Serbia and Montenegro, The Catholic Church in
SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO, THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IN
The joint government of Serbia and Montenegro, formerly part of the self-proclaimed Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, is located in southeastern Europe, on the Balkan Peninsula. The region is bound by Hungary on the north, Romania on the northeast, Bulgaria on the east, Macedonia and Albania on the south, the Adriatic Sea on the southwest, and Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia on the west. Encompassing the former Yugoslavian provinces of Vojvodina, Kosovo, Serbia and Montenegro, the region is characterized by fertile plains in the north, rising
to rolling hills and mountains in the south, while the eastern area is predominated by limestone outcroppings and ranges. Petroleum, natural gas, coal, antimony, copper, lead and nickel are among the wealth of natural resources in the area.
As the most populous and most dispersed nationality, ethnic Serbs exerted great influence on the former federated Yugoslavian republic. Although concentrated in Serbia proper, in 1981 they also accounted for substantial portions of the remainder of Yugoslavia, a result of their migration to avoid oppression during the Ottoman occupation. Attempting to limit Serbian domination, Yugoslavia's communist government immediately redrew the region's federal units to achieve political recognition of Macedonian and Montenegrin ethnic individuality and the mixed populations of Vojvodina, Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Ethnic rivalries continued to simmer, coming to a head following the break up of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s, and resulting in mass genocide in the region of Kosovo.
Early Church in Serbia. Using the Drina and Zeta rivers as lines of demarcation, in 379 the Roman Empire divided Illyricum in half. Greek Byzantine culture predominated within Eastern Illyricum, which included the region that eventually became modern Serbia and Montenegro, while the Latin rite developed in the west. The eastern region was joined to the Rome Patriarchate until 732, when it became subject to the Patriarchate of con stantinople.
The first Serbian bishopric was established near the Raška River, and by 1020 was a suffragan to the Archdiocese of Ohrid. The founder of the independent medieval Serbian state was Stephen Nemanja, who emancipated it from Byzantine rule in 1183. Stephen abdicated in 1196 and gave to Vlcanus, his eldest son, Dioclia (now Monte-negro), and to his younger son Stephen, Raška. Afterward he and his youngest son, St. Sava Nemana, founded the monastery of Chilandar. Stephen ultimately became the ruler of all his father's dominions and requested a royal crown from Honorius III. The pope granted his petition and sent a special legation to Serbia for the coronation c. 1220 that won Stephen the surname Prvo-venčani ("first-crowned") and united Serbia with the Holy See and the Catholic Church. However, the union was undermined by Sava, who was negotiating with the patriarch of Constantinople in Nicaea to establish an autocephalous archepiscopate in Serbia. In 1219 the patriarch consecrated Sava as the first archbishop of Serbia. After founding ten dioceses, consecrating their bishops and promoting religious instruction and monastic life, Sava died in 1235.
The Serbian Orthodox Church developed in the Byzantine rite amid a thriving Serbian culture. The most important ruler of medieval Serbia, Dušan the Great (1331–55), convoked an ecclesiastical national synod in 1346 and established the first Serbian Patriarchate, with its seat in Peć. After Dušan's death Serbia was defeated by the Ottoman Turks, who occupied the region in 1389. The Church attempted to preserve Serbian culture during this period, canonizing medieval Serbian kings as fresco painters preserved their images and priests recited a litany of their names at daily masses. Under Turkish domination Orthodox Christians suffered greatly. Particularly onerous was the human tax exacted by the Turks, who carried away the most promising youngsters, educated them as Muslims, and trained them as soldiers in the elite detachment in the Turkish army called janizaries. By chance a janizary of Serbian origin named Mehmed Sokolović (or Sokoli), became grand vizier. Cognizant of his ancestry, he reestablished the Serbian patriarchate in 1557 and appointed his brother first patriarch of this second patriarchate (1557–1766). After the Christians vanquished the Turks at Vienna (1683) and their armies arrived in South Serbia, the Serbs joined in a losing battle against the Turks. Fear of reprisals caused many Serbs to leave their country in 1690 under the leadership of the Partiarch Arsenius III Crnojević and to migrate to Croatia and Hungary. In 1766 the Greeks induced the Turks to suppress the second Serbian patriarchate and subject it to Constantinople.
