Serbian Church Files Charges Against Defrocked Bishop
Serbia’s powerful Orthodox Church has filed criminal charges against the defrocked Bishop Artemije, the former leader of the church in Kosovo, in a scandal that has rocked the institution.
Serbian Interior Minister Ivica Dacic said that his Ministry delivered charges filed by the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) against Artemije to the prosecutor’s office on Saturday.
He told reporters that the police had no intention of interfering in religious affairs and were only acting on the church’s property protection claims.
The church defrocked the bishop and filed the charges after Artemije held mass at a monastery in Kosovo, where he had served as bishop until he was forced to retire in May after several close associates were found guilty of embezzlement.
The Holy Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) appointed Bishop Teodosije as its new leader in Kosovo, replacing Artemije, on November 18.
The polemic surrounding Artemije is one of the biggest scandals to hit Serbia’s powerful Church in years, and there have been many reports that a schism is likely.
Artemije and about 80 of his followers are reportedly staying at a hotel in the central Serbian town of Kraljevo after being escorted from the monastery by police on November 19.
In an interview with Belgrade daily Vecernje Novosti, Artemije said that the decision of the Serbian Orthodox Church to defrock him was unconstitutional, violates the church’s canon and is of no significance. He told the newspaper that he would remain what he was – bishop of the diocese.
“I did not separate from anyone. I remain in union with the one holy, Catholic and apostolic church, as well as with the apostles, the Holy Fathers, Saint Sava, Bishop Nikolai, the father of Justin and all Orthodox Christians who respect the religious order,” the daily quoted him as saying.