His Grace Joanikije: We request religious freedom and rule of law and order in the state

His Grace Joanikije, Bishop of Budimlye and Niksic, after having been released of detention together with his eight priests of the Orthodox Cathedral of St. Basil of Ostrog in Nikšić, blessed the faithful who were protesting against their detention in front of the State Prosecutor’s Office in Niksic.

“First of all, I would like to express my gratitude for your love and support. Your support is a token of love towards the Church and, consequently, normal continuation of our struggle for defending our shrines”, said His Grace being warmly greeted by the congregation of the faithful who were shouting: “We won’t give you up, Your Grace!”, “Long live you, Your Grace!” and “We won’t give up our shrines!”

His Grace was speaking about the events that had preceded his detention, pointing out that the Church celebrated the feast-day of St. Basil of Ostrog in the way this great saint deserves. ”But I was aware of a  possible upset, knowing how much these people love this God-pleasing saint and how much they had been faithful to him.”

“When we saw an assembly of the faithful in front of the Cathedral of St. Basil, the God-loving people that would like to continue with the cross procession in honor of St. Basil, which is unique in the whole world, we found as best solution, after a consultation with His Eminence Amfilohije and the clergy - that we have to have a prayer procession. We couldn’t have allowed our people to be offended, since we were afraid that then a chaios might have been arisen and then the state authorities might have had more problems.”

His Grace emphasizes that thanks to the God-loving people, who had testified their love for St. Basil, after the prayer procession along the streets of Nikšić they parted in peace and love. The problems arose only when state authorities got involved.

“Although I do not understand certain decisions of the authorities and I do not agree with them, I have to say that the police officers in custody were truly correct”, he testified.

"They were behaving professionally and humanely. They are a part of our noble people and they work honestly and earn for their living, and we have to be realistic - one has to live from something,” Bishop Joanikije pointed out and added that he was astonished that the authorities had taken such moves as if, as he said, religion and the Church had been the only problem.

The Bishop regretts that “our authorities”, in addition to waging war against Njegos, the Prince-Bishop of Montenegro, and his grave, “have started waging war against St. Basil”, which he thinks was not good.

Bishop Joanikije, interrupted by cheerful chanting, noted that faith awoke in the people and that St. Basil had  still been a shepherd "who oversees his people from Heaven and congregates them around his reliquary and the Cathedral of St. Basil of Ostrog succeeding in supporting and giving comfort to every home and family.”

“These days, everyone has witnessed to your devotion to the Church and faith, and especially to St. Basil. May the Lord God and St. Basil reward you for that!” Dear brothers, dear children, dear youth, everything cannot be said tonight, nor can everything be solved tonight. This struggle will continue and we need to prepare ourselves for a long endeavor,” His Grace warned, interrupted by the shouts “We want prayer processions!”

“We request religious freedom and rule of law and order in the state, we demand obeying the Constitution and the Law”, said Bishop Joanikije and pointed out that the measures which had been brought against him were not in the accordance with the Constitution of Montenegro.

At the end of his address, His Grace Joanikije, the Bishop of Budimlye and Niksic, again expressed his gratitude to the assembled people and continued:

“We will continue with our struggle for religious freedom and for the honor of every man and for human dignity, for the honor and pride of every citizen, every individual, regardless who he is and what is his confession and to which party he belongs. We all need freedom and we need rule of law and proper order in our country. May this struggle continue, but with the true means of God, truth and justice and love for our homeland, and may peace and blessings of God and brotherly unanimity be among us. Amen!”

At the end of his address, the assembled people peacefully parted, and members of the Fraternity   of the Orthodox Youth of St. Basil and church choirs cleaned the area in front of the Prosecutor's Office where the people had been standing for almost 16 hours.

It should be reminded that after the prayer procession that had been held in Nikšić on May 12, 2020, on the feast-day of St. Basil of Ostrog, a 72-hour detention was ordered for Bishop Jonikije, Fr. Slobodan Jokic, Fr. Danilo Zirojevic, Fr. Zeljko Rojevic, Fr. Ostoja Knezevic, Fr. Mirko Vukotic, Fr. Vasilije Brboric, Fr. Dragan Krusic and Fr. Nikola Marojevic.

Souce: Metropolitanate of Montenegro and the Littoral

(For Information Service of the SOC translated into English by Sanja Simic de Graaf)