Montenegro-Littoral Bishop enthroned following rioting in Cetinje

NEWS 05.09.2021 10:03

The tensions over the enthronement of a new Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) Bishop in Montenegro erupted into clashes between protesters and police early on Sunday morning hours before Patriarch Porfirije and Bishop Joanikije were flown in by helicopter for the ceremony.

The state TV Montenegro (RTCG) aired live video of the enthronement ceremony following a liturgy served by Patriarch Porfirije.

The enthronement of Bishop Joanikije as head of the SPC Montenegro-Littoral Bishopric was scheduled to start at 8:00 am on Sunday. Protesters blocked the roads into Cetinje to stop the SPC elders from coming in for the ceremony. Montenegrin nationalists are opposed to the ceremony, saying that the SPC has no business being in Montenegro. The RTCG reported that the crowd hurled stones and fired shots at the police.

President Milo Djukanovic spent the night in Cetinje. His predecessor and ally Filip Vujanovic was recorded in the town as was former Parliament Speaker Ranko Krivokapic whose supporters claimed that he was injured when the police threw a flash-bang at him.

SPC Patriarch Porfirije and a group of bishops and priests left the Montenegrin capital Podgorica by bus to go to Cetinje but were turned back by police citing security reasons. The Patriarch and Bishop Joanikije were taken to Cetinje by helicopter and the enthronement ceremony was held only in the presence of priests. Clergy from a number Orthodox Churches, including the Russian, Ukrainian, Romanian and Bulgarian, attended a service in the main church in Podgorica.

The SPC traditionally performs enthronement ceremonies in the Cetinje monastery which is claimed by nationalists as an important symbol of nationhood. The monastery was the seat of the prince-bishops who ruled Montenegro from middle ages to the mid-19th century and considered themselves Serbs. The problems between Serb and Montenegrin nationalists erupted at the end of WW I when the population divided into supporters of union with Serbia and those opposed. Montenegro restored its independence in 2006. President Djukanovic and his supporters are strongly opposed to the presence of the SPC claiming that the issue of the Orthodox Christian church in Montenegro should be resolved as a state independence issue.

The SPC is seen as a major element of Serbian identity. Defrocked SPC priest Miras Dedeic set up what his followers claim is the renewed (but unrecognized) Montenegrin Orthodox Church which claims the Cetinje monastery.

Montenegrin state TV (RTCG) aired video of the clashes showing the police firing teargas canisters at the crowd after an assault on the police cordon in the center of the old Montenegrin capital Cetinje including a video posted on social networks of Veselin Veljovic, an advisor to Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic, and a group of MPs from the formerly ruling Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) arguing and then assaulting the police. Prime Minister Zdravko Krivokapic said later in a social media post that Veljovic had been arrested.

The ceremony at the Cetinje monastery was preceded by days of protests, appeals for peace by from the authories and an appeal by the mayor of Cetinje to move the ceremony to another venue.