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news 23 Apr 13

Serbian Church Removes Sex Scandal Bishop

After the leaks of a video and phone conversations showing Bishop Vasilije Kacavenda kissing another young priest, the Serbian Orthodox Church has relieved him of his duties.

BIRN
Belgrade

The Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church, its highest ruling body, on Monday said it had accepted the resignation of Vasilije Kacavenda as Bishop of Tuzla and Zvornik.

The bishop asked to resign in November 2012 for health reasons, according to the Church's statement. His resignation was provisionally accepted but he was asked to remain on until the end in May this year. He has served as Bishop since 1978.

While the 74-year-old told the daily newspaper Kurir on Tuesday that he was happy with the Synod's decision, his decision to step down has been linked to the release of a video in which he can be seen kissing a young man.

Other leaked telephone conversations show the Bishop arranging intimate encounters with other priests.

Amfilohije Radovic, Metropolitan of Montenegro and the Littoral, said that the bishop had no option but to go following release of the compromising videos.

"Bishop Vasilije was dismissed for health reasons, but, for the Church, health reasons are also moral and spiritual ones," Amfilohije said in an ambiguous statement on Tuesday.

However, Kacavenda maintains that he has done nothing wrong, and has said that he will sue all who have "smeared and slandered" him.

The Bishop had a controversial reputation before the alleged sex scandal broke out, owing to his hardline Serbian nationalism and alleged war-profiteering.

Kacavenda was closely involved with the Bosnian Serb army during the 1992-95 war in Bosnia and Herzegovina and was close to the former Bosnian Serb leaders Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, now both on trialin The Hague for war crimes.

He is widely remembered for his wartime anti-Muslim propaganda and for publicly blessing young soldiers going off to war against non-Serbs.

He also reportedly had several Muslim-owned houses razed for the purposes of building an imposing church and monastery in Bijeljina, where he moved the centre of the diocese from Tuzla.

The Serbian Orthodox Church rarely dismisses senior clerics. However, in May 2010, it removed Artemije Radosavljevic as bishop of the Raska and Prizren Diocese in Kosovo, over charges of embezzlement.

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