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BRIEF HISTORY
of the Orthodox Metropolitanate of Montenegro and the Littoral

Orthodox Metropolitanate of Montenegro and the Littoral 2000

Courtesy of Orthodox Metropolitanate of Montenegro and the Littoral

TOC:

  • Part one: Zetan Orthodox Metropolitanate
  • Part two: History of the Orthodox Metropolitanate of Montenegro
  • Part three: History of the Orthodox Metropolitanate of Montenegro and the Littoral – from World War II till present time
  • Footnotes
  • Part one: Zetan Orthodox Metropolitanate

    The Orthodox Metropolitanate of Montenegro and the Littoral exists continually for 780 years as an integral diocese of The Serbian Orthodox Church. It was founded in 1219. by St. Sava (Nemanjic), who also became the first archbishop of The Serbian Autocephalous Orthodox Church. After the status of an autocephalous orthodox church was granted to the Serbian Orthodox Church in 1219 in Nicea by the Ecumenical Patriarch Manuel Sarantenos and confirmed by the Emperor Theodore Laskaris, St. Sava decided to divide the area which was under his ecclesiastical jurisdiction into nine dioceses. One of these was the diocese of Zeta (the southern half of modern Montenegro). The seat of Zetan bishops was at that time in the Monastery of St. Michael the Archangel in Prevlaka (near today's city of Tivat) The first Zetan bishop was to became St. Sava's disciple Ilarion Sisojevic.

    Zetan diocese was elevated to the status of Metropolitanate by the decisions of the state-church council of Skoplje in 1346, presided by the Serbian Emperor Stefan Dusan.

    The fall of the Serbian medieval state 1389. to the Turks after the battle of Kosovo and the gradual disintegration of its parts in the 15th century together with the Venetian conquest of coastal cities of Kotor, Budva and Pastrovici region in 1420-23., endangered The Zetan Orthodox Metropolitanate. In 1452. Venetians destroy the Orthodox Monastery of St. Michael the Archangel in Prevlaka to ease their plans for forceful conversion of the orthodox Christians from these parts of the coast into Roman Catholic faith. From 1452. the seat of the Metropolitanate moved from: St. Mark's Monastery in Budva, Monastery of the Virgin Mary in the mountains close to the city of Bar, St. Nicholas's Monastery situated on Vranjina (Skadar Lake), St. Nicholas's Monastery in Obod (Rijeka Crnojevica) to Cetinje Monastery built in 1484. When Zeta plains finally fell to the advancing Turks, the grand duke of Zeta Ivan Crnojevic with the part of his people moved to Montenegrin mountains that once were just a part of the medieval Serbian state called Zeta.

    The history of Montenegro begins from this point. Ivan Crnojevic bought the printing press in Venice a few years before his death in 1490. His son Djuradj becomes the next grand duke, and in 1493. he, with the help of a priest-monk Makarije, prints the book that is the first one ever to be printed among the south Slavs. That book is the "Oktoih", a Serb-Slavonic translation from the original Greek of a service book that is today still regularly used in the daily cycle of services in the orthodox church. Montenegro in 1499. finally falls to the Turks and that coincides with the disappearance of the Crnojevic family from the historical scene. From then on the name Orthodox Metropolitanate of Montenegro is being used instead of the old name Zetan Orthodox Metropolitanate.

    Part two: History of the Orthodox Metropolitanate of Montenegro

    During the 16th and 17th centuries their Orthodox Metropolitans together with the leaders of the clans lead people of Montenegro. With more or less success they were fighting the Turks who never completely conquered Montenegrin mountains. In this struggle the Venetians were often their allies, but never their true friends.

    The destruction of the old Cetinje Monastery perpetrated by the Venetians and the Turks in 1692. with the emergence of the Petrovic family on the historical scene (1697.) mark the beginning of a new phase in the Montenegrin history. Montenegro led by Metropolitan Danilo I Petrovic turns completely towards the Russian Empire that through its power and authority strengthens the institution of etnarchy (with the metropolitans being heads of the Church and rulers of the state at the same time). The Petrovic dynasty ruled Montenegro for 220 years, from 1697 – 1918. The Metropolitans of Montenegro, all of them members of this family were: Danilo I Petrovic Njegos (1697-1735), Sava Petrovic Njegos (1735-1781), St. Petar I Petrovic Njegos (1784-1830), Petar II Petrovic Njegos (1830-1851). After the repose of Petar II, state of Montenegro is no longer ruled by the Metropolitans, since his successor the grand-duke Danilo Petrovic does not want to become a metropolitan.

