Montenegro’s top Orthodox Christian cleric dies from COVID-19 infection

PODGORICA — Metropolitan Amfilohije Radovic, the top cleric of the powerful Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro, has died from a COVID-19 infection, his office said on Friday.

Radovic, 82, a fervent Serb nationalist who also wielded major political influence, was diagnosed with the coronavirus on Oct. 6 and had been hospitalized in the Montenegrin capital Podgorica since then.

“After receiving the Holy Sacrament of Communion, Amfilohije the Most Reverend Archbishop of Cetinje, Metropolitan of Montenegro and Littoral…, passed away,” a statement from his Metropolitanate office said.

From last December until August this year, Amfilohije played a pivotal role in protests over a contested religion law in the tiny Adriatic country that is a member of NATO and a candidate for membership in the European Union.

The dispute over the law, which allowed the state to seize some religious property, helped the opposition win the Aug. 30 parliamentary election and unseat the Democratic Party of Socialists of longtime President Milo Djukanovic.

After the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Amfilohije still appeared regularly in public without a face mask.

So far, Montenegro has reported 290 deaths and 17,746 infections from the respiratory disease.

The Serbian Orthodox Church has about 12 million followers, mainly in Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia, all former Yugoslav republics bordering each other. (Reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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