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‘Persecution of Orthodox Christians’: Moscow Patriarch Kirill calls on Montenegrin authorities to stop crackdown on Church

‘Persecution of Orthodox Christians’: Moscow Patriarch Kirill calls on Montenegrin authorities to stop crackdown on Church
The head of the Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill has urged Montenegrin authorities to repeal a “discriminative” religious law and stop “large-scale and deliberate persecution” of the faith.

 “I call upon the civil authorities of Montenegro to repeal the discriminatory law that has brought division and schism into Montenegrin society, to put an end to persecution against the Orthodox Church, (and) to stop the attempts to create in her place some other church structure,” the Patriarch said in an address to the Balkan country.

The ongoing tensions have been sparked by a controversial law, adopted by Podgorica late in 2019. Despite its name –  ‘on religious freedom and the legal state of religious communities’ – the legislation was widely seen as targeting exclusively the Serbian Orthodox Church, the only canonical church body in Montenegro. Many feared it would ultimately result in the Serbian Church being deprived of its property and the creation of a schismatic ‘church’ entity.

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The fears proved to be true, as this May Montenegro's President Milo Dukanovic announced a plan to create an “autocephalous” church of his own and to break ties with the Serbian Church. Montenegro broke away from Belgrade back in 2006 and is now apparently trying to sever its remaining ties with its neighbor.

The introduction of the religious law sparked mass protests across Montenegro, that have continued despite anti-coronavirus restrictions. Authorities responded to the unrest with arrests and even expelled several priests, accusing Belgrade of stirring up the protests.

“Hundreds of doctors and the military, teachers and lawyers speak out in support of the Church. Each of them is facing discrimination. But no one turns off the road of confession,” Patriarch Kirill said.

Trying to create a church in pursuit of political goals is a particularly slippery slope, the Patriarch stressed, warning against creating more schism in the Orthodox Christian world.

“The ruler of a secular state cannot create a Church. There is no and can be no consideration that would justify the encroachment of the state upon the national shrines safeguarded by the Church.”

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Ukraine is an example of what can come out of such policies, where creation of their own ‘church’ for the sake of “unity” – and pulling away from Moscow – caused only more turmoil in the country, the Patriarch warned.

“This adventure has only deepened the schism and brought suffering to millions of Orthodox Ukrainians,” he said, noting that the church affair “has put an end to the political career” of former-President Petro Poroshenko.

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