AGREEMENT SIGNED BY THE HOLY SEE AND MONTENEGRO
ADDRESS BY H.EM. CARD. TARCISIO BERTONE
Friday, 24 June 2011
Mr Prime Minister,
Today’s meeting marks a further stage of historic importance in relations between the Holy See and Montenegro. As is well known, on 19 June 2006 the Holy See recognized Montenegro’s return to the international community. On 16 December of that same year the two parties established formal diplomatic relations.
Today, five years later, certain measures of common interest for the life and activity of the Catholic community in Montenegro have been agreed upon. They concern, in particular, the recognition — in the civil sphere — of the public juridical personality of the Catholic Church and her principal institutions; the independence of the Catholic Church in worship and in the apostolate; and her specific contribution to various contexts of life in the country.
In spirit, therefore, this Agreement is in continuity with the Convention of 18 August 1886 between Leo xiii and Nicholas i, Prince of Montenegro, which was of great importance not only for the country but also for the entire region.
In recent months we have noted with pleasure the broad political consensus on this document, so it is to be hoped that it will now soon be possible to proceed with the discussion in Parliament and with its ratification. It is not out of place to emphasize that with this Agreement the Catholic Church does not seek privileges, even less at the expense of other religious denominations. She aims merely to define the juridical framework of the activity of the Catholic Church and her relations with the civil authority, in the context of the common good of the country.
Mr Prime Minister, I thank you for your words and for the noble sentiments you have expressed. We too are convinced that the Agreement represents a positive development in the consolidation of the State of Rights and democratic principles on which Montenegro wishes to base its future.
We are confident that it will also serve the country at the international level, confirming that Montenegro views religious communities with respect and gives due importance to the internationally recognized principles of law and in particular to the principle of religious freedom. In this perspective the document is a good for all religious bodies. We also hope that it will forward the process of European and Euro-Atlantic integration, for which Montenegro has been working hard in the past few months.
The Apostolic See ardently hopes that the Agreement will also inspire a strengthened mutual understanding and an ever more fruitful collaboration among religious communities for the good of the country in this important phase of its history.
Mr Prime Minister, on behalf of the Holy See I would like to thank the most senior state authorities and all who have contributed to the success of the negotiations. I would like to thank in particular H.E. Mr Antun Sbutega, Ambassador of Montenegro to the Holy See, and Archbishop Alessandro D’Errico, Apostolic Nuncio in Montenegro, who have carried out with great dedication and reciprocal trust the task of harmonizing the various proposals.
Our hope, which we accompany with fervent prayers, is that relations between the lofty contracting parties may continue to develop in future years and that the prescriptions of this international Agreement may serve the traditional peaceful coexistence in Montenegro, as well as the country’s integral development.