Common Roots: Ancient Evangelical Future Conference

Bishop accused in rape and murder of seminarian

A retired Serbian Orthodox bishop has been questioned by police in Bosnia on suspicion of raping and murdering a seminarian.

The Rt. Rev. Bishop Vasilije (Vasilije Kacavenda), the retired bishop of Tuzla-Zvornik is accused of raping a teenaged seminarian, Milic Blazanovic. He further stands accused of ordering the murder of the boy after the victim threatened to make the abuse public. A complaint filed by the boy’s mother and grandparents alleges the abuse took place over two years and ended on 23 May 1999 when Blazanovic was killed by a bomb blast.

Last month the Bosnian public prosecutor interviewed a deacon and the former abbot from Paprac Monastery, the scene of the murder, the Sarajevo daily Dnevni Avaz reported. The newspaper reports the two clergymen backed the allegations made by the boy’s family, prompting the police to question Bishop Vasilije. No charges have been filed so far as a result of the investigation.

A controversial figure within the Serbian Church, in 2013 Bishop Vasilije was forced to resign after Serbian tabloids published photographs of the bishop with male strippers and videos of homosexual orgies held at his episcopal residence in a lavish “golden room”.  The bishop also has been accused of promoting ethnic cleansing during the Bosnian civil war, with being an agent of the Communist government’s secret police, and with diverting church funds for his personal use.

Bishop Vasilije gained notoriety before his fall from power by his sumptuous lifestyle. In the aftermath of the Bosnian civil war, the bishop constructed a million dollar episcopal residence in Bijelijna in northeastern Bosnia, including a lavish salon costing nearly $400,000.

In April 2013 two clergymen announced they were suing Bishop Vasilije for making sexual advances toward them.  The bishop denied the charges, but other claimants and witnesses came forward corroborating the accusations, including seminarians and young priests who reported the bishop raped them.  The Belgrade newspaper Blic reported that 40 confirming witness statements were filed with the Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church about Bishop Vasilije. Photos and videos taken at the parties were also made public and the bishop resigned his post on 22 April 2013.

After he stepped down from office, investigations by the Serbian and Bosnian press revealed Bishop Vasilije had been a spy for the Communist government’s State Security Administration, the UDBA.

According to extracts of his police dossier published by the Serbian press, Bishop Vasilije was detained by the secret police in 1960 when he was a young priest after he was caught in a compromising situation. Fr. Vasilije agreed to become an informant – code named PABLO – and for the next thirty years kept tabs on his fellow clergy for the UDBA. In 1978 he was appointed a bishop and is alleged to have reported on the political views and personal affairs of the clergy and prominent laymen of his diocese and members of the Synod of Bishops.

A strong Serbian nationalist, Bishop Vasilije was an ally of Serbian warlord Ratko Mladic. On 13 July 1995 during the battle for Srebrenica the bishop was reported to have urged Mladic’s Army of Republika Srpska to take “revenge on the Turks,” for our “blood cries for vengeance.” Over 7000 Muslim civilians were killed after the town was captured by Mladic’s troops

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