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|Metropolitanate of Montenegro and the Littoral|
|Jurisdiction||Patriarchate of Peć (Serbia)|
|Current Bishop||Metropolitan Amfilohije|
|Language|| Church Slavonic|
The Metropolitanate of Montenegro is the largest diocese of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro. Founded in 1219 by Saint Sava, it is now one of the most prominent dioceses in the Serbian Orthodox Church. The current Metropolitan is Amfilohije. His current title is "Archbishop of Cetinje and Metropolitan of Montenegro and the Littoral".
Zetan Orthodox Metropolitanate (1219–1499)
The Orthodox Metropolitanate of Montenegro and the Littoral has existed continuously for 780 years as an integral diocese of the Serbian Orthodox Church. It was founded in 1219 by St. Sava (Nemanjić), 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 Nicaea by the Ecumenical Patriarch Manuel Sarantenos and confirmed by the Emperor Theodore I Laskaris, St. Sava decided to divide the area under his ecclesiastical jurisdiction into nine dioceses. One of these was the diocese of Zeta (the southern half of modern Montenegro). The seat of the Zetan bishops at that time was the Monastery of St. Michael the Archangel in Prevlaka (near today's city of Tivat). The first Zetan bishop was to become St. Sava's disciple Ilarion Šišo(je)vić from the Serbo-Montenegrin clan of Građani.
The fall of the Serbian medieval state in 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 the coastal cities of Kotor, Budva and the Patšrovići region in 1420–1423, endangered the Zetan Orthodox Metropolitanate. In 1452 the Venetians destroyed the Orthodox Monastery of St Michael the Archangel in Prevlaka to facilitate their plans for the forceful conversion of the Orthodox Christians from these parts of the coast into the Roman Catholic faith. From 1452 the seat of the Metropolitanate several times (variously to St Mark's Monastery in Budva, to the Monastery of the Virgin Mary in the mountains close to the city of Bar, and St Nicholas's Monastery on Vranjina (Skadar Lake), and then to St Nicholas's Monastery in Obod (Rijeka Crnojevića) ) moved to Cetinje Monastery, built in 1484. When the Zeta plains finally fell to the advancing Turks, the Grand Duke of Zeta Ivan Crnojević, along with part of his people, moved to the Montenegrin mountains, which had once been just a part of the medieval state of Zeta.
The history of Montenegro begins at this point. Ivan Crnojević bought a printing press in Venice a few years before his death in 1490. His son Đurađ became the next Grand Duke, and in 1493 he, with the help of Hieromonk Makarije, produced the first ever book to be printed among the south Slavs. It was the "Oktoih", a Serb-Slavonic translation from the original Greek of a service book that is still used to this day in the daily cycle of services in the Orthodox Church. Montenegro in 1499 finally fell to the Turks, and coinciding with the disappearance of the Crnojević family from the historical scene. From then on, the name "Orthodox Metropolitanate of Montenegro" was used instead of the old name "Zetan Orthodox Metropolitanate".
Orthodox Metropolitanate of Montenegro (1500–1939)
During the 16th and 17th centuries, the Orthodox Metropolitans, together with the leaders of the clans, led the people of Montenegro. With some degree of success they fought the Turks, who never completely conquered the Montenegrin mountains. In this struggle the Venetians were often their allies, but, it has been said[who?], never their true friends.
The destruction of the old Cetinje Monastery perpetrated by the Venetians and the Turks in 1692, together with the emergence of the Petrović family on the historical scene (1697), marked the beginning of a new phase in Montenegrin history. Montenegro, led by Metropolitan Bishop Danilo I Petrović, turned completely towards the Russian Empire, which, through its power and authority, strengthened the institution of etnarchy, under which the Metropolitans were at once both Heads of the Church and rulers of the state. The Petrović dynasty ruled Montenegro for 220 years, from 1697 to 1918. The Metropolitans of Montenegro, all members of this family, were: Danilo I Petrović Njegoš (1697–1735), Sava II Petrović-Njegoš (1735–1781), Petar I Petrović-Njegoš (1784–1830), and Petar II Petrović-Njegoš (1830–1851). After the death of Petar II, the state of Montenegro was no longer ruled by the Metropolitans, since his successor, Grand Duke Danilo Petrović, did not wish to become a Metropolitan.
In the time of the Grand Duke and (from 1910) King of Montenegro Nikola I Petrović the geopolitical idea of unifying the Serbian nation came to the fore, as well as a perceived spiritual need to unite the Serbian church. The territory of Montenegro was almost doubled in size, and the church spread into three dioceses. In these circumstances, expressing what was felt by some to be 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 coronation of King Nikola I Petrović: The Metropolitanate of Montenegro is the only diocese founded by St. Sava which was preserved without interruption to this day, and as such it represents the lawful throne and a descendant of the Patriarchate of Peć.
