Church head who led open-casket funeral of bishop killed by Covid-19 succumbs to Covid-19

The head of a Serbian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Irinej, died at a Belgrade hospital on Friday after contracting coronavirus, according to a statement from the church.

90-year-old Irinej led an open-casket funeral service for the church’s top cleric in Montenegro, Metropolitan Amfilohije Radović, on November 1.

Amfilohije’s body had been displayed in an open casket during the service before being interred in the crypt of the church in Podgorica, Montenegro.

The Serbian Orthodox Church has about 12 million followers, mainly in Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia.

A large crowd had gathered in front of the crowded church, with only a few of the attendees inside the building wearing face coverings. Video of the service showed mourners kissing the deceased cleric’s hands and forehead, as is custom.

None of the priests, including Irinej, who performed the liturgy, wore masks.

Three days after leading the ceremony, Irinej was admitted to hospital after testing positive for Covid-19.

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

Born Miroslav Gavrilovic on August 27, 1930, Irinej was enthroned as the spiritual leader of Eastern Orthodox Serbs in 2010.