PODGORICA – His Grace Bishop Metodije of Diokleia, a canonical hierarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro, was beaten by police on December 26 while peacefully participating in a protest against the adoption of a new law that the Church warns will result in the government confiscating Church property.
Two faithful were also injured trying to protect His Grace. Despite his injuries, Bp. Metodije has called on the faithful to remain calm and peaceful.
“I feel better and I’ve returned to my duties,” the Serbian hierarch said. “I want to say that I don’t condemn the police. I understand their position and that they are under great pressure and have to do their work in such heavy conditions. I don’t want this incident to contribute to the aggravation of the already tense situation in Montenegro,” he emphasized, reports RIA-Novosti.
Bp. Metodije was treated in the Military Medical Academy of Belgrade. Speaking with Radio Svetigor, His Grace explained that at some point during the protests, the police began to trample and drag people, and that it was a true miracle that no one was more seriously injured. Meanwhile, Montenegrin President Milo Đukanović signed the bill into law the next day after the Parliamentary vote.
The Episcopal Council of Montenegro, consisting of every hierarch of the Serbian Church serving in Montenegro, gathered on December 29, with the exception of Bp. Metodije, for joint prayer and a meeting where it adopted a special statement in connection with recent events.
The Council believes the new law is specifically aimed against the Serbian Patriarchate, which, unlike other religious associations, was deliberately deprived of the chance to settle its relations with the state when it adopted the law.
This view is confirmed, the Council believes, by the statements and behavior of high state functionaries and Deputies of the ruling party, which initiated and adopted the law, and especially by the refusal of the Montenegrin authorities to accept any of the Church’s many proposed amendments.
“For several days, we have witnessed the open rejoicing of all the haters of the Orthodox Church and the embittered neo-Montenegrin nationalists, mostly attested atheists, celebrating this victory over the Church of Christ,” the statement reads.
The hierarchs also urge the faithful to maintain their faith and hope in God and not to succumb to provocations aimed at sowing enmity between brothers, and call upon the police, President, and Prime Minister not to use force against those who peacefully gather to defend their rights.
“We remind you that we have openly said many times that the contempt for the Orthodox Church, which has been demonstrated over the past almost 20 years, and especially in the process of preparing and passing this shameful legislative act, could lead to serious consequences for Montenegrin society, and a violation of our peace and fraternal harmony,” the statement reads.
The Episcopal Council also states that those who voted for the given law have excluded themselves from the Orthodox Church, “and are therefore excommunicated from the Holy Mysteries”. At the same time, the Church calls on the authorities to initiate a dialogue as soon as possible to fix the situation before the law is applied and inflicts serious damage.