A Serbian Orthodox bishop has criticized a large-scale LGBTQ event scheduled to be held in Belgrade next month, making comments that appeared to condone violence against participants.
Nikanor Bogunovic, the prelate of the Serbian Orthodox Church and the bishop of Banat, a diocese in northeastern Serbia, vowed to “curse” all those who attended the EuroPride, a six-day long festival taking place from Sept. 12-18.
“I will curse all those who organize and participate in such a thing,” Bogunovic said in a statement on August 11, according to the Orthodox Times. “I can do so much. If I had a gun, I would use it, I would use this power if I had it, but I don’t have it.”
In a video posted to YouTube, Bogunovic is seen standing in front of a church and addressing the faithful. “EuroPride participants will come to Belgrade and desecrate the city of Belgrade, the holy Serbian city. We raise our voice against such people.”
This is not the first time that Bogunovic has made controversial statements. At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, for example, he called on Orthodox Christians to ignore government restrictions on attending Church services, calling the Church “the best hospital” and Holy Communion “the best medicine.”
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said that he understands the position of the Serbian Orthodox Church in terms of its opposition of homosexuality. He also noted that official permission to hold a Pride parade during EuroPride has not yet been issued, according to Christian Network Europe News.
But Vucic also criticized Bogunovic for comments he made targeting Prime Minister Ana Brnabic, who is openly gay.
“The bishop has insulted and humiliated himself and our Church much more than Ana Brnabic or anyone else,” Vucic said in an interview with Serbian broadcaster Prva TV.
Brnabic called for national unity in response to the comments, reports MSN.
“Now we have to fight for Serbia. We cannot afford to fight among ourselves,” Brnabic said during an interview for the Serbian Pink TV channel.
Brnabic pointed out that Serbs should be focused on efforts to resolve lingering tensions between Serbia and Kosovo, the former Serbian province that declared its independence in 2008, in an effort to ensure peace in the Balkans, stating: “We have to give all our support to the president of Serbia, who will fight in the talks in Brussels so that we can have peace.”
Vucic and Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti met in Brussels last week to discuss issues of contention, but failed to reach any agreement on a number of longstanding issues, including border security and Serbia’s refusal to recognize Kosovo’s independence, according to The Associated Press.
But it seems some in Serbia are taking the bishop’s words more seriously.
Just a few days after Bogunovic’s comment, on August 14, tens of thousands of people marched through the streets of Belgrade, carrying signs and uttering offensive chants about the LGBTQ community to protest the idea of allowing a Pride parade. The protest was organized by the far-right Zaventnici (Oathkeepers) party, along with Orthodox and Serbian nationalist organizations. Demonstrators reportedly chanted lines like: “We will not allow a gay parade and the occupation of the West” and “Hands off our children.”
Milica Dzhurdzhevich, a member of parliament from the Zaventnici party, called the protest “dignified, peaceful, and Christian.”
“The people do not want Euro-garbage in Serbia. This is a signal,” she said of the protest.
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