    All Metropolitans and rulers from the Petrovic family, as well as their predecessors and the people of Montenegro always considered themselves to be Serbs who live in Montenegro, which was, as a separate entity, for a long time the only Serbian land free of the foreign occupation.[1] Even after the illegal and anti-canonical abolition of the Patriarchate of Pec (the name of The Serbian Orthodox Church at that time) in 1766. Metropolitans of Montenegro have very ambitiously defined their struggle with the following objectives: 1.) driving the Turks off the Serbian lands, 2.) reestablishment of the free and independent Serbian state, 3.) Restitution of the autocephalous Serbian Patriarchate of Pec [2].

    In the times of grand-duke and (as of 1910.) king of Montenegro Nikola I Petrovic we can see the culmination of the geopolitical idea to unify the Serbian nation, as well as the spiritual need to unite the Serbian church . The territory of Montenegro was almost doubled and the church spread into three dioceses. In these circumstances, expressing the inner need of all inhabitants of Montenegro, the president of its government Dr. Lazar Tomanovic, said the following in his speech at the historic event of the coronation of king Nikola I Petrovic: The Metropolitanate of Montenegro is the only diocese founded by St. Sava which was uninterruptedly preserved until today, and as such represents the lawful throne and a descendant of The Patriarchate of Pec.

    After the Serbian victory in the First World War by the end of 1918. Montenegro enters the political union with Serbia under the Karadjordjevic dynasty. It is important to stress that this resolved the long-standing dynastic rivalry between the two Serbian royal families: the Petrovic family and the Karadjordjevic family. The decision was taken at the historical Great people's council of Podgorica on 26th of November 1918. with the active participation [3] of representatives from the Metropolitanate of Montenegro. The main decisions reached at the event were: 1.) The unification of Serbia and Montenegro, 2.) dethronization of king Nikola I Petrovic and the acceptance of Karadjordjevic dynasty. Although most Montenegrins were in fervour of these decisions, one part of king Nikola's supporters (the greens) wished to preserve the Petrovic dynasty, and also wanted the union with Serbia but under completely different terms (a federal union and not a centralised one).

    The unification of the Serbian church was, however, a completely different issue supported by both sides in the dispute, the greens (federalists) and the whites (centralists). The dethroned king Nikola I Petrovic never opposed the unification of the church. The decision to unify the Metropolitanate of Montenegro with the other Serbian dioceses, was reached on the 16th of December 1918. by the Bishops Council of the Montenegrin Metropolitanate as the only institution empowered by the church law to do so.[4] The Bishops Council unanimously accepted the following proposal: " That the independent Serbian – Orthodox Holy Church in Montenegro unites with the autocephalous Orthodox Church in The Kingdom of Serbia." (The Decision of The Bishops Council, Nr. 1169, 16th of December 1918, Cetinje). This decision was signed by all diocesan bishops in Montenegro: Metropolitan of Montenegro Mitrofan Ban, Metropolitan of Pec Dr. Gavrilo Dozic and the Bishop of Niksic Kiril Mitrovic. Everybody gladly accepted unification of the church in Montenegro and that is testified not only in the documents and sources cited here but also through the fact that not a single document pointing in a different direction was ever produced. The decision of the Church regarding the unification was accepted and confirmed by his majesty king Aleksandar I Karadjordjevic in 1920. His festive declaration as to the unification of The Serbian Church came two years after the Church already reached the decision to unify.

    Part three: History of the Orthodox Metropolitanate of Montenegro and the Littoral – from World War II till present time

