Serbian church replaces Kosovo bishop

Belgrade, Serbia - The Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) has removed Bishop Artemije, accused of financial abuse, as the head of the troubled Kosovo eparchy, Belgrade newspapers said Wednesday.

Artemije was suspended and provisionally replaced by another bishop, Atanasije, already in February. It remains unclear whether the SPC Synod now fired Artemije or sent him into retirement.

The church did not officially clarify by Wednesday morning.

Artemije ran the Kosovo eparchy defiantly. He often clashed with other bishops and was hostile in toward Pristina authorities and international officials.

Atanasije uncovered widespread abuse and Artemije's aide, Simeon Violovski, was arrested in March in Greece on an international warrant issued by Serbia in connection with violations.

Kosovo, with its majority Albanian population, declared independence from Serbia with Western support in 2008. Serbia, which sees the former province as the cradle of the nation, refuses to accept the secession and is fighting it legally and diplomatically.

According to newspapers Blic and Press, the heated debate on Artemije showed that deep divisions in the SPC leadership, which became fully exposed when it was electing a new head, still remain.

Bishop Irinej was elected the new patriarch in February, following the death of his predecessor, Pavle.