CETINJE, Montenegro -- Thousands of Montenegrins crowded the streets of the Balkan nation's former capital, angered by an upcoming ceremony to install a new head of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro.
Metropolitan Bishop Joanikije II is scheduled to be formally installed as the top Serbian Orthodox church leader in the country next month.
But the decision by church officials to hold the ceremony at the Cetinje Monastery has outraged many Montenegrins, who say it is an insult to Montenegro's centuries-old struggle for sovereignty and independence.
Hundreds of police officers deployed in the city for the August 22 protest, which featured marchers waving flags and carrying banners decrying the upcoming ceremony.
“We will not allow further desecration of Montenegrin shrines by those who don’t recognize Montenegro as a state and Montenegrins as a nation,” Predrag Vusurovic, one of the protest organizers, told the crowd.
Montenegro, which declared independence from Serbia in 2006, is split between those who consider themselves Montenegrins and those who deny the existence of the Montenegrin nation.
About 30 percent of the country's population of 600,000 identifies as Serb. The Serbian Orthodox Church is the predominant religion in the country.
Joanikije II's predecessor, Metropolitan Bishop Amfilohije, died in October 2020 after contracting COVID-19.