By Samir Kajosevic
The Montenegrin Movement, an NGO, has called on the authorities to ban the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Irinej, from entering Montenegro for celebrations marking 800 years of the Serbian Church’s autocephaly, or ecclesiastical independence.
The central celebration in Montenegro will be held at the Podlastva Monastery in Budva Municipality on September 27, and the arrival of Irinej has been announced.
The NGO on Monday lodged a complaint on Monday with the Supreme State Prosecutor’s Office also against the Serbian Church’s chief cleric in Montenegto, Metropolitan Amfilohije, for “acting against constitutional order and security, inciting national, racial and religious hatred”.
“We demand that the prosecutor initiate proceedings to determine which persons have committed or intend to commit crimes and take measures to punish them and prohibit the gathering. We demand that Serbian Patriarch Irinej be banned from entering Montenegro,” the complaint reads.
The NGO wants the Patriarch banned for a statement he made in July, in which he said that the large Serbian community in Montenegro was now treated worse than Serbs were in the NDH, a World War II Nazi puppet state in Croatia – which slaughtered tens of thousands of Serbs as part of a genocidal campaign.
The Montenegrin authorities deny discriminating against Serbs and have not commented yet on the call to ban the Patriarch from the country. The celebration of eight centuries of autocephaly in the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro has already sparked controversy, following the installation of 30 billboards in Budva heralding the planned celebration as “the largest gathering of the Serbian people this millennium”.
The organising committee for the celebration includes Bishop Amfilohije – well known for his pro-Serbian views – and the heads of the local government in Budva, from the pro-Russian and pro-Serbian Democratic Front, DF. Municipal officials told the media that they expected more than 10,000 people to attend the celebration.
The pro-Western government in Montenegro has long had tense relations with the Serbian Church, the largest denomination in the multi-ethnic country. The government considers the Church hostile to the independence of the country, and generally too pro-Serbian and pro-Russian.
The Church accuses the government of trying routinely to undermine it and strip the country of its Serbian heritage.
The two sides clashed again in May over a draft law on religious freedom that would include a register of all religious buildings and sites formerly owned by the independent kingdom of Montenegro before it became part of the Serb-dominated Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes in 1918.
The Serbian Church said it suspected the register would be used to confiscate its property. Patriarch Irinej warned Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic at the time that his actions might lead to a formal curse, or anathema, being declared. Djukanovic responded that Montenegro was determined to establish the rule of law.