July 28, 2012

London, President Vujanović Honoured
Tonight in London, at Gala dinner, in presence of high dignitaries, the President of Montenegro, Filip Vujanović, received the highest honour - Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Order of Francis I – which is awarded by the Constantinian Order of Saint George. The Constantinian Order of Saint George is the oldest chivalric order, founded in the year of 312, by Roman Emperor Constantine the Great. The Order is engaged in advocacy of ecumenism and promotion of dialogue amongst religious organizations as well as in the sphere of humanitarian activities. Among other things, the Order provided a significant humanitarian assistance in the entire territory of the former Yugoslavia, in particular those affected by war. The success in the activities of the Order is recognized by the United Nations, which granted the Order a Consultative Status in this organization.

In outlining the reasons for the award, a great contribution of President Vujanović to ecumenical dialogue, strengthening of ties between Montenegro and Vatican, and enhancing values of democracy and promotion of civic freedoms was highlighted, as well as his commitment to policy of peace, stability and cooperation in the South East Europe.
The President expressed a high appreciation to the activities of the Order and a gratitude for the award.

This award is presented also to the President of Panama, Ricardo Berrocal, President of the Commonwealth of Dominica Nicholas Liverpool and His Royal Highness Crown Prince Tupouto’a ‘Ulukalala of the Kingdom of Tonga.

The Ambassador of Montenegro, Prof Ljubiša Stanković and the Ambassadors of Panama and the Commonwealth of Dominica were presented with special recognition awards for successful diplomatic mission in Great Britain.

The following is the text of the speech given by the President:

Your Royal Highness, Your Excellency, distinguished guests,

It is my great honour to be a guest at this royal gala dinner and to receive the high decoration of a Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Order of Francis I from Your Royal Highness in your capacity as Grand Master of the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George - one of the oldest and most prestigious Orders of Knighthood in existence today.

According to the tradition, it is actually the oldest order of chivalry founded in 312 by the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great, who made history in 313 when he recognized Christianity as the legal religion of the Empire, by the Edict of Milan. Constantine’s origins were from the Balkans, and next year the jubilee of 1700 years of the Edict of Milan is celebrated, which is important not only for Christianity, but also for the creation of the European civilization.

Montenegro, which was a part of the Roman Empire from the 2nd century B.C., received Christianity at that time, so this great jubilee is also celebrated there. In addition, the cult of Saint George, the patron saint of knights, is also very strong in Montenegro as is the tradition of knighthood which the Montenegrin people understood only to well and which caused them to defend its freedom and its identity during its long and dramatic history.

In addition, this noble Order has a much-valued ecumenical character since the Byzantine Emperor Isaac Angel played an important role in its history in the 12th century. Montenegro has promoted itself as an ecumenical state and as a place for fruitful inter-religious dialogue among Orthodox Christianity, Catholicism and Islam, demonstrating that it shares the fundamental values of European civilization.

The activities of your Order around the world and in particular during the past 10 years in the Balkans and Montenegro are much appreciated and valued. Your recognition by many governments across the world and the granting of Consultative Status at the United Nations last year is a further signal of the high regard which the international community holds for your Order and its goodworks.

In the presence of such senior Catholic leaders, I wish also to particularly emphasize the active and fruitful relations which exist between Montenegro and the Holy See and the worldwide Catholic Church, to which this Order is closely associated.

Last month, I had the honour and pleasure to meet in the Vatican City, for the third time, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI and to exchange with the Secretary of State, Cardinal Bertone the instruments of ratification for the Basic Agreement between Montenegro and the Holy See, which was signed last year. Thereby, Montenegro became the first predominantly Orthodox state which signed such an agreement with the Holy See. In line with the same principles, we signed similar agreements with the Islamic and Jewish religious communities, thereby confirming that the peaceful coexistence and cooperation among religious, cultural and ethnic communities is the cornerstone of our society. This has been recognized by the European Union and the accession negotiations with Montenegro were recently initiated.

Your Royal Highness, Your Excellency, distinguished guests,

I consider this honour not only as an acknowledgement of my own work in this area, but also an honour being bestowed on the state and people whose President I am. It is pleasing that the knights and dames of this Order, as well as the citizens of Montenegro do not have to defend the values of Christianity and the European civilization by arms, sacrificing their lives, as in the past, but by spreading their fundamental values, brotherly love, justice, freedom, assistance to those most in need within our society, hospital care, peace and cooperation with all people of good will.

I thank Your Royal Highness and Your Excellency once again for this important acknowledgment, which I consider an additional stimulus and encouragement in fostering the high common ideals, which we all here today commonly share.

Thank you.

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