/* */ Rosa Rubicondior: Covidiot News - The Orthodox Patriarch, Prayer and Covid-19

Monday, 23 November 2020

Covidiot News - The Orthodox Patriarch, Prayer and Covid-19

Mourners kissed the glass cover on Patriarch Irinej's coffin, despite the risk of Covid-19.
Serbia: Thousands mourn Patriarch Irinej amid Covid concerns - BBC News

Mourners at the funeral of Patriarch Irinej, the head of the Serbian Orthodox church, today, mostly wore face-masks and observed sensible social distancing - apart that is from the priests who conducted the service. They declined to wear face-masks, despite the fact that Patriarch Irinej died of Covid-19, probably contracted when he conducted the service at the funeral of the Orthodox Church's most senior cleric in Montenegro, 82-year-old Metropolitan Bishop Amfilohije Radovic, who also died of Covid-19 earlier this month.

In line with tradition, many mourners kissed the glass covering over the dead patriarch's face, placed there to prevent them kissing his face and hands. Some even drank from the same communion spoon, believing their prayers and piety would keep them safe!

Patriarch Irinej, aged 90, was a conservative and was politically highly influential. He tested positive for Covid-19 three weeks ago, a few days after kissing the face and hands of the dead Metropolitan Amfilohije Radovic, at his funeral at the end of October. Those attending the funeral of Radovic had agreed to ignore the dangers from the coronavirus and abide by the tradition of walking up to the open coffin and kissing the hands and forehead of the dead priest.

Initially, Irinej's office issued a statement which said "His Holiness is hospitalised in a Covid-19 hospital in Belgrade. [He remains] without symptoms and is in excellent health." On 14th November his condition was described as "stable and under control during hospitalization". On 19th November the Serbian Orthodox Church officially refuted press reports of his death, despite press claims of 'reliable sources', but announced he was dead on 20th.

Coronavirus daily new cases, Serbia

Metropolitan Amfilohije was a notable coronavirus sceptic who foreswore wearing face-masks and recommended pilgrimages instead, describing them as "God's Vaccine". In addition to Patriarch Irinej, several other attendees at Amfilohije funeral were also reported to have contracted the virus and Amfilohije's successor was said to be suffering from "mild pneumonia".

Although ostensibly favouring inter-religious dialogue, Patriarch Irinej was a Serbian nationalist and advocate of 'Greater Serbia' who described the independence of Kosovo as a 'sin' and referred to Republika Srpska as a Serbian state - repeating the Serbian territorial claim to it that had precipitated the Serbia/Bosnia war following the breakup of former Yugoslavia. Republika Srpska is an ethnically Serbian-dominated autonomous part of the Federation of Bosnia and Hertzegovinia, which emerged as a compromise from the war.

During that conflict, a Serbian Nationalist and Greek Orthodox Volunteer militia occupied the town of Srebrenica and murdered 8,000 Bosniak men and boys in what a war-crimes trial later established was an act of genocide. The Serbian and Greek Orthodox churches had strongly supported the Serbians in the war against the mainly Moslem Bosniaks.
Having initially downplayed the seriousness of the coronavirus pandemic, Serbia's Orthodox leaders are now appealing for people to take it seriously. Patriarch Irinej and Metropolitan Amfilohije are just two of a large and growing number of religious clerics who have told their followers that prayer and pious deeds will save them, or even that the virus only infects the ungodly, only to have themselves then died of Covid-19.

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