Serbian church leader dies from COVID-19 after leading open-casket funeral for cleric killed by virus

The late Serbian Patriarch Irinej passed away of November 20, 2020. (Serbian Orthodox Church)

Head of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Irinej died Friday from COVID-19   just two weeks after leading a large open-casket funeral for the most senior cleric in neighboring Montenegro who also died from the virus the church announced.

“The Archbishop of Pec, Metropolitan of Belgrade-Karlovci and Serbian Patriarch (Gavrilovic) reposed in the Lord in the Military Covid Hospital ‘Karaburma’ in Belgrade, on Friday, November 20, 2020, at 7:07 a.m. All other details regarding the funeral of His Holiness the Patriarch will be announced soon. Eternal memory and the Kingdom of Heaven!” church officials said in a statement on the passing of their 90-year-old leader.

An earlier joint statement from the Serbian Orthodox Church and the country’s Ministry of Defense said Irinej, was admitted to the Military COVID Hospital “Karaburma” on Nov. 4 after he tested positive for COVID-19. They reported that he was “generally feeling well, asymptomatic and without fever” and was there for “medical supervision and control.”

In the days that followed however, Irinej’s condition deteriorated.

Days before he was hospitalized, Irinej, who was born Miroslav Gavrilovic on August 27, 1930, gathered with thousands of unmasked mourners for the funeral of Montenegro’s most senior bishop, Metropolitan Amfilohije Radovic who died from the new coronavirus at 82. Despite the threat of infection however, video from the event showed mourners kissing his body.

Irinej who was the 45th leader of the Serbian Orthodox Church, was elevated to that role in 2010 and was a major political force, The New York Times reported.

Serbia’s president, Aleksandar Vucic, expressed deep condolences on Irinej’s passing.

“Today, Serbia and the whole of Serbia are mourning. Our Patriarch, a quiet and peaceful, noble and peace-loving man, our responsible spiritual shepherd, has passed away,” Vucic said in a statement Friday.

“The man we would all like to be and the way our faith teaches us to be has died. Only great peoples can produce great men. The great ones are born and live in their people, never higher than them and in everything submissive to their benefit and progress. Great people do not master, they serve. Their choice is not any side but the whole of people,” he said. “They are patient with doubts, calm in tension and peaceful in every division and difference. Slow in words and quick in kindness. And when we do not see them, we know that they are there, we feel the power of their commitment to their family, homeland and their faith.”

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