Serbia: Thousands mourn Patriarch Irinej amid Covid concerns

An orthodox believer mourns the late Serbian Patriarch Irinej in Belgrade, Serbia, 21 November 2020.

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Thousands of people in the Serbian capital Belgrade have been paying their respects to the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church who died after contracting Covid-19.

Patriarch Irinej tested positive for coronavirus early this month and died on Friday, aged 90.

He has been lying in state ahead of his funeral on Sunday. The Serbian government has declared three days of national mourning.

Serbian Army guardsmen carry the casket of Serbia's late Patriarch Irinej, who died after contracting COVID-19, in front of the Belgrade's Archangel Michael cathedral church, in Belgrade, Serbia, November 21, 2020.

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A priest delivers a service to the late Serbian Patriarch Irinej in Belgrade, Serbia, 21 November 2020.

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Doctors had called on mourners to observe coronavirus guidance amid a surge in cases in the country.

But thousands of people queued to pay their respects in churches in Belgrade.

Some wore face masks and observed social distancing as they mourned the loss of the late patriarch, while others did neither.

An orthodox believer lights a candle for the late Serbian Patriarch Irinej in Belgrade, Serbia, 21 November 2020.

image copyrightEPA

An orthodox believer mourns the late Serbian Patriarch Irinej in Belgrade, Serbia, 21 November 2020.

image copyrightEPA

The coffin had a glass cover to discourage worshippers from the traditional kissing of the patriarch’s hands and face, but some planted their lips on the glass screen, regardless.

At one church event, worshippers drank from the same communion spoon.

A member of the government’s coronavirus taskforce said the events were “something that no-one can ban”.

An orthodox believer pays last respect to the late Serbian Patriarch Irinej in Belgrade, Serbia, 21 November 2020.

image copyrightEPA

An orthodox faithfhul bends on the cross near the casket of late Serbian patriarch Irinej during his funeral service at Belgrade's cathedral on November 21, 2020 in Belgrade, Serbia.

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Patriarch Irinej was a conservative who also wielded major political influence.

He is the highest-ranking figure in the Eastern Orthodox Church to die from coronavirus.

He is thought to have contracted the disease at the funeral of the Church’s most senior cleric in Montenegro, 82-year-old Metropolitan Bishop Amfilohije Radovic, who also died of Covid-19 earlier this month.

The Church has an estimated 12 million followers.

Orthodox believers mourn the late Serbian Patriarch Irinej in Belgrade, Serbia, 21 November 2020.

image copyrightEPA

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