The Montenegrin parliament adopted on Friday a controversial religions bill which sparked public outrage.
The bill had been put forward by the ruling Democratic Party of Socialists of Montenegro and proposes to make all religious buildings that were owned by the Kingdom of Montenegro – before it was incorporated into the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in 1918 – public property.
The Serbian Orthodox Church thinks its assets could be seized and given to the self-proclaimed Montenegrin Orthodox Church, which is unrecognized by other Orthodox institutions.
Earlier on Friday, hundreds of Serbian Orthodox laypeople, priests, monks and nuns protested outside the Parliament building in the capital Podgorica, while lawmakers from the opposition Democratic Front clashed with representatives of the parliamentary majority and were later pulled out of the building by police.
Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic had denounced that the protests, ongoing now for several days, had as their goal to force the country to renounce its future in the European Union and in the Euro-Atlantic axis in favor of a “nationalist illusion”.
“Forty-five [out of 81] lawmakers voted for [the bill], no one against,” parliament’s Speaker Ivan Brajovic said, according to the press service.
For years, Montenegro, as the Diocese of Montenegro and the Littoral, has been a part of the Serbian Orthodox Church.
In recent years, however, the government has been supporting the Montenegrin Orthodox Church, which proclaimed itself autocephalous in 1993, saying that the Serbian Orthodox Church undermined the country’s independence.