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Montenegro: Bishop Joanikije and seven priests arrested and detained for up to 72 hours

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Bishop Joanikije of Budimlye-Niksic and priests from Niksic, Montenegro, after being interrogated at the Niksic Security Center, have been detained by the prosecutor for up to 72 hours.

According to the announcement of the diocese, after the interrogation at the Niksic Security Center, and then by the prosecutor, Bishop Joanikije of Budimlye-Niksic and the priests of the city of Niksic have been detained for up to 72 hours.

About 2 o’clock after midnight, the Bishop was brought to the Provincial State Prosecutor’s Office, where he and the priests after longer than 2 hours of interrogation were ordered into custody. The priests of the Niksic Cathedral, Danilo Zirojevic, Zeljko Rojevic, Ostoja Knezevic, Mirko Vukotic, Vasilije Brboric, Dragan Krusic and Nikola Marojevic, have been detained for up to 72 hours as well. Priest Slobodan Jokic was not interrogated because he was in the hospital.

The announcement mentions that after the cross procession in Niksic, on the occasion of the consecration of the church to the dedicated to St Basil of Ostrog, that was not planned, nor did the Bishop or any of the priests invite the people who gathered in large numbers and on their own initiative in front of the Niksic Cathedral, quite a number of police officers in “marica” came to summon the Bishop and the clergy.

The Bishop and the clergy were taken from the Niksic Security Center to the Provincial Prosecutor’s Office at c. 2 a.m. The priests, on behalf of Saint Basil of Ostrog, called upon the gathered people to be calm and not to disturb the police in any way.

President Vucic and Patriarch Irinej worried about arrest of bishop and priests in Montenegro

Today, President of Serbia Aleksandar Vucic and Serbian Patriarch Irinej expressed great concern over the arrest of Bishop Joanikije and SPC priests in Montenegro, and their hope that the Serb people will act peacefully and calmly in moments when no reasonable person wants any unrest and conflict.

This was said in a joint statement by President Aleksandar Vucic and Patriarch Irinej, after their telephone conversation.

The president of Serbia expressed his belief that Bishop Joanikije and other arrested priests would be released as soon as possible.

As stated, Vucic gave his full support to Serbian Patriarch Irinej and bishops of the Serbian Church in Montenegro in their efforts to solve all the problems they are facing through dialogue, in a peaceful way, with full respect for the rights and freedoms of SPC believers.

Serbian Patriarch Irinej recalled that the culmination of the hostile attitude of the state of Montenegro towards the Serbian Orthodox Church began with the adoption of the controversial Law on Freedom of Religion, with gross disregard towards SPC’s demands for an equal position in relation to all other churches and religious communities and protection of the rights that our Church has enjoyed for centuries.

“The fact that the law was adopted with great protests of our people at the end of last year and the beginning of this year, and that bishops and priests are now being arrested and detained, is just proof that the Montenegrin state is persecuting the Serbian Orthodox Church,” the statement reads.

GOVERNMENT’S USE OF FORCE AGAINST CHURCH AND FAITHFUL UNACCEPTABLE

Serb BiH Presidency member Milorad Dodik has said that it is unacceptable that Montenegro uses forces and abuses the legal system in order to settle accounts with clergy of the Serbian Orthodox Church /SOC/.

“This is an additional blow on the SOC which proves that the Montenegrin state’s only plan is to devastate the SOC in Montenegro,” Dodik told reporters commenting on the arrest of His Grace Bishop of Budim and Nikšić Joanikije and seven SOC priests in Montenegro.

The Serb member of the BiH Presidency has said that Montenegro will have to face the will of the people who, even during the coronavirus epidemic, are fighting for their church and its property.

He says he is afraid that the Montenegrin authorities learned nothing from the imposition of the law on seizing church property in Montenegro, which should be repealed.

“They simply took another step – they incarcerated the Bishop and seven priests. In any case, this is unacceptable,” Dodik said.

The Serb member of the BiH Presidency has said that the coronavirus epidemic is but an excuse for their insolent behavior and settling of accounts with the people, the SOC and faithful in Montenegro.

Dodik has said that he today spoke with His Holiness Serbian Patriarch Irinej and told him that such behavior of the Montenegrin authorities is unique in Europe, which has also been hit by the coronavirus epidemic, but where priests are not being arrested.

 

Source: orthodoxtimes.com/ telegraf.rs/srna

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