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World News

Patriarch of Serbian Orthodox Church tests positive for COVID-19

FILE PHOTO: Serbian patriarch Irinej (C) walks in front of the St. Sava temple on Orthodox Christmas Eve in Belgrade, Serbia, January 6, 2017. Serbian Orthodox believers celebrate Christmas on January 7, according to the Julian calendar. REUTERS/Marko Djurica

BELGRADE (Reuters) - Irinej, the ageing Patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church, the country’s largest Christian denomination, was hospitalised on Wednesday after testing positive for the coronavirus, his office said.

Irinej, 90, was “routinely tested following an epidemiological assessment,” and remains “without symptoms and in excellent health”, a statement said.

“His Holiness is hospitalised in a COVID hospital in Belgrade,” Irinej’s office said.

On Sunday, Irinej attended the funeral of Metropolitan Amfilohije, the most senior cleric of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro, who died from COVID-19.

Throngs of mourners, many without masks, gathered at Amfilohije’s funeral in Montenegro’s capital Podgorica, despite a spike in coronavirus.

Joanikije, another prominent Montenegro bishop who attended the funeral, was diagnosed with “minor pneumonia,” his diocese said on Tuesday.

Montenegro’s Prime Minister-designate Zdravko Krivokapic, Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic and Milorad Dodik, who is the Serb member of Bosnia’s Presidency, also attended the funeral in Podgorica.

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.

Reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic; Editing by Giles Elgood

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