eurel     Sociological and legal data on religions in Europe and beyond
You are here : Home » Montenegro » Current issues and debates » Archives » 2023


  • November 2023: Religion in the European Commission’s Montenegro Report 2023

The European Commission’s Montenegro Report 2023 contains less religious findings then the previous annual documents of this kind.

Going back to autumn 2022, which was not covered by that year’s Montenegro Report, it is noted that in October “the premises of the Montenegrin Orthodox Church in Podgorica were stoned”, as well as that in the same month “a day before the 10th Pride, the Serbian Orthodox Church organised a religious ceremony for the preservation of the sanctity of marriage and family.” The Commission mentioned that “in November 2022, the Basic State Prosecutor opened an investigation into police behaviour during a six-hour interrogation of the late Metropolitan of Montenegro and the Littoral Amfilohije about violating anti-COVID-19 measures in June 2020.” The report also contains information on a court proceeding against the new Metropolitan of Montenegro and the Littoral Joanikije as well as eight priests from Niksic priests, whom are acquitted of charges before the Basic Court in Podgorica “of having acted contrary to the Health Ministry’s orders to prevent the spread of a dangerous infectious disease by organising a prayer walk in Niksic in 2020 in which thousands of people participated.” (p. 42).

The Commission further noted that “in February 2023, the Ombudsman opened a case 43 regarding the celebration of a Russian religious holiday in several schools in Podgorica, which is forbidden by law” (p. 42), as well as pointed out that “the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro publicly called on its followers to vote for one political side” for presidential elections held in March/April (p. 11).

The report states the financial amount of 610,581 € allocated by the Ministry of Justice to religious communities, “585,000 € of which for the Serbian Orthodox Church and 30,000 for all other religious communities” (p. 42).

The Commission suggested that, “the planned national population and housing census requires careful handling by the authorities, notably as concerns sensitive issues of ethnicity, religion and language” (p. 80).

Source: Montenegro Report 2023.

  • November 2023: Crisis in the Montenegrin Orthodox Church

The Ministry of Justice of Montenegro, as competent for religious affairs, refused as unfounded the request of the former vicar bishop of the Montenegrin Orthodox Church (MOC) Boris Bojović to have himself registered as the new head of MOC, after the General Montenegrin Assembly held in Cetinje elected him as Metropolitan of the MOC. The current head of the MOC Metropolitan Mihailo said that, “this assembly is a failed political rally, they violated the MOC Constitution, which means that their decision was legally void”, and that it should be called “an unsuccessful coup”.

The assembly of Cetinje, held on September 3rd 2023, was convened by bishop Bojović and the Committee for the Preservation of the Montenegrin Orthodox Church, claiming that it was “at the request of the clergy and believers”. In their announcement of the assembly, they claimed that, “in the history of our Church and the Montenegrin state, the General Montenegrin Assembly - as an institute of direct democracy - was convened by bishops and clergy, Montenegrin rulers and leaders”.

They communicated the following: “The assembly made the most important, often fateful decisions on state and church issues. Today, the Montenegrin Orthodox Church is in an extremely difficult situation. The work of its Synod and Metropolitan Council is completely paralyzed. The Constitution of the MOC is actually not in force, although there is a constitutional obligation to activate its legal force by publishing it in the official newspaper Lučindan. The MOC Synod has not met in full composition since 2019. The Metropolitan Council has not been held for over 10 years.

Taking advantage of the old age of Metropolitan Mihailo, the management of the Church has been taken over by unauthorized civilians. Irreparable damage was thus done to the Church and its reputation by making decisions that are not in accordance with canon law.

The only legitimate way out of this situation is the convening of the General Montenegrin Assembly. Moreover, it is the duty and obligation of Bishop Boris and the clergy to present proposals for the complete consolidation of the Church and its further management at the General Montenegrin Assembly. They are compelled to bring the assembly to take decisions that would allow the MOC to return to a normal canonical order, which would unite the faithful in the common building of spiritual support in these difficult times and which would make the MOC a highly respected institution in Montenegrin society and in the Orthodox world.

The dignity of the Metropolitan is for life. The active function of the Metropolitan is not for life, because he has suspended it himself. Metropolitan Mihailo actually retired when he stopped cooperation with the clergy, bishops and MOC believers. By working exclusively with the civilian environment, he completely separated himself from the high office of the Metropolitan.

