08 October 2020, The Tablet

Serbian Orthodox bishops thank voters in Montenegro

Serbian Orthodox bishops thank voters in Montenegro

In other news, Metropolitan Amfilohije (L front), head of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro, has tested positive for Covid-19 and been hospitalised
Pavel Bushuyev/Tass/PA Images

Serbian Orthodox bishops have thanked voters for helping block legislation to reduce their lands and properties in Montenegro, as efforts continued to maintain the church’s predominance in the former Yugoslavia.

“We owe citizens of Montenegro thanks for hearing our church's cry and voting freely against totalitarianism, against those who wanted a law that would jeopardise the existence of the church and its spiritual and material heritage,” the bishops said. “We now expect a spirit of self-sacrifice, solidarity and mutual understanding from the election winners.” 

The message was published as a new three-party coalition under Zdravko Krivokapic, a technology professor, attempted to secure power in the Adriatic country, after the late August election defeat of President Milo Djukanovic's pro-Western government, after 30 years in power. 

The changeover is expected to lead to the shelving of a controversial religious law requiring the handover of assets acquired by the Serbian Orthodox church after Montenegro’s early-twentieth-century incorporation into Yugoslavia. 

Meanwhile, in neighbouring Kosovo, the Serbian church's leader, Bishop Theodosius of Raska and Prizren, urged Orthodox citizens not to leave in the face of “constant threats of persecution and attacks”, as Western-backed talks continued in Washington and Brussels to foster new links between Serbia and Kosovo, which became independent in 2008.

“This is not just an ordinary land to be sold or bought, but a land sown with the bones of our ancestors, sanctified by prayers, dripping with the tears of workers and martyrs’ blood”, the bishop told Orthodox citizens in a special appeal. “By remaining in our estates and hearths, we become guardians of our identity and of saints organically connected with the faithful people and the Orthodox faith. This faith has preserved us for centuries in the whirlwind of historical events.”

National governments in the former Yugoslavia have encouraged Orthodox communities to assert independence from the Serbian Orthodox church, despite claims that its canonical rights extend to neighbouring states. In the Republic of Northern Macedonia, President Stevo Pendarovski and premier Zoran Zaev, confirmed in late September they had asked the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew I, to recognise a national church independent of Serbian Orthodoxy, following the example of the autocephalous Orthodox Church of Ukraine, which still awaits recognition by Orthodox leaders abroad.

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