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News 14 Jan 14

Montenegrin Church Says No to Serbian Saints

The new liturgical calendar the Montenegrin Orthodox Church has ruffled feathers by excluding 'local' saints of the Serbian Orthodox Church, including Saint Sava.

Sculpture of Saint Sava in front of the St Sava Cathedral in Belgrade

The Montenegrin Orthodox Church - suppressed after Montenegro lost its independence after World War 1 - was refounded in 1993 and has only regained influence since the country declared independence in 2006.

By 2009, according to a poll by the Centre for Democracy and Human Rights, an NGO, it had become the faith group of around 30 per cent of Montenegrins.

The Church is locked in a dispute over the ownership of most of the property in Montenegro of the Serbian Orthodox Church.

The vice-president of the Council of the Church, Stevo Vucinic, said the Church's calendar only contained saints that are recognized "by the whole Orthodox world", which he said did not include Saint Sava.

Vucinic told Serbia's Blic newspaper that Serbia celebrated many questionable figures as saints, some of whom had blood on their hands, while Sava was a purely a local figure.

Rastko Nemanjic, the youngest son of Stefan Nemanja, founder of the royal Nemanjic dynasty, was the founder and first patriarch of the independent Serbian Orthodox Church.

Legends of his refusal of earthly power as well as folk tales describing miracles he performed formed an integral part of Serbian medieval literature, and Sava became a symbol of Serbian resistance to Ottoman rule in later centuries.

Vucinic said that Sava was not the only questionable saint of the Serbian Orthodox Church, as the Church had also more recently canonised several priests who had allegedly fought alongside the Serbian royalist Chetniks in World War 2.

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