The General Montenegrin Assembly has a full and legitimate right to declare his retirement. It is his inalienable right to express gratitude and respect to Metropolitan Mihailo for everything he has done for the MOC. It is his right to decide on the preservation of the dignity of Mihailo as a Retired Metropolitan with all the honours and privileges of the retired head of the MOC. The retired metropolitan will fully use the bishop’s residence in Cetinje. “He will have all the help he needs, as well as the financial security provided by a monthly payment of two average pensions in Montenegro.” (See here.)

In addition to these decisions, the assembly decides to “canonize the restorer of the CPC, Antonije Abramovic, and proclaim him as Saint Antonije, Metropolitan of Montenegro.”

In reaction to this event and its decisions, the MOC Synod presided by Metropolitan Mihailo declared that, “Ex-Vicar Bishop Bojan Bojović (Boris) who is the organizer and leader of the conspiracy and rebellion against the legal hierarchy of the MOC to which he renounced obedience and, for the sake of personal interests, uncanonically, unconstitutionally and illegally declared himself a metropolitan of the MOC outside the Church, is excluded from the MOC for all time.” It is noted also that the proclamation of “the blessed Metropolitan Antonije a saint is contrary to all Orthodox Christian norms, customs and traditions”, and that “this act caused severe consequences in the MOC, which culminated in a schism.”

  • November 2023: New survey of public opinion covers religious issues

The Centre for Civic Education (CCE) in collaboration with the DAMAR Institute conducted a public opinion research on relations between Montenegro and Serbia, as part of a joint project between the CCE and the Regional Academy for Democratic Development (ADD), with the support of the Embassy of Switzerland.

Among others, the research covered identity issues and religious issues.

The findings show that “nearly two-fifths (39.6%) of citizens believe that the Montenegrin Church should be autocephalous, about a quarter (25.3%) hold the opposite opinion, while a significant number (35.1%) is undecided on this issue, which may indicate a lack of information or different interpretations of historical events.”

When it comes to “the possible autonomy for the Metropolitanate of Montenegro and the Littoral (MML) within the SOC (Serbian Orthodox Church)”, research shows the following: “About one-fifth believes that the MML should have autonomy within the SOC, but a similar percentage is against such an idea. Approximately 16.6% are undecided, and almost 15% believe that the MML already has its autonomy. The largest percentage (26%) does not have a clear stance on this issue. Regarding the consequences of possible autonomy for the MML within the SOC, about a quarter of respondents believe it would have no significant impact, or that autonomy for the MML could improve Montenegrins’ attitudes towards the SOC, while about 15% believe that such a decision could alienate Serbs in Montenegro. However, the largest percentage of respondents (34.8%) cannot determine the consequences of such a decision”.

Furthermore, “the majority of 43% believe that the SOC influences the internal political situation in Montenegro, while 28% do not believe that the SOC has a significant impact on the country’s political affairs, with almost a third having an undefined stance on this issue”.

The research also shows that “about 22.5% believe that church property should belong to the SOC, 16% opt for the MML, and 21% for MOC. It is significant to note that 25% of respondents believe that church property should be in the ownership of the state of Montenegro”, while “about a fifth do not have an opinion on this issue.”
Findings show division in “the perception of the relationship between the Serbian Orthodox Church and the state of Serbia, with about a quarter of respondents (25.1%) believing that the SOC is an integral part of the state of Serbia, i.e., they believe that the SOC collaborates with the state but maintains its autonomy (24.5%)”, while “a smaller number (18.7%) believes that the SOC operates independently of the state of Serbia”, but “the largest percentage of respondents (31.7%) cannot decide on this matter.”

Finally, “over two-fifths (44%) of citizens state that they are not familiar with the content of the Fundamental Agreement signed between the Government of Montenegro and the SOC, while about a quarter (25.3%) claim to be familiar with it, and less than a third (30.8%) assert that they are partially informed about the content of that agreement”.

Source: Damar Institute, Public opinion research on the relations between Montenegro and Serbia, November 2023.

D 14 November 2023    ANikola B. Šaranović

CNRS Unistra Dres Gsrl

Follow us:
© 2002-2024 eurel - Contact