religion and church. First of all, the Parliament has to nullify the decisions of so-called Great Assembly of Podgorica (1918); second, when it comes to relations of the church and the state, it has to pass a decision on annulling the regent Aleksandar’s decree brought in 1920 that abolishes the autocephalous Montenegrin Orthodox Church; third, to declare that the property of the restored autocephalous Montenegrin church is the property of the Montenegrin state which is to be given to the Montenegrin church to its disposal; fourth, to pass the decision on identification, registration and preservation of the cultural heritage of the Montenegrin Church as being an important part of the national heritage of Montenegro. All the above stated decisions appear as a part of responsibilities of the state organs of Montenegro towards the international community. In this way Montenegro will strengthen and support its sovereignty, international status, legitimacy and stability. Also, all the necessary political and legal conditions will be met for Montenegro to resolve the remaining identity-related matters from the corpus of human rights and freedoms guaranteed by international conventions, which in turn presupposes constitutional conditions for building the democratic society.
Suggestions to the EU Member States
The core problem of the Balkans is that, in fact, in practice, and in “the field”- despite the contrary official statements of the state organs – Serbia essentially does not give up its imperial and undemocratic project of Greater Serbia. The most important “fighter” in this project is the Serbian Church, with the ample support of the official Serbian authorities. Serbian Orthodox Church Patriarch Irinej recently said: “Karlovac is our spiritual border.” This statement says it all when you know that one of the slogans of Serbian nationalism with which the civil, religious and inter-ethnic war started in former Yugoslavia in 1991 and lasted until 1995, was that the (Greater) Serbian border should be Karlobag-Karlovac-Virovitica line. At the same time,the adviser to the Serbian President Boris Tadić for the matters of Serbs in the Diaspora, Mlađen Đorđević repeatedly visits Montenegro at times which always coincides with certain events to which the Government of Serbia attributes a first-rate political importance. Đorđević was in Montenegro during the local elections, when Milo Đukanović, then Prime Minister of Montenegro and the current chairman of the Democratic Party of Socialists, the strongest political party in Montenegro, publicly warned him not to interfere in the electoral process, by actively assisting (pro)Serbian political parties in elections. Serbian President Boris Tadić has denied it, but Milo Đukanović said that he had evidence for his claims. Media in Montenegro have released news that Đorđević brought a considerable sum of money to fund the propaganda whose intention is to assimilate Montenegrins and their “converting” into the Serbs. His desire is to achieve the goal that many citizens of Montenegro declare themselves as Serbs and that they speak Serbian language. That these facts are absolutely undeniable – tested and proved so many times in practice, also show the latest activities and actions of the highest state bodies of Serbia and the leadership of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro.
On the eve of the general population census in Montenegro and Croatia, when their residents also respond to questions about national, religious and linguistic background, Serbian President Boris Tadić has gathered a meeting and consultations with representatives of the Serbian Diaspora of Serbs from the region, leading politicians of the opposition pro-Serb parties in Montenegro, and Metropolitan Radović of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro, in his cabinet in Belgrade. Reaching the agreement in Belgrade was attended by Minister for Religious Affairs in the Government of Serbia Dr Bogoljub Šijaković and advisor to President Tadić for the affairs of Serbs in the Diaspora and the region Mlađen Đorđević. Serbian Minister for Religious Affairs and advisor to Serbian President remain in Montenegro. They are, along with the Serbian Ambassador to Montenegro Zoran Lutovac, provided with all the logistics by the Serbian Orthodox Church to conduct a campaign of assimilation of Montenegrins. Thus, religious facilities in Montenegro, managed by the Serbian Orthodox Church are being politically abused for clerical, nationalistic and subversive purposes. This is a unique example in the world. Montenegrin media have informed the public about a secret meeting that took place in the monastery Ždrebaonik, where representatives of state bodies of Serbia, the Serbian Orthodox Church and the opposition pro-Serbian parties in Montenegro gathered to form a headquarters to coordinate and control all activities in the process of assimilation of Montenegrins, and the implementation of a strategic plan to have a greater number of Montenegrin citizens declared as Serbs speaking Serbian language.
Unfortunately, the state of Montenegro is here just to note their presence, but it does not undertake any measures under the Constitution and laws of the state to prevent this and enable a peaceful, constructive, free, democratic and civilized atmosphere for every citizen of the country to respond about their feelings of national, religious and linguistic affiliation without any pressure, force and aggressive advertising, in a voluntarily and authentic manner. It is obvious that the situation from 2003, when the previous census in Montenegro was held, will repeat. Back then, the Metropolitan of Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro Amfilohije also formed a headquarters headed by the Serbian Minister for Religious Affairs, Bogoljub Šijaković, ahead of the census, and managed to assimilate more than 25 percent of Montenegrins by means of aggressive clerical and nationalist propaganda. Now, the only difference is that Montenegro is supposedly a sovereign state. However, state authorities of Montenegro do not respond adequately, nor the European Union interferes, overlooking the fact that official state bodies of Serbia and the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro strive to denationalize, assimilate, decapitate and destroy the Montenegrin people in the heart of a progressive and enlightened in twenty-first century Europe by means of aggressive, imperial, undemocratic and uncivilized attempts. It is obvious that the Serbian Orthodox Church and the state of Serbia are not giving up the project of Greater Serbia.
