The Law on Freedom of Religion has been fundamentally amended far from the public eye, and by means of this document, the takeover of the historical existence and the absorption of the autonomous-autocephalous Montenegrin Orthodox Church into the Serbian Orthodox Church have been legalized, Pobjeda writes.

As Pobjeda has learned, it has been proposed that the law be called the Law on Freedom of Religion or Beliefs and the Legal Status of Churches and Religious Communities, and Article 1 of the amendment specifies that Article 24 shall be amended to read as follows:

“Religious communities that have acquired legal subjectivity according to their historical continuity and previous regulations until the day this law enters into force shall be ex officio entered in the records of existing religious communities, kept by the Ministry.”

Article 3 of the amendments envisages the deletion of Articles 62, 63 and 64, which are replaced by the new Article 62:

“Property-legal disputes between Montenegro, churches and religious communities regarding religious buildings and land built or acquired before 1 December 1918 can only be resolved before the competent courts in civil proceedings in accordance with ratified international agreements, the Constitution of Montenegro, the Law on Property Relations, the Law on State Survey and Real Estate Cadastre and other relevant regulations ”.

The law has been amended far from the public eye, most likely in the Serbian Orthodox Church, and one of the members of its expert team for amending this act was the current Minister of Justice, Human and Minority Rights, Mr Vladimir Leposavić, who announced yesterday that the document was ready and that it will be in the Government at the beginning of next week, in an urgent procedure, and then forwarded to the Parliament.

The first working day of the new government was Monday, 7 December, when Mr Leposavić announced on Wednesday, 9 December, after only two days of “life” of the government, that the amendments to the Law on Freedom of Religion had been completed.

He also said that everything had been done with “intensive consultations with religious communities”, which included only three – the Serbian Orthodox Church, the Islamic Community and the Catholic Church.

Mr Leposavić explained that organizing a public debate is not obligatory when the law is changed in an urgent procedure, and that religious communities are “enabled to give suggestions and comments” in the consultation process.

The previous government tried to hold negotiations with the Serbian Orthodox Church on changes to this law on several occasions, but in vain.

The Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro does not have the status of a legal entity, and unlike other religious organizations that have been introduced in the register, it has always refused to legitimize as a legal entity in our country.

It demanded a special status, basing the request “on historical continuity” and presenting itself as a religious organization older than the state.

“The proposal for such a decision classifies the proposers as quislings, and the government that proposes it and the Parliament that adopts it as the occupying bodies of Serbia. There is no civil state in which all citizens, of any religion and nation are not comfortable. Montenegrin people don’t feel comfortable in their own country”, Mr Stevo Vučinić, vice-president of the Metropolitan Council, said to Pobjeda yesterday.

He reminds that Montenegrin church property has long been the property of the state of Serbia, and that in our monasteries and churches “there is a world that uses them to destroy the constitutional order and for the final annexation to Serbia.”

The Government needs the vote of 41 deputies to amend the Law on Freedom of Religion, which means that representatives of the coalition led by Mr Dritan Abazović’s URA should also vote for it. The party previously announced that it would support the changes related to the disputed articles of the Law on Property, which was a key request of SOC before elections.

Now it is no longer in their focus, but it is crucial for them to acknowledge that the Serbian Church is the one that represents the historical continuity of the church in our country and that it should take over the complete historical heritage of the Montenegrin Orthodox Church.

On the same day when he announced that the amendments to the Law were ready, Mr Leposavić had a meeting with the Archbishop of Bar and the Apostolic Governor of the Diocese of Kotor, Monsignor Roko Đonlešaj, who told Pobjeda yesterday that Mr Leposavić handed him the Proposal for Amendments to the Law on Wednesday.

When asked how these amendments to the Law will affect the status of the Montenegrin Orthodox Church, Mr Đonlešaj said that this church “should work harder to see how to organize their religious church life.”

The head of the Catholic Church in Montenegro claims that the changes to the Law are insignificant and not essential.

“These are some tiny amendments, they are not detailed. It is more about the name and the registration … About the problem of whether to register a religious community that has been there for centuries. So it was entered to register, not to register what has been registered here for centuries. And that is perfectly fine, to register new communities if they are established,” Mr Đonlešaj said.

Amendments made to the property are also insignificant.

Reis of the Islamic community didn’t answer to calls.

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