New narrative: Church under attack of the regime

Measures introduced to prevent the spreading of coronavirus are in force in Montenegro just like in the rest of the world. Even though the citizens are obliged to comply with the measures in order to avoid possible consequences, the narrative that the church and believers are among the main targets and victims of the „regime repression“ is present on a daily basis in particular media in Montenegro and Serbia.

Ban on liturgies and Holy Communion

These narratives started circulating after the introduction of the measures prohibiting all kinds of gatherings, and therefore the religious gatherings. Even though the other religious communities in Montenegro (the Islamic Community in Montenegro and the Catholic Church in Montenegro) accepted the adopted measures and temporarily stopped the religious rituals in all places of worship, it cannot be said that the Serbian Orthodox Church did the same. The opinion that the adopted measures indicate to the inhuman discrimination „of the Orthodox people only“ is present as well as that the „persecution of the church and its believers“. The impossibility to organize liturgies with the believers and Holy Communion is presented as the greatest issue even though the SPC claims that „nobody got infected from the Holy Communion“ and „everything is being done so that the Church would be hated for its infectious spoon“.

Ban on intercity transportation

The arrest of priest Sinisa Smiljic, a Bosnia and Herzegovina citizen with a temporary residence in Ulcinj due to the violation of measures prohibiting the intercity traffic during the coronavirus pandemic is also presented as the reflection of the regime repression. Even though this is the well-known measure which has been in force for a long period of time and whose violation has always been sanctioned, portal Pravda reported on this piece of news with a headline: SCANDALOUS! MILO’S MONTENEGRINS ARE ARRESTING THE PRIESTS: Priest from Ulcinj is brought in for questioning because of his alleged violation of prohibition of movement which indicates to subjective reporting whose goal is to bring the narrative on the alleged regime repression to the first plan.

Metropolitan Amfilohije and the priests brought in for questioning

Metropolitan Amfilohije, Archpriest Velibor Dzomic and a couple of citizens were brought in on the Orthodox holiday Palm Sunday after the service which was held on Zlatica, due to the violation of temporary measures prohibiting all kinds of gatherings. This initiated a large number of articles on Montenegrin portals such as IN4S and Borba but also on Serbian portals (examples: InformerKurir) and on certain portals in Republika Srpska.

Almost every reporting on this event was followed by the narrative on the persecution of the church, the intention of President Djukanovic to send Metropolitan Amfilohije to jail, attack on the Orthodoxy and its believers, the government’s misuse of the pandemic to fight the church in a hidden manner, fascism and the atmosphere of the prison on Goli otok. There is also a theory that the police officers received the order to infect Metropolitan Amfilohije during his arrest.

Easter and the culmination of narrative on repression

The whole narrative on the regime repression during coronavirus culminated during Easter holidays. It is well known that the religious holidays are celebrated without the presence of believers in this situation all around the world. Therefore, Pope Francis sent his Easter message „Urbi et Orbi“ from the empty Saint Peter’s Basilica in Vatican, the Orthodox priests served the liturgy in the empty Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow invited all the citizens to spend Easter in their homes.

Before Easter, the Metropolitanate of Montenegro and Littoral announced that the Easter liturgy will be held without believers attending and they will comply with the measures but the part of believers still tried to enter the churches. During the reporting on these events, it is stated that the police occupied the churches and is patrolling fully equipped in front of the Church of Holy Resurrection in Podgorica just like in time of the Crusades.“

The disinformation are usually launched together with the narratives. Therefore, an article appeared on the IN4S portal reporting that a particular number of police officers refused to arrest the believers in front of the Church of Holy Resurrection in Podgorica. The Police Administration denied these claims on their Twitter account and stated that the police was not arresting the believers in front of the Church, therefore, a part of officers could not refuse to do this non-existent task and that this piece of news represents an unsuccessful attempt to disturb the public.