    During the Second World War and after the communists came to power in 1945. the Orthodox Metropolitanate of Montenegro and the Littoral suffered the worst imaginable persecution at the hands of the atheist regime. Communists have killed 105 priests and thousands of patriotically oriented Montenegrin people. Fifteen other priests were killed by the fascist occupiers. Metropolitan of Montenegro Joanikije (Lipovac) was also brutally murdered by the communists in 1945. The new regime exerted unprecedented pressures upon the remaining clergy to abandon their flocks. The property belonging to the Church was forcefully and illegally confiscated, many churches and monasteries turned into police stations, stables for cattle and warehouses. Communists in 1972. seriously damaged the "spiritual veil" of Montenegro, by destroying the church dedicated to St. Petar I Petrovic (St. Petar of Cetinje) and desecrated the tomb of the world famous poet, Metropolitan Petar II Petrovic Njegos who built this church on top of the Lovcen mountain. This barbarous act shows the regime's arrogant disregard for the last will of Petar II Petrovic, ages old Christian traditions of Montenegro and even the laws that communists themselves established after they came to power in 1945. In these circumstances the life of the Orthodox Church in Montenegro was totally side-tracked and marginalized by the communist government. This period can be marked as the time of open and brutal persecution of the Church. Unfortunately all of this seems to have past relatively unnoticed by the main human rights organisations in the world.

    The present Metropolitan of Montenegro Dr. Amfilohije Radovic becomes the head of the Orthodox Church in Montenegro in 1990, at the same time when the processes of deconstructing the old communist system result in the free democratic elections. Hoping that the old times and the old ways have passed the Metropolitanate of Montenegro and the Littoral quickly started to flourish. The number of priests, monks and nuns as well as the number of the faithful increased rapidly. The same can be said for many monasteries and parish churches that were rebuilt and brought back to their former glory. For example from only 10 active monasteries with about 20 monks and nuns in 1991, Montenegro now has 30 active monasteries with more than 160 monks and nuns living and praying in them. The number of parish priests was also increased from 20 in 1991, to more than 60 today.

    However, the blossoming of the resurrected Orthodox Church in Montenegro immediately became a thorn in the side of the old communist aparatchiks now disguised as members of certain political parties and various other non -governmental organisations. These people are trying very hard to legitimise themselves and pose as democrats in the changed circumstances, but their communist anti-church mentality seems still to prevail.

    Understanding well, that it is no longer politically profitable to openly position themselves against the real Church, these new "democrats" decide to change tactics. People who for 50 years brutally persecuted the Orthodox Church in Montenegro now decide to form the "church" according to their own image and likeness. Consequently, four disreputable individuals who perfectly fit the role are found:

    1. Miras Dedeic (place and the time of birth uncertain), self proclaimed metropolitan, defrocked and returned to the order of laity by the decision of The Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I and The Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Orthodox Patriarchate of Constantinople in April of 1997.
    2. Zivorad Pavlovic, runaway and defrocked priest from the town of Smederevo (Serbia). Wanted for serious charges of theft and sought by the Serbian police.
    3. Milutin Cvijic, born in Teslic ( Bosnia), former priest monk in Ostrog monastery. Defrocked as a priest since he broke his monastic vows and got married.
    4. Jelisej Lalatovic, former monk, defrocked for theft of church property.

    These church delinquents are leaders of the so called "Montenegrin orthodox church". Meanwhile, because their "clergy" are without canonical legitimacy in the world of Orthodox Christianity and consequently in the rest of the Christian world at large, our disguised communists return to their "old ways" and illegal methods:

    1. Open extortion of property that legally belongs to The Orthodox Metropolitanate of Montenegro and the Littoral.
    2. The brutal breaking of the rules of the Montenegrin Constitution, and the laws and regulations stemming from it. Constitution as the republic's main legal act allows the existence of just one Orthodox church in Montenegro[5]5.
    3. The campaign organised by the state media, that identifies the robbers dressed as priests with the real and legally recognised clergy.
    4. Introduction of the new, and until now in the spheres of international law unrecognised principle which through the collection of signatures enables the take-over of property that is legally owned by somebody else (the Church in this case).
    5. The decision of Montenegrin president Mr. Djukanovic to publicly support the destructive pseudo-religious organisation called the "MOC" by sending them Easter greetings this year, through which he, in a well known authoritarian communist manner, put himself against and above the legal arbitration of the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, Patriarch of Moscow and All of Russia Alexei II, Patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church Pavle, Archbishop of Greece Christodoulos as well as the other leaders of autocephalous orthodox churches throughout the world. In legal terms his move equals the hypothetical situation in which the president of Italy congratulates Easter to a new and self-proclaimed Pope of Rome, not recognised by anybody, and also unacceptable to all in the Roman Catholic Church.

