Montenegro protesters clash over Church leader inauguration

Photo: AP

Thousands protesters blocked roads in Montenegro to halt the enthronement of a new Serbian Orthodox Church archbishop. Angry crowds attacked the police with stones and demolished security fences around the monastery in the city of Cetinje where the ceremony had to take place, BBC reported.

Demonstrators shouted "This is not Serbia!" and "Long live Montenegro!" The protests reflect tensions in the country, which ended its union with Serbia back in 2006. The Serbian Orthodox Church is Montenegro's largest religious institution, but has been in conflict with the President Milo Djukanovic. He claims the Church is trying to undermine the country's independence and drag Montenegro back under Serbia's control. The president has urged protesters to disrupt the ceremony of the enthronement of Joanikije II to the top clerical position, known as the Metropolitan of Montenegro and Archbishop of Cetinje.

The president is still recovering from the defeat his Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) suffered in last year's parliamentary election, which came after he pushed through legislation which would have allowed the state to claim Church property. The move backfired when the Church campaigned for the opposition, pushing the DPS from power for the first time in three decades. Montenegrins who identify as ethnic Serbs account for about a third of the country's 630,000 population, according to the latest census data. The majority of Montenegrins are members of the Serbian Orthodox Church.

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