Following the First World War, Montenegro was absorbed at the end of 1918 into Serbia under the Karađorđević dynasty. This resolved the long-standing dynastic rivalry between the two royal families, the Petrović family and the Karađorđević family.
The unification of the Serbian church was, however, quite a different matter, and was supported by both sides in the dispute, the Greens (federalists) and the Whites (centralists). The dethroned King Nikola I Petrović never opposed the unification of the church. The decision to unify the Metropolitanate of Montenegro with the other Serbian dioceses was reached on 16 December 1918 by the Bishops Council of the Montenegrin Metropolitanate as the only institution empowered by the church law to do so. 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." (Decision of the Bishops Council No 1169, 16 December 1918, Cetinje). This decision was signed by all diocesan bishops in Montenegro: the Metropolitan of Montenegro, Mitrofan Ban; the Metropolitan of Pec, Dr Gavrilo Dozic; and the Bishop of Niksic, Kiril Mitrovic. All accepted unification of the church in Montenegro. The decision of the Church regarding the unification was accepted and confirmed by HM King Aleksandar I Karadjordjevic in 1920. His declaration of the unification of the Serbian Church came two years after the Church reached the decision to unify.
Orthodox Metropolitanate of Montenegro and the Littoral (World War II – present)
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During the Second World War, and after the Communists came to power in 1945, the Orthodox Metropolitanate of Montenegro and the Littoral suffered persecution at the hands of the new regime. Communists killed 105 priests and thousands of patriotic Serbs. Fifteen other priests were killed by fascists. The Metropolitan of Montenegro, Joanikije (Lipovac), was murdered by communists in 1945. The new regime exerted unprecedented pressures on the remaining clergy to abandon their flocks. The property belonging to the Church was forcefully and illegally confiscated, many churches and monasteries being turned into police stations, cattle stables and warehouses.
The 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 Petrović Njegoš, who built this church on top of the Lovcen mountain. This was an indication of the regime's disregard for the last will of Petar II Petrović, the ancient Christian traditions of Montenegro, and the laws that the Communists themselves had established after 1945. In these circumstances the Orthodox Church in Montenegro was marginalized by the Communist government. This period is regarded as a time of open and brutal persecution of the Church.
The present Metropolitan of Montenegro, Dr Amfilohije Radović, became Head of the Orthodox Church in Montenegro in 1990, just as the collapse of the old communist system was resulting in free democratic elections. In these new circumstances the Metropolitanate of Montenegro and the Littoral soon began to flourish. The number of priests, monks and nuns, as well as the number of the faithful, increased rapidly. Many monasteries and parish churches 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. The number of parish priests 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 former Communist members of certain political parties and various other non-governmental organisations. These presented themselves as democrats in the changed circumstances, but some felt that their anti-church mentality still prevailed.
Realising that it was no longer politically acceptable to oppose the Church, these new "democrats" decided to change tactics. People who for 50 years had persecuted the Orthodox Church in Montenegro now decided to form the "church" according to their own image and likeness. Consequently, four individuals who perfectly fit the role were found:
Miras Dedeic, 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 1997.
Živorad Pavlović, runaway and defrocked priest from the town of Smederevo (Serbia). Wanted for serious charges of theft and sought by the Serbian police.
Milutin Cvijić, born in Teslić (Bosnia), former priest monk in Ostrog monastery. Defrocked as a priest since he broke his monastic vows and got married.
Jelisej Lalatović, former monk, defrocked for theft of church property.
These figures became leaders of the so-called "Montenegrin Orthodox Church". Meanwhile, because their "clergy" were without canonical legitimacy in the world of Orthodox Christianity, our disguised communists returned to their "old ways" and illegal methods:
Open extortion of property that legally belongs to the Orthodox Metropolitanate of Montenegro and the Littoral.
The brutal breaking of the rules of the Montenegrin Constitution, and the laws and regulations stemming from it. The Constitution, the republic's primary legal instrument, allows the existence of just one Orthodox church in Montenegro5. The campaign organised by the state media, identifying the robbers dressed as priests with the real and legally recognised clergy.
Introduction of the new principle, so far unrecognised in international law, which through the collection of signatures enables the take-over of property that is legally owned by somebody else (the Church in this case). The decision of the Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic to publicly support the "MOC" by sending them Easter greetings this year, through which he, in an authoritarian 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 Athens Christodoulos as well as the other leaders of autocephalous Orthodox churches throughout the world.
- Province of Bar
- Province of Crmnica
- Province of Nikšić (Leader: Nikola Spahić)
- Province of Sutomore
- Province of Ulcinj
- Parish of Podgorica (Leader: Živorad Pavlović)