Did Bartholomew really write a letter opposed to the ‘Montenegrin Orthodox Church’ gambit for Autocephaly?

By Alexey Toporov


By Alexey Toporov – The last days Montenegrin reality exists in two parallel dimensions: the secular authorities of the country claim that Bartholomew in Fanar (Constantinople) supports their desire to gain autocephaly and weaken the influence of the Serbian Orthodox Church, the representatives of Constantinople, on the contrary, say that they endorse their staying within the only recognized Orthodox Church on this piece of the western Balkans.

At the end of June, Montenegro and the public literally shook upon hearing the news that the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew sent a letter to Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic , in which he unambiguously expressed support for the Serbian Orthodox Church as the only canonical and world-recognized denominational Orthodoxy.

“With this letter we clearly and openly inform you that the Ecumenical Patriarchate, along with the rest of the Orthodox churches, recognizes the one that is under the leadership of Metropolitan of Chernogorsk-Primorsky Amphilochius (Serbian Orthodox Church), as the only Orthodox jurisdiction in Montenegro ”

 “Recently, we in the Ecumenical Patriarchate were surprised to learn that you expressed your support for the creation of the “Montenegrin Orthodox Church” and that your government approved a bill on religious freedom, which involves the transfer of all Orthodox churches built before 1918 and other ecclesiastical property …  the Montenegrin Church has never been autocephalous, and the Montenegrin Orthodox Church under the leadership of Mirosh Dedeich does not belong to the Orthodox world. Mr. Dedeich is not a bishop, but a person deprived of dignity by the Ecumenical Patriarchate … ”

It would seem that after such separatist authorities of Podgorica one should postpone the project of the Montenegrin autocephaly under the cloth and say goodbye to the dreams of Tomos, according to the Ukrainian model. However, the response of the Djukanovic administration was:

“We read the content of this letter exclusively from the media, where it was published at the suggestion of the Montenegrin-Primorsk Metropolis (Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro). We did not receive any letters, so we will not comment on it. ”

The most interesting thing is that the above-mentioned letter allegedly addressed by Bartholomew to Djukanovic is not on the website of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, despite the fact that he was already rushed to quote many Greek sites. And the Ecumenical Patriarch himself, as if with water in his mouth, has refrained – without confirming and not denying the fact of the existence of such a message. The aforementioned head of the POC, Mikhail (Mirash) Dedeich, is silent about the metropolitan-defrocking, although earlier this old man did not stint on words, syruping with insults and curses as if from a cornucopia. So, for example, at one time he publicly attached Bartholomew himself, calling that a “Turk”.

[These events and comments seem to confirm the existence of the letter. – ed, J. Flores]

And such silence, of course, gives rise to various kinds of insinuations. And also clearly shows once again who is worth in the ensuing geopolitical game. For example, representatives of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro, close to the Diocese of Montenegro and Primorye, who had previously repeatedly expressed solidarity with the Russian Orthodox Church on the Ukrainian question, are now trying to distance themselves from it.

“We have constantly stressed over the past months that the situation in Ukraine and Montenegro has no points of contact in the church sense, and today I can say that in the geopolitical sense it is not at all identical,” the spokesperson for the legal department of the SPT , Archpriest Velibor Jomich . – The Patriarch of Constantinople made it clear that he did not plan and did not plan any actions to which some irresponsible leaders of Montenegro referred. The Patriarch of Constantinople showed concern, attention and love for Orthodox people in Montenegro … ”

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Recall that the ROC severed canonical communication with Phanar after Constantinople gave Ukraine a tomos on autocephaly, in fact, creating its own branch in Ukraine called OCU (Orthodox Church of Ukraine, as opposed to either the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – KP or the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – MP). And the SEC supported the Moscow authorities in this regard; perhaps, they feared their own still untouched divisions: Montenegrin, Macedonian and in some part of the Croatian – created under the Ustaša regime during the Second World Project of the Croatian Orthodox Church, even now it exists in its infancy, but still exists. And now the representative of the SEC speaks of Bartholomew, whom some hotheads in the Russian Orthodox Church, rejecting all diplomacy, do not call it “heresiarch” that he showed “care, attention and love”.

However, the documents confirm that the Serbian Orthodox Church of the Montenegrin-Primorsk metropolis, has developed, if not fraternal, then quite a partnership with the OCU itself. For example, almost all pro-government media noted with satisfaction that a representative of the unrecognized CLC, a certain archimandrite Boris Bozhovich, served the newly-minted Ukrainian autocephalist at the Epiphany festival in Kiev. But at the same time they kept silent that the HCV represented by its head, Epiphania Dumenko subsequently sent a letter to Metropolitan Aphilochia, in which he “apologized for it with great sorrow”, claiming that this happened “unintentionally”, but due to the “negligence of a greater number of serving priests”, and also that ecclesiastical and canonical communion exclusively “with our mother — with the Holy Great Church of Christ and the Ecumenical Patriarch, with those with whom they communicate and with no one else.”

I must admit that the excuses about the “negligence of a large number of priests” sound far-fetched, and if you believe them, it remains only to advise Dumenko to conduct a large-scale staff cleaning, although who will actually remain there if you take the process seriously? However, something else comes to mind: it seems that the appearance of “Archimandrite Boris” in Kiev was not an accident. And it coincided just with loud statements by Djukanovic and Dedeich that the process of obtaining a tomos of autocephaly is almost at the final stage. And now, when it became clear that it did not work out – you can apologize.

True, it is not clear to the end – Fanar, we repeat, he does not comment on the situation with the letter officially. So there are still arguments for bargaining. In the meantime, some results can be summed up: the fact that Bartholomew will not forgive Dedeich neither his past behavior, for which he was anathema, not his words, it was clear from the beginning. However, as is known, there are no irreplaceable ones. This is the first.

Second: in its current position, Constantinople was reason to join in the struggle for Ukraine, since it is, above all, a vast territory, and with a large network of foreign parishes. Compared to this, the CPC is a dwarf who does not enjoy enough prestige among believers in Montenegro itself (70% of the population of the country consider themselves as SPT believers), who will not be able to fill even temples and monasteries with their own rostrigos, which the state will take from SPTS for it . And to enter into this conflict with the TWS is unlikely to have serious reasons.

Again, observing Filaret’s recent antics in Ukraine, the Ecumenical Patriarchate clearly understood the costs of the “tomosization” process. Again, where, where, and there they know exactly what Dedeich can do, by acquiring a legal status.

But Phanar is silent. And Djukanovic, at a recent meeting of his Democratic Socialist Party, which took place after the publication of the “letter of Bartholomew”, once again made it clear that he intended to “settle the church question.” And knowing the peculiarities of the current Montenegrin policy, you also understand that this is not an initiative of the Montenegrin leader, but the opinion of those behind it. That is, the western curators of the current Montenegrin project. Accordingly, bargaining continues, and there is a search for new arguments. And put an end to this whole story is still too early.


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