London, 28 July 2012. His Excellency Mr Filip Vujanović, President of Montenegro, was invested as a Knight Grand Cross into the internationally recognised Royal Order of Francis I at an Investiture ceremony presided held at Stationers’ Hall in London. The Grand Master of the Order, HRH Prince Carlo of Bourbon Two Sicilies, Duke of Castro presided.
The Order’s Grand Magistral Delegate for Inter-Religious Relations and Delegate for Great Britain and Ireland, HE Mr Anthony Bailey, OBE, GCSS, delivered an opening speech outlining the reasons for the award.
“His Excellency is an outstanding peacemaker, working tirelessly to heal the wounds of the Balkans’ recent past; I am delighted to say that the Order has very strong links with Montenegro and the Balkans, funding projects which the Holy See developed there as part of a significant deepening of relations between the Churches and other faith communities in Serbia, Montenegro and Kosovo during past 10 years.”
“With a recent agreement ratified between the Holy See and Montenegro, President Vujanović has confirmed his reputation as a builder of tolerance and understanding, especially between the majority Orthodox and minority Catholic Churches in his country.”
“We are delighted also to make this award because of the very special anniversary to be celebrated next year – the 1700th anniversary of the Edict of Milan, which under Emperor Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire and proclaimed tolerance of all religions. Constantine the Great was from the Balkans, but there is a British connection too – for he was crowned in York in the north of England. Your Excellency, we look forward to continuing and deepening our collaboration with you and Montenegro and your people in the years to come.”
“It is therefore my great pleasure to invite Your Excellency to stand and receive the Insignia of a Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Order of Francis I.”
His Excellency Mr Filip Vujanović, President of Montenegro gave a short speech after his investiture.
“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.”
“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.”
An additional Benemerenti Medal was granted to HE Prof Dr Ljubiša Stanković, Ambassador of Montenegro the Court of St James’s.
The ceremony was attended by over 250 leading state, faith, diplomatic, and parliamentary figures from across the world.
A Guard of Honour by the Company of Pikemen and Musketeers of the Honourable Artillery Company, Body Guards to the Rt Hon the Lord Mayor of the city of London were on parade by permission of the Captain Commanding.
To watch the speech, click here.