Belgrade - There has been very little of turn thy cheek or love thy neighbour in the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) over the turbulent past year, but instead, plenty of fighting, backstabbing and hostility.
In Belgrade, the capricious hardline Kosovo Bishop Artemije openly went against the Holy Synod, the church government, when it tried to restrain his heavy-handed tactics which led to fistfights among monks in the holy Visoki Decani monastery.
To the west, two years after the tiny republic Montenegro claimed independence from Serbia, its clergy also wants to break away from Belgrade's rule.
There, in the northern town Niksic, police had to intervene against pro-Serbian demonstrators blocking the symbolic start of labour on a monastery of the splinter-church.
Through it all, the ailing, 94-year-old nead of the SPC, Patriarch Pavle, helplessly watched from his hospital bed, while bishops have started jockeying for position to grab his throne.
At the centre of all crises stands Bishiop Amfilohije, 70, the head of the SPC in Montenegro and the young state's public enemy number one, as well as Artemije's rival and the most likely heir to Pavle.
The liberal Belgrade weekly Vreme described Amfilohije - who hotly supported Serbia in all wars of the 90s from the position of far- right nationalism - as a 'robed warrior.'
War 'fascinates' Amfilohije, who sees it as 'Man's destiny,' and who has 'dragged God's name into the bloody Balkan mudbath in which all human values were lost,' the paper commented.
'Amfilohije is a misfortune ... hiding behind God's words and devil's acts,' the Montenegrin parliament speaker Ranko Krivokapic thundered in remarks against the bearded priest in an interview with the Sarajevo weekly Dani.
It was 'major pity' that the UN war crimes tribunal did not indict 'warmongers' from the Serbian church, Krivokapic said, while accusing Amfilohije of standing 'for extreme nationalism, sheltering of war criminals amd propaganda for crime and fratricide.'
The bishop responded in kind, saying the voters would punish Krivokapic's 'parasitic' Social Democratic Party, a junior member of the ruling coalition, and 'send it to history.'
A resident of Montenegro's old, highland capital Cetinje, Amfilohije also lambasted the country's police as 'unprofessional' over its arrest of 65 Serbs who blocked the Montenegrin Mitropolite Mihajlo from laying a cornerstone for the new monastery in Niksic.
In an open letter to the interior ministry he called Mihajlo, the head of the breakway church, 'a damned ex-priest.'
The bitterness of Serb priests at their Montenegrin brethren exploded in the wake of the effort by the latter to regain their self-government, which they voluntarily ceded after having it for centuries, by joining SPC when Yugoslavia was formed 90 years ago in the aftermath of World War I.
Along with independence, the Montegerin priests also want to retrieve all property, churches and monasteries, which had been run by SPC since the end of the war.
A similarly tense scenario has been unfolding south of Serbia, in Macedonia, another former Yugoslav republic, where the orthodox church has been trying to become autocephalic since the 1960s.
New moves by the Macedonian church, unrecognized and anathemized by SPC, are expected when its assembly meets next month.
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