THOUSANDS of mourners defied Covid restrictions to pay their respects to the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Patiarch Irinej, in Belgrade, filing past and kissing his coffin. The 90-year-old Patriarch died from the coronavirus three weeks after presiding at the large public funeral of another senior cleric who had died from it.
On 1 November, Patriarch Irinej presided at the funeral of Metropolitan Amfilohije, who had died, aged 82, after contracting Covid-19. The Metropolitan had been sceptical about the risks of the virus, and had described pilgrimages as “God’s vaccine”, refusing to wear a mask. At the service in Montenegro, mourners filed past to kiss the body, which was left in an open coffin.
Patriarch Irinej was admitted to hospital three days afterwards. He was put on a ventilator two weeks later, and died last Friday.
His body lay in state in a glass coffin for two days before the funeral and mourners filed past to kiss the glass. Few of the thousands of mourners wore masks; nor did any of the clergy who presided at the funeral liturgy.
There has been a spike in coronavirus cases in Serbia and Montenegro in recent weeks. In northern Greece, where cases have also risen sharply, Metropolitan Ioannis of Lagadas died from Covid-19 after continuing with public liturgy. The head of the Greek Orthodox Church, Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens, has also been admitted to hospital with coronavirus symptoms.