The independence movement of the 19th century, while sparking further uprisings against the Turks, also saw significant cultural changes, including the creation of a modern Serbian literary language based on ordinary speech. In 1880 the patriarch of Constantinople granted to Serbia the status of autocephalous church; in 1920 the third Serbian Orthodox patriarchate would combine the formerly autonomous Serbian metropolitans of Belgrade, Karlovci, Bosnia and Montenegro, and the Diocese of Dalmatia. Before 1918 a very small number of immigrant Croats and other foreigners represented the Roman Catholic Church in Serbia. In 1924 the Archdiocese of Belgrade was established.
Early Church in Montenegro. Montenegro lies south of Serbia and borders on the Adriatic, the Zeta River serving as its western border. Slavs settled here in the 7th century and later adopted the Byzantine rite. Along the Adriatic coast, however, a small minority belonging to the Latin rite still exists, and belongs to the Archdiocese of bar. The Montenegrins considered by some as Serbs and by others as a special South Slav nationality, put up heroic resistance to the Turks who occupied Montenegro in 1499. The Turks entrusted some civil responsibilities to the Orthodox metropolitan at Cetinje. After 1697 the metropolitans were elected from the family of Petrović-Njegoš. They also functioned as ethnarchs and as such created and headed the principality of Monte-negro. In 1918 the kingdom merged with Yugoslavia, and in 1920 the Orthodox Church of Montenegro merged with the Serbian patriarchate, thus losing its autonomous status.
United Within Yugoslavia. The Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes—later Yugoslavia ("South Slavia")—was constituted on Dec. 1, 1918 and became the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in 1929. During World War II Germany invaded the region and caused it to be divided (April 10, 1941). Germany and Italy occupied Slovenia; Hungary, Bachka (Bačka); Bulgaria, Macedonia; and Italy, Montenegro. Croatia proclaimed its independence, while Serbia remained nominally independent but was actually under German control.
When Serbia and Montenegro united in 1918 as part of Yugoslavia, their merger created a single Eastern Orthodox church; the Macedonian Orthodox Church would later split from the Serbian church, while the Romanian Orthodox Church was a small sect present only in Vojvodina. An estimated 11.5 million Yugoslavs, primarily Serbs, Montenegrins and Macedonians, were Eastern Orthodox by family background. The Serbian political elite of the interwar Kingdom of Yugoslavia was unwilling to share power. The Army officer corps and the civilian bureaucracy were dominated by Serbs, reflecting the hegemony that triggered a backlash during World War II as Croat nationalist fanatics butchered Serbs, Jews and Gypsies with a brutality that appalled even the Nazis.
In the Kingdom of Yugoslavia Serbs had great political and cultural influence, a situation that caused resentments to build among other ethnic groups. While the constitution gave equality to all religions, the Serb-controlled government gave special concessions to the Serbian Orthodox Church, causing many to join that church as a way to social betterment. In 1922 the Yugoslav government began negotiations with the Holy See, and reached agreement in 1935. This concordat would have regularized the Catholic Church's organization to create corresponding diocesan and state borders: Belgrade would be the metropolitan see for Serbia; Ljubljana, for Slovenia; and Split, for Dalmatia. The Roman-Slavonic liturgy was to prevail in all parts of Yugoslavia where Catholics so desired. However, the Yugoslavian Parliament heeded the opposition of the Orthodox Church and refused ratification.
Communists seized power after World War II and established the Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia under Josip Broz Tito in 1945. Although the Nov. 30, 1946 constitution guaranteed religious liberty, the government demonstrated its opposition to all religions in many ways, even the Orthodox, and persecuted them openly. The Orthodox Metropolitans Barnabas of Sarajevo and Arsenius of Montenegro were condemned to 11 years in prison, sharing the fate of many other religious leaders. Catholic schools were closed, and Church buildings and lands confiscated. It was only after the friction between Tito and Soviet leaders began in 1948 that the Yugoslav government sought a modus vivendi with religious groups, hoping it would win them good will among Western powers. In 1956 the Communists inaugurated a policy of limited cooperation, permitting the Holy See to appoint new bishops, freeing imprisoned clergy, opening minor seminaries and permitting Yugoslav Catholic bishops to attend Vatican Council II in 1962. On June 25, 1966 the Vatican and the Yugoslavian government signed an agreement under which Yugoslav bishops could remain subject to the spiritual jurisdiction of Rome through regular contact.