    The question is why the regime in Montenegro, which tries to present itself as the modern democratic state ruled by law and which persistently uses the rhetoric of democracy, at the same time tries to legalise a pseudo-religious organisation by registering it in a local police station and encouraging these people to break the law by barging into legally owned property of the Church and falsely presenting themselves in the public. Through all of the above, the regime is seen as supporting the rule of the media directed chaos, which is used as the stimulus for reaching the atmosphere of total anarchy in which "anything goes".

    Footnotes

    1 Danilo I Petrovic Njegos wrote in a gospel book in 1732. : "Danil, Bishop of Cetinje, Njegos, the protector of the Serbian land". St. Petar I of Cetinje writes to Archimandrite Arsenije Gagovic in his letter dated 31st August 1804.: "...and do not be surprised my dear father Archimandrite. We the Serbs are of such kind...".
    In another letter to the Serbian grand-duke Milos Obrenovic St. Petar I writes: "...from the time of the destruction of the Serbian Empire, of all the parts of the Serbian people only Montenegro completely preserved till today the voice of freedom and the Christian faith.

    2 St. Petar I in a letter (he co-wrote and delivered with the two Montenegrin clan leaders in 1779. when he still was a young Archimandrite) to the Austro-Hungarian Empress Mary Therese writes the following:
    "... We want The Metropolitan of Montenegro to depend upon the Patriarch of Pec in Serbia. When the existing metropolitan reposes we accept for now that his successor be ordained in Karlovci,... but only until the Turkish rule over Serbia lasts and we can't send him to Pec freely."
    In 1806. St Petar I sends another letter to the Russian Tsar Alexander I in which he explains his daring plan for the renewal of the " Slav-Serbian empire".
    After the liberation of Pec from the Turks in 1912., King Nikola I Petrovic of Montenegro in his farewell speech on the 27th November 1913. to the new Metropolitan of Pec Dr. Gavrilo Dozic says: Your Grace! The keys of the holy and beautiful Serbian churches, which I received through the mercy of God from the hands of my victorious army I give to You with the blessing of His Grace Metropolitan Mitrofan (Metropolitan of Montenegro) that in them You light the new and glorious light ... The heavenly angels, the holy kings and patriarchs which eternally rest in the realm of Your God-protected diocese, will rejoice when under the roofs of their temples Serbian songs start echoing with the prayers for health and happiness of the Serbian nation... Your first prayer there should be the thanksgiving offered to God for these happy days, for the rest of the souls of Serbs who died as well as those Serbs who worked and struggled towards the liberation of our nation.

    3 Even before the Great people's council in Podgorica begun its work, Metropolitan of Montenegro Mitrofan Ban sent an official letter (Nr. 1229 9th of November 1918.) to the archpriest of Podgorica Dusan Petrovic stating: "There (in Podgorica) will be a Great people's council so we are ordering you to put yourself at its disposal and be ready to perform any church service if needed."
    On the 12th of November 1918. Metropolitan of Montenegro Mitrofan Ban in his telegram directed to the Great people's council of Podgorica stated:.. " As a spiritual leader I pray to God to that He gives You strength in the future so that you manage to accomplish your task in the spirit of those high ideals for which our glorious ancestors lived and died for. This is the liberation and the unification of the Serbian nation, and the formation of Great Yugoslavia. In the name of all this I pray to God that He sends His blessing upon the Great people's council and its holy work.

    4 "The Law of the Orthodox Church", Dr. Nikodim Milas, Zadar 1890., pages 220-221:
    All fullness of the Church authority is concentrated in the Bishops Council, in such an absolute sense of the word, that without it, the Church would stops being what it is, and Her constitution would cease to be instituted by the Founder of the Church (Christ Himself).

    5 The Constitution of the Republic of Montenegro regarding the issue reads as follows:

    "Article 11: Denominations

    - The Orthodox Church, The Islamic Religious Community, The Roman Catholic Church, and other denominations are separated from the state.
    - Denominations are equal and free to perform religious services and actions.
    - Denominations independently determine their own internal structure and religious practices within the limits of the legal system."

    [The Church is separated from the state but legal relations between them, in all civilised western European countries are regulated so that the state accepts, guarantees and protects the legal and inalienable rights of the church itself (in Europe this usually means each Christian denomination: Orthodox, Roman Catholic or various Protestant ones) to independently determine "who is the church". All modern European democratic states recognise, accept and protect the church laws in this domain. The state warrants the implementation of decisions and rulings of the church courts, which practically confirms and means that The State recognises the Church.]