Retired bishop to establish “new church”?
BELGRADE — Retired Bishop Artemije has informed the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) that he will establish a “new church” if he is not allowed to run Raška-Prizren Eparchy.
The SPC is still in turmoil over the case of Bishop Artemije.
Less than a week ahead of the SPC assembly, the Synod received a letter from the retired bishop and his followers who threat to establish a new church in the spirit of St. Sava if Artemije is not allowed to return to his position as head of the Raška-Prizren Eparchy.
Bishop Artemije is refusing to accept the punishment imposed by the top church officials according to which he is not allowed to perform his duties as a priest.
It is expected that his threats will be the main topic of the SPC assembly which will begin on Wednesday. Even though the retired bishop does not have an alarming number of followers he still has significant support from his fellow bishops.
After forcing Artemije to retire, the SPC assembly sent him to the Šišatovac Monastery in the Srem Eparchy which is run by one of his supporters, Bishop Vasilije.
Bishop Artemije, however, did not want to comment on his letter to the Synod.
On the other hand, Patriarch Irinej is aware of the letter’s content and his cabinet expects the Synod to take a stand on the issue at today’s session. It is unclear whether they will announce their position today.
The patriarch is trying to maintain unity within the Church, says sociologist of religion Mirko Đorđević who expects that threats of the former bishop will therefore be the main topic of both this and the next assembly.
Artemije has support of the monks from the Crna Reka Monastery, known for using physical force and punishment in rehabilitation of drug addicts, and monks from Kosovo who are refusing to serve under new eparchy administration.
Bishop Artemije could still lose his rank in the church court due to insubordination and suspicions that he committed financial embezzlement while he was the head of the Raška-Prizren Eparchy.
He was first relieved of his duty in the eparchy in October of 2009 and was then forced to retire in May in order to avoid going to the church court.
Three days ago Artemije testified at a trial of his secretary who is charged with embezzling church money and said that everything had been done in accordance with the law in the Raška-Prizren Eparchy.