Pope Francis will visit Montenegro in 2020, the Montenegrin government said after a meeting between the Roman Catholic pontiff and Montenegrin Prime Minister Dusko Markovic in the Vatican on Saturday.
“At the meeting with PM Markovic, Pope Francis commended Montenegro’s policies of ecumenism, culture, ecology and humanisation in all spheres of social relations,” the government said in a statement.
Markovic’s visit to the Holy See comes only a few days after the publication of Pope Francis’ reply to a letter by the head of the Serb Orthodox Church, in which Patriarch Irinej expresses concern about Montenegro’s plan to adopt, by the end of the year, a law on the freedom of confession.
The law, on which the Montenegrin government has worked for four years, is opposed mostly by the Serb Orthodox Church in Montenegro, which owns close to 700 religious buildings in the country.
The Serb Orthodox Church believes the law was drafted as “a pretext to seize church buildings, monasteries and church property.”
The pope replied in his letter to Patriarch Irinej that Montenegro had to pass the law on religious freedoms in line with democratic principles and that the law had to be accepted by all religious communities.
This topic was discussed by PM Markovic and the Holy See’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, on Saturday.
They agreed that the further procedure of adopting and implementing the law should be accompanied by dialogue and as much agreement as possible.
The Holy See does not interfere in Montenegro’s internal affairs but it does support the adoption of the law that will regulate the issue of religious freedoms and relations between the state and religious communities in line with civilisational principles, said Parolin.
He said that Montenegro had shown the integrity of a country with a strong multi-religious tradition and harmony and that the announcement of the pope’s visit confirmed the country’s reputation.