The Serbian, Bulgarian and Greek Orthodox hierarchies recognized no distinct Macedonian nation or independent Macedonian Orthodox Church until 1958, when the Serbian Orthodox hierarchy consecrated a Macedonian bishop. Shortly thereafter the Macedonian Orthodox Church came into official existence, but it remained under the authority of the Serbian Orthodox Church. In 1967 Macedonian clergymen proclaimed their church independent. Aware that a self-governing Macedonian church would enhance the sense of Macedonian nationhood within the Yugoslav federation and help balance Serbian hegemony, political authorities gave the church their full support. The Serbian Church hierarchy refused to recognize the Macedonian Orthodox Church when it was granted autonomous status by the Yugoslav state. Without recognition from the Serbian hierarchy, the Macedonian church remained isolated from the international Orthodox community.
Tensions Rise in Kosovo. In the mid-1980s, a few years after Tito's death, a wave of Serbian nationalism swept through Yugoslavia. Among those fearing the ramifications of this resurgence was Kosovo, an impoverished region located south of Serbia. Between 1948 and 1990, the number of Serbians living in Kosovo had dropped from 23 percent to less than 10 percent, while ethnic Albanians increased, a democratic shift caused by immigration as well as by a postwar Serbian exodus which escalated when the Kosovar government fell under Albanian control in 1966. In an effort to regain control over the region, in 1989 the Serbian government began a resettlement program in Kosovo. As few former Kosovar Serbs desired to return, this program proved unsuccessful.
On April 11, 1992, following declarations of independence from Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro proclaimed themselves the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, although several governments, including the United States, refused to recognize them as a continuation of the former communist state. The appointment of nationalist Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic as president of the new federation in July of 1997 sparked protest from Montenegrins, as did the government's radical policies. In 1999 the Serbian government began a program of "ethnic cleansing" in Kosovo as a way to eliminate the Albanian majority in the region, a policy it had attempted in Bosnia in 1992 before being repulsed by UN troops. Leaders from Muslim, Catholic and Orthodox faiths joined together in condemning the horrors perpetrated by Serbian forces, and dedicated their efforts to aiding the thousands of refugees who survived the mass killings and fled Kosovo. Pope John Paul II also appealed for peace, asking that "political and military leaders … pursue every possible initiative that might lead to just and lasting peace." NATO and Russian peacekeeping forces entered the area following the bombing of Serbia. A U. N. Interim Administration Mission remained in Kosovo into the next decade, dealing with outbreaks of violence that continued to be directed toward Albanians, although on a smaller scale than before.
Into the 21st Century. By 2000 the Catholic Church included 238 parishes tended by 157 secular and 37 religious priests, with seven brothers and over 300 sisters administering schools and attending to medical and humanitarian needs. In contrast, the Serbian Orthodox Church included about 2,000 parishes, over 2,500 religious, numerous monasteries and convents, four seminaries and a school of theology. It also published ten periodicals. Completed in 1985, the Cathedral of St. Sava in Belgrade became the largest Eastern Orthodox Church in the world. Most Roman Catholics were ethnic Hungarians who lived in Vojvodina.
Unlike Montenegro, within the constituent Republic of Serbia, while the constitution provided for freedom of religion, the government did not uphold this right in practice. Although not named as the state religion, the Serbian Orthodox Church had access to state-run television and received other benefits from the government. Despite this, Orthodox leaders remained outspoken in their condemnation of Milosevic and his ethnic policies. Unlike other European nations affected by communist confiscations of property, Serbia had yet to make restitution to any religious group within its borders. While acts of violence were reported against Catholics in Vojvodina during the 1990s, the incidents of such acts had declined by 2000. Following the start of the conflict in Kosovo in the late 1990s, Serbian Orthodox churches in the region became the target of retaliatory violence by Albanians, and 80 churches had been desecrated or destroyed by 2000. Tensions between Montenegrin Orthodox and Serbian Orthodox members were also reported due to efforts taken to undermine or otherwise cancel certain religious services. In 2000 the Pope's private charity, Cor Unum, donated $115,000 to help refugees of Kosovo, and the following year the Vatican supported the formation of an International Tribunal to prosecute violators of humanitarian law.
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