Mourners “largely ignored” safety rules, said Montenegro’s daily newspaper Vijesti, reporting on last rites for Bishop Amfilohije Radovic that culminated at his funeral in Podgorica’s Serbian Orthodox cathedral on Sunday.
The pro-Serb cleric contracted COVID-19 in early October after backing opposition parties in an August election intent on forming a new government to oust President Milo Djukanovic’s pro-Western Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS).
Nevenka Pavlicic, the head of the Montenegrin hospital where Amfilohije died on Friday, had urged authorities to ban his open-casket funeral, describing it as a “lair of the disease.” Doctors had urged that the coffin be closed to crowds.
But, many mourners reportedly approached his remains, mask-less, without maintaining distance, with some customarily kissing the cleric’s hands or forehead.
On Friday, prime minister-designate Zdravko Krivokapic had described Bishop Amfilohije as “one of the greatest among us in this century.”
Montenegrin authorities had already been struggling to contain viral spread in the small Balkans nation of 620,000, one-third Serbian, currently aligned with NATO.
Bishop Amfilohije, staunchly anti-Western, pro-Russian and an opponent of Montenegro’s 2006 separation from Serbia, had fiercely opposed Djukanovic and a new law aimed at regulating religious property.
In May, on a pilgrimage to a monastery near Podgorica, Amfilohije had described the worship of the 17th-century bishop St. Vasilije Ostroski the Miracle Maker as “God’s vaccine.”
“It would be good if contemporary scientists invent the vaccine … but before it is found … there’s a vaccine here which has acted throughout the centuries,” he said.
Amfilohije had often appeared in public without a face mask and, along with other clerics, had been briefly detained for leading liturgy in violation of health guidelines. He had also led protests against anti-viral lockdown.
Latest COVID-19 figures
For Montenegro, on Sunday the Johns Hopkins monitoring center in the US reported 275 new Corona cases.
Overall the Balkan state, it said, had recorded 301 deaths and 18,342 cases since the global pandemic emerged early this year.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines