Serbia’s leading religious figure has contracted coronavirus, days after attending a large public funeral for a senior bishop who died of Covid-19.
Patriarch Irinej, the 90-year-old head of the Serbian Orthodox Church, was admitted to hospital on Wednesday.
He led the funeral of the church’s most senior cleric in Montenegro, 82-year-old Amfilohije Radovic, on Sunday.
Mourners gathered at the event without masks and many kissed the bishop’s body as it lay in an open coffin.
This was despite a major spike in coronavirus cases in both Serbia and Montenegro, and a warning from the authorities that the event posed a risk to public health.
Amfilohije, who died on Friday, described pilgrimages as “God’s vaccine” and avoided wearing a mask.
As well as Patriarch Irinej, several other people who attended the funeral are believed to have contracted Covid-19. Amfilohije’s successor, meanwhile, was said to be suffering with “mild pneumonia”.
Montenegro’s Prime Minister-designate Zdravko Krivokapic and Serbia’s president also attended the event in Podgorica, Montenegro.
“His Holiness is hospitalised in a Covid-19 hospital in Belgrade,” Patriach Irinej’s office said in a statement. “[He remains] without symptoms and is in excellent health.”
Coronavirus has so far infected 53,495 people and killed 850 in Serbia, a country of 7.2 million. Montenegro, with a population of 620,000, has so far reported 326 deaths and 20,581 infections.
The Serbian Orthodox Church has about 12 million followers, mainly in Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia.