The leader of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Irinej, died of the coronavirus on Friday, according to the church, three weeks after he attended a packed funeral for a senior bishop who had died after contracting the virus.
Patriarch Irinej, 90, was admitted to a military hospital in Serbia on Nov. 4, just days after he and thousands of unmasked people gathered in neighboring Montenegro to honor the country’s most senior bishop, Metropolitan Amfilohije Radovic, whose body lay in an open coffin.
Video from the event showed mourners kissing his body.
The majority of Serbia’s population of seven million identify themselves as Orthodox Christians, and Patriarch Irinej, born Miroslav Gavrilovic and enthroned as the 45th leader of the church in 2010, was a major political force in the Balkan country. He opposed Serbia’s joining the European Union unless the nation’s “culture and religion” were respected. And he was outspoken in his condemnation of both abortion and gay rights. “A woman’s duty is to give birth in order to regenerate the nation,” he once told a local newspaper.
He was also one of the few conservative clerics open to a possible rapprochement with the Roman Catholic Church to resolve historical animosity.
In 2019, as protests swept across Serbia to oppose the autocratic drift of the country’s president, Aleksandar Vucic, he condemned the tens of thousands who took to the streets.
On Friday, Mr. Vucic paid tribute to Patriarch Irinej on Instagram.
“It was an honor to know you,” Mr. Vucic wrote. “People like you never depart.”
After having largely avoided widespread outbreaks of coronavirus in the spring, several Balkan countries, including Serbia, have faced a surge in cases in recent weeks. Serbia reported a record 6,109 new daily cases on Thursday, which likely understated the level of infection because of sporadic testing.
Last week, Serbia began fining people who fail to comply with the government restrictions, which include mandatory mask wearing.
In Montenegro, where the virus has also been spreading rapidly, is halfway through a two-week overnight curfew, with people barred from leaving their homes between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. except for essential work and “medical and humanitarian needs.”
In other news around the world:
A state-owned drugmaker in China reported promising results for one of its two vaccine candidates after administering doses to nearly a million people outside of the traditional testing process, as part of an emergency-use policy. The chairman of the company, Sinopharm, told local news media on Tuesday that only a few people had reported mild symptoms from one of the vaccines, and that no one had suffered serious adverse reactions.
France’s government announced that it was postponing Black Friday, the quasi-official kickoff to the Christmas shopping season, moving to quell a nationwide rebellion by shopkeepers who say that Amazon has been stealing business from them during the country’s lockdown. The government wrested an agreement from Amazon and the country’s biggest retailers to delay their discounts in France until Dec. 4.
The U.S. and Canada, both facing serious spikes in infections, extended their bar on nonessential cross-border travel for another month, to Dec. 21. “The situation is serious,” the Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, said on Twitter. His country’s seven-day average of new daily cases has risen by 46 percent over the last two weeks and is well above 4,700.
South Korea reported 363 new coronavirus cases on Friday, its highest caseload since late August, when the country was hit by a second wave of infections. Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun urged the public to avoid social gatherings and to stay home as much as possible. He also warned that the latest spike, which is concentrated in the Seoul metropolitan area, was threatening the country’s vaunted K-Quarantine strategy of fighting the virus while keeping the economy running.
Officials in South Australia abruptly ended a tight lockdown after two days, reporting that an infected man had been lying when he told contact tracers he had been only briefly in the pizza shop where he was exposed, suggesting virulent transmission. The man was in fact an employee.
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