Having, therefore, in mind, the behavior of the Serbian state in the last twenty five years over the region of former Yugoslavia, it is noticeable that the Serbian government and Serbian President Boris Tadić lack the necessary political will, desire, energy and courage to decisively pull Serbia away from a harmful and destructive dream (which has a very large negative impact on Serbia itself and all its neighboring countries in the Western Balkans) to create a Greater Serbia or so called Dušan’s empire. To achieve this, i.e. to clearly and unequivocally distance itself from any imperial relation to other neighboring nations, and any enslaving and assimilatory politics of Great Serbia, the state of Serbia must give birth to a Serbian Willy Brandt, who will apologize to all nations and countries in relation to which Serbia had a territorial, national, state, political and cultural aspirations. Serbia has not given up the Greater Serbia project, i.e., the Načertanije (eng. Draft) project of Ilija Garašanin about the geopolitical exit to the Adriatic Sea and the so-called project “Memorandum of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts“. The proof for that is the latest official Serbian state project under the title „Strategy for the preservation and reinforcement of relations between the registry state and diaspora and registry state and the Serbs in the region“ that was adopted by the Goverment of the Republic of Serbia on January 21, 2011. The Government of Montenegro has criticized pointedly the adopted document warning that it is the case of direct Serbia’s meddling into the affairs of Montenegro. If it ever happens, the president of Serbia should publicly say that Serbia is giving up the idea of retrograde, nationalist and greater aspirations and projects, expressing its sincere regret to the states and nations in the neighborhood – Bosnia, Croatia, Montenegro, Macedonia and Kosovo, recognizing their equality, sovereignty and territorial integrity, identity, integrity and dignity in the ethnical, national, political, cultural, linguistic and other respects. It is only then that it shall be deemed that an end came to an awful period of time in Balkans. It is only then, that Serbia will step into a true democratization of society to take the rapid steps towards Euro-Atlantic integration, which will be a huge success for all of us in the Western Balkans and in Europe as a whole.
Where is what:
Sreten Perović, Academician: A WORD OF RECOMMENDATION (REVIEW)
Assembly of Montenegro is obliged to verify the annulment of decisions of the so-called Assembly of Podgorica in 1918
Illegal and illegitimate “decision” of the Holy Synod of Montenegrin Orthodox Church on the “unification” with the Serbian Orthodox Church
Cancel the decree by regent Karađorđević on the Abolition of the Montenegrin Orthodox Church from 1920
Autocephalous Orthodox Metropolitanate or the Montenegrin Orthodox Church
So- called “Orthodox Church in Montenegro” consists of four dioceses of the Serbian Orthodox Church
Church Serbian Orthodox “Metropolitanate” of Montenegro and the Littoral continues to falsify and usurp the name, history, and (presently) proprietary rights of the historical autocephalous Metropolitanate of Cetinje, i.e. Montenegrin Orthodox Church
Metropolitan of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro Amfilohije’s attempts in 1992. to falsify the canonical autocephaly of Montenegrin Orthodox Church
Independent state borderlines are at the same time borders of autocephalous church
The European Court in Strasbourg restores the autocephalous status of the Metropolitan Church of Bessarabia in Moldova
An incomplete response of the Montenegrin government to the European Commission Questionnaire’s chapter on human rights in the section pertaining to religious communities and the relationship between the Montenegrin Orthodox Church (MOC) and the Serbian Orthodox Church (SOC)
The latest statements of the Serbian Orthodox Church superiors and continuation of campaign against the Montenegrin Orthodox Church, Montenegrin nation and the state itself
Suggestions to the state organs of Montenegro
Suggestions to the EU Member States
About the author:
GORAN SEKULOVIĆ holds a PhD in Law and Political Science, an MA in pure philosophy, and works as a writer, publisher and essayist. He has published more than thirty books related to all these fields, more than fifty scientific papers and about two hundred pieces of various creative characters. As an editor of the publishing department in Pobjeda Public Newspaper Company and the president of DOB (“Society for the preservation of Montenegrin Spiritual Heritage”), his name is to be found in more than fifty published editions. He has been working as a journalist, editor, commentator and columnist in Pobjeda daily newspaper. He has attended numerous scientific conferences.
Sreten Perović, Academician
dr Radoje Pajović, Academician
Mr Nela Savković-Vukčević
Dr Aleksandra Nikčević-Batrićević
’’DOB’’ Podgorica 2011.
For Publisher: Dr Goran Sekulović