|Montenegrin Orthodox Church|
|Montenegrin: Crnogorska pravoslavna crkva|
|Independence||c. 1993 (officialy registred as an NGO in 2001)|
|Separated from||Serbian Orthodox Church (1993)|
|Separations||Montenegrin Orthodox Church (Lajović) (2018)|
|Members||Less than 10% of total Eastern Orthodox population (2020)|
|Origins||Metropolitanate of Montenegro and the Littoral (split)|
The Montenegrin Orthodox Church (Montenegrin: Crnogoroska pravoslavna crkva, Црногорска православна црква; abbr MOC, CPC or ЦПЦ) is an religious NGO and a non-canonical Eastern Orthodox Church in Montenegro, that is not canonically recognized by any other Orthodox Christian churches. It was formed and registered as a non-governmental organization in 1993 by Antonije Abramović, a controversial monk defrocked by the Serbian Orthodox Church, who became the head of the newly-formed religious organization, Montenegrin Orthodox Church (MOC), which claims succession to the allegedly autocephalous Montenegrin Church, operated until the unification of the Kingdom of Serbia and Kingdom of Montenegro, which later became the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes in 1918. The Montenegrin Orthodox Church has been recognized as a religious NGO by the government of Montenegro since 2001, and it has wide claims over the canonical jurisdiction of the hitorical Metropolitanate of Montenegro and the Littoral of the Serbian Orthodox Church. According to a 2020 poll conducted by CEDEM, approximately 10 percent of Montenegro's Eastern Orthodox Christians have opted for the Montenegrin Orthodox Church, while approximately 90 percent have opted for or stayed with the canonical Serbian Orthodox Church. Notably, the creation of MOC is opposed by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. Patriarch Bartholomew has stated that "we will never give autocephaly to the so-called "Montenegrin Orthodox Church" and that its leader Dedeić was suspended by Constantinople for adultery and embezzlement."
The first ideas about creating a special Orthodox church of ethnic Montenegrins[clarification needed]arose outside Montenegro as political relgious sect at a time when Montenegrin fascists and collaborators led by Sekula Drljević gathered under the auspices of the Ustaša regime in the Independent State of Croatia. During 1943 and 1944, under the influence of the clerical-fascist ideology of the Ustaša movement, Drljević formulated a thesis on the diversity of Montenegrin Orthodoxy not only in relation to Serbian Orthodoxy, but also in relation to Eastern Orthodoxy in general. On that occasion, he coined the notion of crnogorоslavlje, putting it in opposition to svetosavlje. Looking at the Ustaša project of the Croatian Orthodox Church, Drljevic claimed that "the Montenegrin Church has not been in any dependence of any Orthodox Church for all centuries".
The Montenegrin Orthodox Church was founded in Cetinje on October 31, 1993, by Antonije Abramović, initially with the support of the Liberal Alliance of Montenegro (LSCG), a political party that existed at the time. At the time, Montenegro was part of the federal state with Serbia called the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, which was formed a year earlier following a 1992 referendum. LSCG, a party with a pro-independence agenda, is claimed to have used the MOC as a tool in their quest for Montenegrin sovereignty. At that time, the ruling Democratic Party of Socialists of Montenegro (DPS) maintained close ties to Slobodan Milošević's administration in Serbia, and therefore the initial activities of the MOC were very sporadic.
After the death of Metropolitan Antonije, he was replaced by Metropolitan Dedeić. Most liberals did not approve of this change, and their support for the church soon started to fade. By 1997, the DPS administration in Montenegro led by Milo Đukanović began to distance itself from Milošević, and started supporting and financing the Church, which received support from both the Democratic Party of Socialists of Montenegro and the Social Democratic Party of Montenegro; however, after 2001 this support seemingly waned.
On January 17, 2001, the MOC was officially registered as a non-governmental organization at the local department of the Montenegrin Ministry of the Interior. In the absence of any other relevant and more current piece of legislation, this registration was done by calling on the Law on the Legal Position of Religious Communities from 1977 when Montenegro was a socialist republic within SFR Yugoslavia.
In 2007, the MOC attempted to expand its activities beyond the borders of Montenegro. Serbia originally refused to allow the MOC to be registered as an organization, as all canonical Eastern Orthodox churches have also refused to recognize the MOC. However, on appeal, the Serbian Supreme Court ruled this position unconstitutional, overturning the refusal and paving the way for a potential permission to register.
The Montenegrin Orthodox Church has offered to issue a baptismal certificate in which in the column "nationality", instead of an "Orthodox Serb" will be changed to "Orthodox Montenegrin". As a result opponents often accuse it of being a group without theological purpose, and of having only political goals.
Metropolitan Dedeić has stated that the Montenegrin Orthodox Church did not have enough priests and that until they are hired the Roman Catholic and Protestant priests can serve in their temples; Dedeić also called Aloysius Stepinac, a controversial Roman Catholic cardinal who was known during World War II for his collaboration with the Ustaše "a great man and great bishop".
The MOC is led by the Archbishop of Cetinje and Montenegro Metropolitan Mihailo. At a General Montenegrin People's Assembly formed by the MOC in Cetinje on January 6, 1997, he was chosen by traditional public acclamation the Head of the Montenegrin Orthodox Church. In the Church of St. Paraskeva in Sofia, on March 15, 1998, he was ordained as bishop by Bulgarian Alternative Synod's head Patriarch Pimen and seven Metropolitans and Episcops of his synod. He was enthroned to Metropolitan of Montenegrin Orthodox Church in Cetinje on October 31, 1998, in the presence of several hundred believers and supporters of Montenegrin Orthodox Church.
