Police in Serbia have arrested a man suspected of stealing a precious religious icon from a well-known monk, the interior ministry said on Wednesday.

Father Simeon, a Serbian hermit who lives on Mount Athos in Greece, was receiving hospital treatment in the southern Serbian city of Nis.

“The suspect took advantage of the serious state of health of Father Simeon,” said Minister of Internal Affairs Ivica Dacic.

The icon – a piece of devotional artwork – was “more than two centuries old and whose value is estimated at 82 million Serbian dinars” ($760,000), Dacic added.

The suspect was arrested overnight from Monday to Tuesday in the southern town of Leskovac.

Authorities have not commented on how or where the icon was stolen but said it was found in the suspect’s apartment.

Father Simeon has since the 1970s been living on Mount Athos on the Athos peninsular in northeastern Greece.

It is known as an important centre for Orthodox Christian monasticism, forbidden to women and where monks live in isolation in cliff dwellings.

Dacic said that Father Simeon had inherited the icon from monks who lived before him on the peninsular.

Mount Athos holds profound significance for Serbia, whose population is majority Orthodox Christian, as it is home to numerous Serbian Orthodox monasteries.

Source: AFP