15 September 2005, Volume 7, Number 27
POPULISM AND THE CHURCH IN MONTENEGRO
A program of RFE/RL's Radio Most (Bridge) by Omer Karabeg
RFE/RL: Today we will discuss the role and status of the Serbian Orthodox Church [SPC] in Montenegro with our guests: Budimir Dubak, spokesman of Montenegro's opposition People's Party and former Montenegrin minister of religious affairs, and Branislav Radulovic, spokesman of the Social Democratic Party [SDP] of Montenegro, a member of the ruling coalition.
Dubak: It befits Montenegro as an old theocratic state, to have Metropolitan Amfilohije as its spiritual leader and conscience of Montenegro, just like Prince-Bishops Danilo and Njegos before him [in the 18th and 19th centuries, respectively] on that throne. There is no argument against it.
What is happening in Montenegro nowadays is not happening anywhere else in the world: the present government is attacking the very foundations of its own state, namely the [Serbian Orthodox] church, the [Serbian] language, and the common state with Serbia, which has always been a dream of Montenegro....
Don't you know that no one has ever won a war against God? You want to destroy churches. You want the SPC to apply for a permit to build churches, a permit that you are supposed to issue. What permit? Don't you know that there are more then 100,000 unauthorized buildings in Montenegro? Nothing is being built legally in Podgorica....
Radulovic: It is the church's unquestionable constitutional right to build churches and monasteries, and, thank God, churches are being built.... However, the real problem lies elsewhere, and Mr. Dubak has been skillfully avoiding it.
The location on the top of Mt. Rumija is a cult place of Jovan Vladimir. That is where the cross was carried according to an old tradition dating from before the Great Schism, when Christianity was divided into Eastern and Western branches. Although the population there is predominantly Orthodox, Catholics, and later Muslims continued carrying a cross together there. Is there such a magnificent example of three confessions respecting and carrying one common symbol, St. Vladimir's cross, anywhere else in Europe?
.....But when a military helicopter brought overnight an Orthodox church building to the top of Mt. Rumija, like in an assault, it put an end to this magnificent tradition that had lasted so long. Subsequently, the Islamic Community in Montenegro said that their members cannot take part in the ritual anymore since the actions of Amfilohije Radovic ended the tradition. And the cross is guarded by a Muslim family.
Now, if you allow me, I would like to quote Mr. Budimir Dubak who said: "Amfilohije will build temples wherever he wants. He will seek permits neither from the government or the opposition." Is this what you said?
Dubak: Yes, it is.
Radulovic: Then I have no further comment.
Dubak: You can draw whatever conclusion you want. You passed the Law on Symbols without the opposition. You adopted the national flag we call "Ranko's flag" [after Ranko Krivokapic, president of the SDP] and that dishrag now flutters over Montenegro...
Radulovic: Are we representing churches or political parties here?. ...Amfilohije Radovic once said -- and he never denied it -- that Montenegrins are communist bastards. When a man who is supposed to be the father of my spirituality, the one I am supposed to confess to, says such a thing, it means that such a man has definitely taken off his robe, left the priesthood, and lost his connection to God.
What alienates the majority of young Orthodox Montenegrins from the SPC are this primitivism, vulgarity, and aggressiveness. If T-shirts with photos of Radovan Karadzic, tricolored flags with...skulls and cross-bones, [and]...Chetnik ideology [are associated with the SPC], how can you expect the Internet generation speaking three or four foreign languages and with Western university diplomas to identify themselves with such an organization?
Dubak: We can meet someplace, take our time and talk about it. But first you have to distance yourself from your boss and his Nazi statements....
Radulovic: There is a golden rule in Montenegro: a knight confronts a knight. Mr. Dubak has mentioned the name of Mr. Ranko Krivokapic, president of the parliament of Montenegro, at least 40 times during this show. I feel no need to defend Mr. Krivokapic from Mr. Dubak, since Mr. Krivokapic faced down the parliamentary group of the [pro-Serbian] People's Party from the parliament. And what happened [in that confrontation] is well-known.
This is why Mr. Dubak has not polemicized with me tonight but time and again brought up the name of a man who, unfortunately, cannot be here. However, since Mr. Dubak is a public figure, Mr. Krivokapic will be pleased to respond [later].