Serbia-Montenegro Tensions Escalate amid Orthodox Church Dispute

BELGRADE, Serbia  — Serbia's president has pledged to protect Serbs in Montenegro who he says are threatened by the possible formation of an independent Orthodox Church in the small state, as tensions escalated between the two former Balkan allies.

President Aleksandar Vucic said after meeting Wednesday with the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Belgrade that he will use all "legal and democratic means" to tell the world about the alleged plight of Serbs in Montenegro.

"We will do that by respecting the Montenegrin state and its independence," Vucic said. "But we also respect our people and we will insist on the unity with our people." 

Tensions between the Montenegrin government and the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro have escalated over a religious law adopted by the Montenegrin parliament last year that the Serbian church says would strip it of its property. 

Montenegrin officials have repeatedly denied this, but that has not stopped Serbs in Montenegro from staging large anti-government demonstrations that sometimes turned violent.

A country of 620,000, Montenegro split from much larger Serbia in 2006, but many in Montenegro and Serbia still remain opposed to the separation. Montenegro joined NATO in 2017 despite strong opposition from another historic Slavic ally, Russia.

The Serbian Orthodox Church, based in Belgrade, is still the main religious body in Montenegro, which was one country with Serbia for nearly 90 years. Some 30% of Montenegro's people identify as Serbs.

Montenegro President Milo Djukanovic warned last week that if the dominant Serbian Orthodox church does not transform itself into a church of all Orthodox believers living in the Adriatic state, a separate Montenegrin church would have to be formed. 

At a joint news conference with Vucic, Serbian Patriarch Irinej lashed out at Djukanovic and his government, comparing them to the World War II pro-Nazi puppet state in neighboring Croatia. Tens of thousands of Serbs, Jews, Gypsies and anti-fascist Croats perished in concentration camps run by the so-called Ustasha regime during the war.

The Patriarch said by forming the Montenegrin Orthodox Church, Djukanovic wants to do what the Ustashas did, "chase out" the Serbian people and "destroy" the Serbian Orthodox Church.

Such rhetoric and alleged threats against Serbs in neighboring states years ago contributed to a bloody breakup of the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. The Serb-led Yugoslav army took action in Croatia and Bosnia, allegedly to protect the minority Serbs from those regions' goals of becoming independent, but then embarked on a campaign to drive other ethnic groups out.


SYDNEY – The Dedication Service for Graduates of St Andrew’s Theological College was celebrated in the Cathedral of the Annunciation (Redfern, NSW).

Top Stories

General News

FALMOUTH, MA – The police in Falmouth have identified the victim in an accident involving a car plunging into the ocean on February 20, NBC10 Boston reported.

General News

NEW YORK – Meropi Kyriacou, the new Principal of The Cathedral School in Manhattan, was honored as The National Herald’s Educator of the Year.

General News

PHILADELPHIA – The Federation of Hellenic Societies of Philadelphia and Greater Delaware Valley announced that the Evzones, the Presidential Guard of Greece will be participating in the Philadelphia Greek Independence Day Parade on March 20.


Mission…to Alonnisos, a TNH Documentary

O oceanic you sing and sail White on your body and yellow on your chimeneas For you're tired of the filthy waters of the harbors You who loved the distant Sporades You who lifted the tallest flags You who sail clear through the most dangerous caves Hail to you who let yourself be charmed by the sirens Hail to you for never having been afraid of the Symplegades (Andreas Empeirikos)   What traveler has not been fascinated by the Greek islands, drawn by the Sirens’ song of a traveler’s dreams? TNH and our video show ‘Mission’ marked the change of the season by transporting viewers into the heart of summer.

Enter your email address to subscribe

Provide your email address to subscribe. For e.g. abc@xyz.com

You may unsubscribe at any time using the link in our newsletter.