Moscow, December 30, Interfax - The Moscow Patriarchate has spoken in defense of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro, calling the recent adoption in the country of a law on religion a cynical blow to it.
"We are calling on the global community to prevent encroachments on the rights of religious communities in Montenegro," an address adopted at a remote session of the Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church on December 28, which was published on Monday, said.
On December 27, Montenegro's parliament adopted a bill on freedom of religion and convictions and the legal situation of religious communities.
The bill envisages the seizure and transfer into state property of facilities and land used by religious communities if they belonged to the state before December 1, 1918 or if there are no documents certifying that they were church property (most old holy sites do not have such documents). The document applies to more than 650 holy sites. The voting on the bill was accompanied by an altercation between deputies from the ruling majority and the opposition. Protesting the debated document, residents of Montenegro took to the streets and blocked motorways and bridges.
The Moscow Synod also called on all regional Orthodox churches to support the canonical church in Montenegro. "None of us should perceive the danger faced by it as far and foreign. What they are trying to force on believers in Montenegro now could happen to any church tomorrow," the address said.
The synod said the European Commission for Democracy through Law earlier made serious remarks on Montenegro's new law on freedom of religion.
"We are also calling on all leaders of Montenegro to come to reason and see their grandfathers, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, and children in Orthodox Christians, instead of mythical 'great Serbian chauvinists'. It's impossible and pointness to declare the canonical Church, which comprises most citizens of its country, a conductor of foreign, hostile influence," the Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church, which believes the adopted law does not protect freedom of religion but "is aimed at alienating the centuries-old historical memory of the people," said.
The Synod called the new law "an act of support of division by weakening the canonical Church and an attempt to make it humiliatingly and dangerously dependent on the state, which is even more unfair as Montenegro is a secular state."
"The attempt to raise the question of legality of the rights of religious organizations to the property belonging to them after many years of a theomachist regime, which made them rightless, seems like a cynical blow to the Church, which is recuperating after years of persecution," the address said.