Friday, January 21, 2022

Montenegro clashes as Serbian Orthodox Church installed new leader

There have been fierce clashes in Montenegro as the Serbian Orthodox church installed a new leader in a ceremony that exposed divisions in the Balkan country. The decision to anoint Bishop Joanikije as the new metropolitan of Montenegro at the historic monastery in the city of Cetinje has aggravated ethnic tension in the tiny Balkan state. Yesterday, hundreds of protesters set up barricades to block access to Cetinje and the demonstrations continued today when the ceremony took place. Police used tear gas against protesters who threw rocks and bottles in Cetinje.

Montenegro split with Serbia in 2006 but its church remains under the Serbian Orthodox church.

Joanikije II and Serbian Patriarch Porfirije were flown in by helicopter for the ceremony. Divisions over Serb influence extend to the top of Montenegro’s political leadership, with the pro-Serb Prime Minister Zdravko Krivokapic branding the protests terrorist acts. Some, including Montenegro’s President Milo Djukanovic, see it as a symbol of Serb influence.

According to the latest census data, a third of its 630,000 inhabitants of Montenegro identify as Serbs. The majority of Montenegrins are members of the Serbian Orthodox Church regardless of ethnicity. Opponents accuse the Serbian Orthodox church of serving Belgrade’s interests.

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