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Constantinople didn’t rule out recognizing Montenegrin Orthodox Church

Submitted by Jelena Rakocevic…

On May 26, 2019, Metropolitan Emmanuel (Adamakis) of France concelebrated the Liturgy with Metropolitan Epiphanius (Dumenko) of Kyiv and the hierarchs of the newly-established autocephalous Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) in Kyiv. At the Divine Service Archimandrite Epiphanius (Dimitriou), a cleric of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Demetrias and Almyros, was ordained to the “Bishop of Olvia” of the OCU. Only two weeks later, it emerged that an interesting person captured on the photographs during the Liturgy was the “archimandrite” Boris (Bojan) Bojovic from the unrecognized “Montenegrin Orthodox Church” (MOC). He evidently served with Metropolitan Emmanuel and took his blessing.

Metropolitan Emmanuel blesses Bojan Bojovic in Kyiv on May 26, 2019

The concelebration of Metropolitan Emmanuel with the cleric of the MOC caused a scandal. The Ecumenical Patriarchate hastened to claim (even though in the form of a commentary to journalists from an average “frontline employee”) that Emmanuel was not acquainted with Bojovic and co-serving was only an occasional “incident”. The schism has not been condemned; no apologies have been brought to the Serbian Patriarchate.

What is much more interesting is the statement of the OCU’s Press office on this matter. Its main points are:

– prior to its recognition the OCU had communion with those among the Orthodox who wanted to be in communion with it;
– now the OCU has communion only with those Churches which are accepted into communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate (“only with the Churches with which the Ecumenical Patriarchate communicates”);
– participation of the person, “who now belongs to the not recognized by Ecumenical Patriarchate jurisdiction”, in the Liturgy “does not mean that the Orthodox Church of Ukraine will recognize the jurisdiction to which it belongs”;
– in the future, all church issues that worry the pious Montenegrin people now, just as they worried Ukrainian people until recently, “will be solved for the sake of the fullness of the Orthodox Church, in accordance with the canonical order, with the participation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate as the First Holy See and Mother Church”;
– some day the Serbian Church will “establish a church-canonical relationship” with the OCU, just what the Tomos of the Ecumenical Patriarch calls her to do (“to which it is called by the Tomos of the Ecumenical Patriarch”).

The site of the Holy Metropolis of Montenegro and the Coastlands of the Serbian Patriarchate deemed the statement of the OCU as a “renunciation of an impostor from Montenegro”. However, this is a very optimistic and naive appraisal. The OCU hasn’t condemned the Montenegrin schism; participation of the fake cleric in the worship service was not acknowledged to be a mistake. Only an insane or naive person would find any “renunciation” in the words: “If someone was offended by the occasion, then we assure you that this did not happen intentionally.” There is no other apology to the Serbian Church in the OCU statement. And there are no guarantees that the hierarchs and clerics of the MOC will not keep coming to Kyiv and serve with the hierarchs of the OCU whenever they want. And most importantly, a clear hint was made that Constantinople intends to recognize the schism in the near future, and the Serbian Patriarchate has nothing to do but to accept this.

In 2006, Bojan Bojovic was ordained a “deacon” and a “presbyter” by “Archbishop of Cetinje and the Montenegrin Metropolitanate” Mihailo (Mirash) Dedeic. In those years, the only religious organization that recognized and openly supported the “Montenegrin Church” was the “Kyiv Patriarchate” (UOC-KP) led by Filaret (Denisenko). So, Bojovic enrolled in the Kyiv Orthodox Theological Academy of the UOC-KP and took the monastic vows from Filaret Denisenko in 2016. According to unofficial information, he was sent to Kyiv to study with the personal support of Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic.

Filaret Denisenko, Epiphany Dumenko and head of the Montenegrin Church Mirash Dedeic in Cetinje, 2011

On December 27, 2015, Bojovic (who did not have canonical ordination) concelebrated the Liturgy with “metropolitan” Ilarion (Protsyk), his subordinate “priest” Valerij Semantso and two more clerics of the so-called Kyivan patriarchate in the “Montenegrin” parish in Aprila (Rome). Moreover, he continued to appear in Kyiv and serve with the hierarchs of the OCU even after the latter was recognized by the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

As Dedeic was getting older and Djukanovic was striving to establish an “autocephalous church” in Montenegro, Bojevic’s promotion was recognized as a necessity. It is claimed that Filaret Denisenko was set to ordain Bojovic as a “bishop” long before the recognition of the OCU. However, due to the extreme toxicity of Filaret, the Patriarchate of Constantinople blocked this ordination. Anyway, Bojovic’s episcopal consecration took place in Montenegro on Sunday, June 16.

Bojan Bojovic, Mirash Dedeich and Filaret Denisenko (near the microphone)

It is naive to believe that the concelebration of Emmanuel with the would-be “bishop” of the MOC in Kyiv was not a coincidence. More likely, it was an affirmative signal to Dedeich and Djukanovic – an open message that was believed to go unnoticed for outside observers.

Having recognized the OCU, the Ecumenical Patriarchate set the stage for a series of schisms in the Local Churches. Next thing in line is granting the autocephaly to the non-canonical hierarchy of Macedonia, with whom Fanar maintains intensive negotiations and correspondence; and the Montenegrin schismatics, which have been already mentioned in this context by Constantinople hierarchs. For example, Archbishop Daniel of Pamphilon in his interview with the BBC Ukraine service said: “Every nation willing to have its own Orthodox Church should have a right to establish it and to ask for its recognition by the other Orthodox Churches. In particular, if we are talking about Macedonia and Montenegro.”

So, may the Serbian hierarchs not be so self-complacent regarding the state of things in Montenegro and the position of the Fanar on the Montenegrin schism. If there is political will (especially one reinforced with a large sum of money) nothing will be able to prevent Constantinople from setting toxic Dedeic aside, as they did with Filaret, and recognizing the Montenegrin Church. Once such an opportunity arises this Bojovic’s concelebration with Metropolitan Emmanuel can become a cornerstone for new developments.

And if the hierarchy of the Serbian Church doesn’t stop pretending not to notice these actions, it will only speed up the revision of the ecclesiastical borders and hasten the collapse of the Serbian Patriarchate.

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