(Source: B92) ZUBIN POTOK — Retired Bishop Artemije served liturgy at a SPC monastery in Kosovo today, despite the Holy Synod’s decision to prohibit him from performing his priest duties.
About 50 monks and believers who support him arrived to the Duboki Potok monastery during the night and this morning.
During Friday, Artemije’s followers also occupied the Devine Vode monastery in northern Kosovo. Artemije’s replacement Teodosije, appointed yesterday in Belgrade, is said to have urgently returned to the province.
Priors from several other monasteries in Kosovo came to Duboki Potok this morning, and the ceremony went without incidents or problems, according to reports.
Bishop Artemije arrived to the monastery last night, accompanied by monks who support him, and was greeted by the faithful.
The decision to go to Duboki Potok followed after the Holy Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) appointed Bishop Teodosije as new administrator of the Raška-Prizren Eparchy instead of Bishop Artemije.
Bishop Artemije refuses to accept the decision and claims that it is not canonical.
Artemije was forced to retire because of allegations that one of his advisors defrauded the eparchy, and was first temporarily forbidden to perform his duties as a priest at the previous assembly of the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC).
Today in Duboki Potok, the retired bishop addressed after the service those who attended:
“We are gathered here to lay a new foundation, to bring back order, peace and unity into the Raška-Prizren Eparchy, which has been going through a Golgotha for the past nine months.”
“We have not separated from anyone, we are no schismatics, and we are not creating anything new. We are simply striving to maintain what our glorious forefathers and ancestors have left us,” said Artemije.
The bishop said that he expected new attacks against him and the monks loyal to him, but that he felt no fear.
“Every new beginning is difficult, every awakening comes from the desert, and this is one of those deserts of ours, where we are gathered now. Instead of in the church, in the temple of God, we are here at this narrow table, because those who have the power have ordered that we cannot enter the church,” said he, and compared today’s service to those held by early Christians.
“Temples are certainly consecrated places for religious service, but in a predicament even the Roman catacombs were holy places. Let us guard our faith and unity with the Holy and Apostolic Church, and then God will bless our homes, our villages and towns, our Kosovo and Metohija, and our whole country,” Artemije said.
The abbot of the monastery, Romilo, first refused to hand Artemije over the keys, but his monk Kiprijan threatened the abbot, “and took two cell phones, and keys to one cell and his car”, said the eparchy in its statement, adding that Romilo was “to all intents and purposes a hostage, because Artemije’s followers to all intents and purposes occupied the monastery”.
Father Romilo was in his cell, did not attend the service, and did not wish to speak to reporters.
Meanwhile in Belgrade, SPC sources told B92 that the bishop will likely be defrocked today, “since he has followed in the footsteps of Miraš Dedeić, the so-called metropolitan of the canonically unrecognized Montenegrin Orthodox Church”.
Church: Attempt at usurpation
In the meantime, administrations of the Raška-Prizren Eparchy and Kosovo-Metohija Eparchy has issued an announcement, stating that retired Bishop Artemije’s intent to serve today at the Duboki potok monastery represents “usurpation”.
The eparchy says that Artemije came to the monastery last night unannounced “together with a group of runaway monks and a group of activists of so-called Serbian National Council of Kosovo and Metohija led by Milan Ivanović and Dragan Velić, without knowledge and blessing of the SPC Holy Assembly of Bishops”.
The announcement adds that Bishop Artemije “is retired and that every unauthorized serving of liturgy and abuse of SPC premises represents the crudest violation of the church canon and rules”.
The Raška-Prizren Eparchy has announced that the clergy of the eparchy and monks living in the eparchy monasteries are completely loyal to their newly appointed administrator Bishop Teodosije who is supported by the Holy Assembly of Bishops and Patriarch Irinej.