Thousands pay homage as Serbia’s Patriarch is laid to rest after dying of COVID-19

Thousands of mourners paid homage on Sunday to the leader of Serbia’s Orthodox Christian Church who died of COVID-19 last week.

Ninety-year-old Patriarch Irinej tested positive for the virus soon after presiding over the funeral of his number two, who also fell victim to coronavirus, at a ceremony in which basic safety measures were neglected.

This time, the church stuck to strict sanitary precautions.

Mourners were allowed inside the church during the liturgy but were banned from approaching the Patriarch’s coffin. Three days of official mourning were declared after his death on Friday.

The vast majority of the Balkan country’s seven million people are Orthodox Christians.

Two giant screens were installed outside the Church of Saint Sava, the biggest Orthodox temple in the Balkans, so that the faithful could follow the ceremony, after which the Patriarch’s body was due to laid to rest in the crypt.

Serbia is currently facing the biggest health crisis since the epidemic erupted in March, recording record numbers of infections and deaths on an almost daily basis last week.

The country’s health service is under severe pressure. For the past week, there have been no hospital beds in the capital Belgrade, the worst-hit region of Serbia.

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