February 14, 1994 Vreme News Digest Agency No 125

Montenegro

The Hand

The Belgrade daily ``Politika Ekspres'' has discovered that three very important relics are being kept in Cetinje, relics which can bring their owner great power and influence in the world. The matter concerns John the Baptist's left hand, a piece of the Cross on which Jesus was crucified, and an icon encrusted with jewels and painted by the Apostle Luke himself. According to ``Politika Ekspres'' these relics were in the possession of the Knights of Malta, after which they passed to Byzantium, the Romanoff dynasty and via them to the Karadjordjevic dynasty (through a Belgian princess) ending up in Cetinje where King Petar II left them when fleeing from the Germans in 1941. According to ``Politika Ekspres'' and ``Vecernje Novosti,'' the relics were hidden with a part of the Royal Treasury, but were found by the Yugoslav Secret Police in the Fifties. The gold was confiscated in the name of the people, while the relics were later handed over to the Museum in Cetinje. The hand and bit of the Cross were then taken to the Monastery of Ostrog where they remained until their discovery by an ``Ekspres'' journalist.

It is a well known fact that the first icons were painted a few centuries after Christ's death and consequently, long after Luke's death. The French author and philosopher, Francois Voltaire said two hundred years ago, that if all the bits and pieces of the Sacred Cross that the Church claimed as authentic, were to be brought together, a sailing boat could be built out of them. Debates are still going strong over the hand. Art historian Mladen Lompar who had the opportunity of seeing it when he was mounting an exhibition of the monastery's treasury said that ``it looked so disgusting that we had to cover it.'' Ljubo Kapisoda, the former director of the Institute for the Protection of Montenegro's Historical Monuments recalls that ``it didn't even look like a hand,'' and added sarcastically ``that it may turn out in the end that John the Baptist was a Serb.''

Metropolitan Amfilohije of the Serbian Orthodox Church does not doubt the authenticity of the relic and believes that this discovery is an omen from the Lord. The Metropolitan says: ``As a nation, we have been crucified. The Lord wants us to do something big. It remains to be seen if we will answer His call. The destiny of the world is in our hands. Something big is about to happen and we must pray to this hand to help us endure.''

In the meantime, Liberal Alliance deputy Dragan Ivancevic asked the following question in the Montenegrin Assembly: ``What has the Montenegrin Government, or rather the Ministry of Tourism done to prepare Montenegro for the influx of pilgrims from all over the world? This discovery puts Cetinje on the map as a Holy City on par with Jerusalem, Kiev or Rome. All this must result in substantial financial gains for Montenegro.''

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