- Patriarch Irinej of the Eastern Orthodox Serbs died of COVID-19 at the age of 90.
- He is believed to have contracted the virus at the open-casket funeral service of one of the church’s top clerics.
- Photos and footage of the said service show him and other clerics without masks.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Serbia has had 104,097 coronavirus cases and 1,110 deaths, according to a Serbia Ministry of Health report.
Eastern Orthodox Serbs are now grieving as its head, Patriarch Irinej, died in a Belgrade hospital on Friday from the dreaded coronavirus. He was 90.
Throughout Serbia, church bells rang out in mourning as the news of Irinej’s death spread. The faithful offered prayers and lit candles for Patriarch Irinej.
Irinej, whose full name is Miroslav Gavrilovic, was born on August 27, 1930, in Vidova, Serbia. He became the patriarch following the death of Patriarch Pavle in 2009. He was enthroned as the Eastern Orthodox Serbs’ spiritual leader in January of 2010.
Patriarch Irinej paid his respects to one of the church’s top clerics in Montenegro, Metropolitan Amfilohije Radović, who also died of COVID-19, and led an open-casket funeral service.
Following custom, all throughout the service, Metropolitan Amfilohije’s body was displayed in an open casket and then interred afterward in the crypt of the church in Podgorica, Montenegro.
Photos and videos show that there was a huge crowd both inside and outside the church, and social distancing and wearing of masks was not followed. As customary, some mourners even kissed the deceased cleric’s forehead and hands.
All those who celebrated the mass did not wear any mask, including Irinej.
Just three days after, Irinej tested positive for the coronavirus and was admitted to the hospital. His condition worsened and he had to be intubated, according to an earlier statement of the Serbian Orthodox Church.
Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic posted a photo of Irinej on Instagram and confirmed his death, with the caption: “I was honored to know you. People like you never depart.”
Patriarch Irinej will be laid to rest on Sunday and the Serbian Government has already declared three days of nationwide mourning.