Mourners say farewell to head of Serbian Orthodox Church

Nov. 21 (UPI) — Thousands of mourners paid respect to the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church Saturday following his death of COVID-1.

Patriarch Irinej, 90, died Friday in a Belgrade hospital after contracting the virus earlier this month.

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Irinej conducted an open-casket funeral service for the church’s top cleric in Montenegro, Metropolitan Amfilohije Radović, Nov. 1, and tested positive for COVID-19 three days later.

Irinej has been lying in state in advance of his funeral Sunday, and the Serbian government has declared three days of national mourning.

On Friday, Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic posted a photo on Irinej on Instagram with the caption: “I was honored to know you. People like you never depart.”

While doctors cautioned mourners to observe coronavirus safety guidelines, and Irinej’s coffin had a glass cover to discourage worshippers from kissing the patriarch’s hands and face, some kissed the coffin regardless — and, at one church event, worshippers drank from the same communion spoon.

Some mourners wore face masks and practiced social distancing as they gathered in churches to grieve, but some did neither.

Irinej himself did not wear a mask while conducting Radović’s service earlier this month, and neither did any of the other priests taking part in the liturgy.

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