Metropolitan Mihailo had worked as a professor for the Serbian Orthodox Church and then as a priest of the Greek Orthodox Church in Italy, where he uncanonically created a Serbian Orthodox municipality out of the Greek Church, leading after a number of scandals, including adultery and accusations of embezzlement, to his permanent suspension from the Church in 1995. After becoming Metropolitan of the MOC in 1997, he was fully excommunicated by the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople from the Eastern Orthodox Church.
On January 11, 2007, the MOC created its own holy synod and proclaimed its first decree. The holy synod is constituted by archpriests of the church, led by Metropolitan Mihailo. This synod divided Montenegro in five eparchies—Cetinjska, Dukljanska, Primorska, Ostroška and Beranska.
One of the prominent members of the Montenegrin Orthodox Church was Jelisej Lalatović, a former Serb monk from Nikšić, defrocked for stealing of church property and falsification of church seals. In early 2010 he joined with the Croatian Orthodox Union for the formation of the Croatian Orthodox Church and became its chief in Zadar. Lalatović was immediately expelled from the MOC on the grounds of spreading unrest and immorality in the church, the MOC officially dismissing its connections with the formation of the COC.
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The Montenegrin Orthodox Church currently holds its regular services in several chapels in the area of Montenegro's royal capital, Cetinje, as well as in its newly built church in Kotor. Open-air services are held across Montenegro for Christmas and Easter. The MOC officially opened a new shrine in the old town of Kotor in 2006, following the referendum on independence.
Churches of the MOC in Montenegro:
Construction of the first MOC shrine abroad, the Holy Church of Righteous Ivan Crnojević, is planned to take place in Lovćenac, Vojvodina, Serbia, with the help of the Association of Ethnic Montenegrins in Serbia Krstaš. A contract for the land on which the new MOC shrine will be built was signed on 5 August 2005. A list with the names of several dozen donations—from Montenegro, USA, Slovenia, Australia and Switzerland—for the construction of a MOC shrine in Serbia has also been published.
The Montenegrin Orthodox Church also has support from abroad, and it has managed to build several shrines in North America, South America, Australia, Western Europe all home to important Montenegrin émigré communities, most of whom also support the Montenegrin Orthodox Church. Services are held in the Australian state of New South Wales as well as in the Argentine province of Chaco, which is the base of Archimandrit Gorazd Glomazic and the Montenegrin Church of Saint Nikola in the colony of Machagay.
Churches of the MOC outside Montenegro:
In April 2007 the "President of the Council for the promotion" of the MOC, Stevo Vučinić, was quoted as saying the "we [the MOC] will retake of all the churches and chapels in the towns, and of course the village churches, and the monasteries...we expect resistance, but in no case will we give up". President of the Republic of Montenegro Filip Vujanović said that he will protect the property of the Serbian Orthodox Church, along with other administrative officials, saying that the MOC should not give up and that they should go to legal suits on specific cases. Despite this, the MOC has claimed that it does not care about anyone's opinion outside its Council calling it irrelevant and is determined to forcibly reclaim their property in Montenegro, currently occupied by SOC.
On Wednesday, April 18, 2007, the representatives of the Montenegrin Orthodox Church – which has announced that it did not wish to cause an "excessive situation", but that it would enter the Serbian Orthodox Cetinje monastery without regard to the reaction of the Serbian Orthodox Church to their claims and requests – attempted to do so. Special police units prevented their forceful entry and that of several hundred supporters of the MOC. There was some pushing and shoving between the police, and the crowd which had intended to force its way into the monastery. Following this, members of the crowd shouted slogans such as "this isn't Serbia", "whose police are you?" and "Risto, Satan" (a reference to Metropolitan Amfilohije of the SOC).
In September 2008, Serbian Orthodox locals attempted to launch a blockade in the Nikšić area to prevent the MOC from building a church there. Sixty five people were arrested for violating public order.
The Montenegrin Church has support from a number of likewise non-canonical or unrecognized Eastern Orthodox churches: the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kiev Patriarchate, the Bulgarian Alternative Orthodox Church (founded by patriarch Pimen), and its Italian-based branch, the Orthodox Church in Italy.
The MOC also has support of the Croatian Orthodox Union, which aims at creating an autocephalous Croatian Orthodox Church for the Republic of Croatia, an act which the MOC came up to as the first supporter. The MOC had original support of the unrecognized Macedonian Orthodox Church, which was later withdrawn as the Macedonian Church entered negotiations for restoration into communion.
In all official Orthodox theological circles (such as the Russian Orthodox Church or the Ecumenical Patriarchate), the MOC is seen as a schismatic group and a political fabrication, similar to the churches that supported it.
Political parties in Montenegro that so far officially stated support of the MOC are: the Liberal Alliance of Montenegro and minority Croatian Civic Initiative, officially proposing it to be mentioned in Montenegro's new Constitution, which eventually did not mention it with its adoption in late 2007. The Initiative invited representatives of both the Montenegrin and Serbian churches to a special municipal meeting in Tivat, sparking a boycott among local Serbian politicians.
During the occasion of 2008 Serbian elections, the church had the support of the Alliance of Vojvodina Hungarians which stated it should be a recognized religion in the country.
According to data of Centre of Democracy in Montenegro from February 2007, the Serbian Orthodox Church was the most trusted institution in Montenegro by public opinion (coefficient 3.29), while the Montenegrin Orthodox Church was ranked sixth (coefficient 2.35). According to a 2020 poll conducted by CEDEM, approximately 10% percent of Montenegro's Eastern Orthodox Christians have opted for the Montenegrin Orthodox Church, while approximately 90% percent have opted for or stayed with the canonical Serbian Orthodox Church.