On May 16, 2020, at about 0:30, the hierarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Bishop Joanikije (Micovic) of Budimlja-Niksic, and eight priests of the Cathedral of St. Basil were released from prison, in which they had been detained for 72 hours by the decision of the Montenegrin authorities. One of the detained clergymen, Slobodan Jokic, returned to the hospital after interrogation, according to the website of the Montenegrin-Littoral Metropolis of the SOC.
The release of the Serbian hierarch was expected by thousands of believers who had gathered at the Main Court building on the morning of May 15. After leaving the police station, the bishop went to them. The people greeted the liberated hierarch with glee and chant “We will not give up the shrines”, united in a protest against the anti-church Law on Religious Freedom.
Expressing his gratitude to the believers for their support and love, which, according to him, are an expression of love for the Church and the continuation of the struggle for the protection of shrines, Vladyka Joanikije called on all to maintain peace and mutual respect.
“Despite the fact that I do not understand some of the actions of the authorities and cannot agree to them, I must say that the police in the station, where we were detained, were more than tactful,” he said.
According to the hierarch, he is very surprised by the behavior of the Montenegrin authorities, judging by which faith and the Church are the only problems in Montenegro, while the increased persecution of the Church causes more and more resistance among the faithful.
He reiterated that one must be prepared for a long struggle for faith.
“We want freedom of faith, we want order in the country, we want respect for the Constitution and the law. <…> We will fight for freedom of faith, and for freedom and honor of every person, for the honor and dignity of every citizen, each person, regardless of who he considers himself and which party he belongs to. We all need freedom and we need order in our country!” he said.