Ethnic tensions are flaring up in Montenegro over a church ceremony


Protesters clash with hundreds of police in the old Montenegrin capital ahead of the inauguration of the new head of the Serbian Orthodox Church in a small Balkan nation

PODGORICA, Montenegro – Protesters clashed with hundreds of police in the old Montenegrin capital on Saturday, setting up roadblocks and large rocks ahead of the inauguration of the new head of the Serbian Orthodox Church in the small Balkan nation.

The ceremony, scheduled for Sunday in Cetinje, angered opponents of the Serbian Church in Montenegro, which declared independence from neighboring Serbia in 2006.

On Saturday, hundreds of protesters clashed with police in Cetinje and briefly removed some protective metal fences around the monastery where Metropolitan Ioannicius’ inauguration was to take place. Montenegrin state television RTCG reported that protesters broke through a police blockade at the entrance to Cetinje and threw stones at them, shouting “This is Montenegro!” and “This is not Serbia!”

Waving red Montenegrin flags with a double-headed eagle, protesters then set up roadblocks with garbage containers, car tires and large stones to prevent church and state dignitaries from coming to the inauguration on Sunday.

Montenegrins remain deeply divided over their country’s ties to neighboring Serbia and the Serbian Orthodox Church, which is the country’s dominant religious institution. About 30% of Montenegro’s 620,000 inhabitants consider themselves Serbs.

Thousands protested in Cetinje last month, demanding that the inauguration take place elsewhere. The church refused to change plans.

Since Montenegro seceded from Serbia, Montenegrins advocating for independence have advocated for a recognized Orthodox Christian church that is separate from the Serbian one.

Montenegrin authorities have called for calm during weekend ceremonies, which begin with the arrival of the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Porphyry, in Podgorica, Montenegro’s capital, on Saturday night.

Porphyry will attend the inauguration of Joaniki on Sunday, whose predecessor as the leader of the church in Montenegro, Amfilohije, passed away in October after he contracted COVID-19.

Illustrating the deep ethnic division, thousands of people waving Serbian flags gathered in front of the main Serbian Orthodox church in Podgorica on Saturday to welcome the patriarch. Many reached the capital by bus from Serbia.

The Serbian Orthodox Church played a key role in last year’s demonstrations that helped overthrow Montenegro’s long-running pro-Western government. The new government now includes persistently pro-Serbian and pro-Russian parties.

The previous Montenegrin authorities led the country to independence from Serbia and defied Russia to join NATO in 2017. Montenegro also wants to become a member of the European Union.


Like it? Share with your friends!


What's Your Reaction?

hate hate
confused confused
fail fail
fun fun
geeky geeky
love love
lol lol
omg omg
win win


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *