Orthodox Church leads protest against Pride of Montenegro

PODGORIC – Hundreds gathered on Friday for a protest prayer led by the Serbian Orthodox Church of Montenegro against the holding of an LGBTQ pride march this weekend.

The influential church called on its followers in Montenegro to join in prayer for “the sanctity of marriage and the preservation of the family” after holding a similar rally in neighboring Serbia ahead of a pan-European pride event last month.

The Pride Montenegro march is set to take place on Saturday in this very conservative country of 620,000 people. Montenegro approved same-sex partnerships in 2020 and pride marches have been held here since 2013 as the country seeks to join the 27-nation European Union.

The Serbian Orthodox Church, which has the largest number of religious followers in Montenegro, strongly criticized the pride marches. Church leader Patriarch Porfirije blasted what he described as Western-imposed LGBTQ ideology.

In Montenegro, the local branch of the Serbian Orthodox Church said of the march: “Their actions directly destroy God’s blessed marriage, as well as family and traditional values.”

Several pro-Serb politicians from Montenegro and local members of Night Wolves, the Russian biker group seen as close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, attended the church-called rally outside the main Orthodox temple in Montenegro’s capital, Podgorica. . Some attendees held religious images while priests performed the prayer ceremony on a stage.

Montenegrins remain divided between those who favor pro-EU reforms and those who seek closer ties with Serbia and Russia. Pro-Western leaders in Montenegro have accused the Church of being an instrument of Serbian and Russian nationalist policies in Montenegro.

The Serbian Church in Montenegro also led weeks of protest ahead of the 2020 elections that toppled longstanding pro-Western authorities and paved the way for the formation of a pro-Serb government. A former Slavic ally of Russia in the Balkans, Montenegro challenged Moscow in 2017 to join NATO.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.