Due to coronavirus restrictions, most mourners watched the rituals on a screen outside the church, while parents, clergy and dignitaries from Irinej, including President Aleksandar Vucic and Milorad Dodik, the Serbian member of the Bosnian Presidency, were allowed in.
Most of the clergy who performed the funeral rites in the church were maskless, as were some people outside. However, many worshipers gathered outside wore masks and tried to keep their distance from each other.
After the liturgy and sermon, six members of the Serbian guard dressed in the traditional blue uniform carried the coffin to the crypt of the church, where Irinej was buried. He is the first patriarch to be buried there.
The patriarch was hospitalized with the virus in early November, days after attending the funeral of the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro, Bishop Amfilohije, who also died of complications caused by the COVID-19 infection.
It is not known if Irinej contracted the virus there, but at that funeral he was indoors for hours among the crowds, most of whom were not wearing masks.
Her condition rapidly deteriorated due to advanced age and chronic heart problems. He died on Friday.
Like other European countries, Serbia has seen a spike in coronavirus cases in recent weeks. His government on Saturday tightened restrictions on coronaviruses, such as limiting gatherings to five people, from next week.
Authorities, however, have been reluctant to apply strict restrictions on the powerful church, which has around 12 million worshipers, mainly in Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia.
Serbia, with a population of around seven million, has so far reported 116,125 cases of COVID-19 and 1,168 deaths.
Irinej took over as head of the influential church in January 2010 after the death of his predecessor, Patriarch Pavle.
At the time, Irinej was seen as a relatively moderate and compromise choice among factions within the church.
But throughout his reign, he maintained the tough nationalist stance that the Church developed during the wars that split the Balkans in the 1990s. They included the belief that Serbs were historical victims of injustice and played games. on what were believed to be the anti-Serbian policies of rival Balkan nations as well as the international community.
He has often criticized Western policy towards Serbia over its breakaway province of Kosovo, which unilaterally declared independence in 2008, and maintained close relations with the Russian Orthodox Church and Vucic.
Irinej was among the few dignitaries of the Serbian church to openly call for improved ties with the Roman Catholic Church. He said the two churches should overcome historical differences.
“An era is over,” Vucic said in his funeral speech. “His biggest concern was Kosovo… He acted rationally and with a cool head,” he added.
The guardian of the church will be the Bosnian bishop Hrizostom, and the new patriarch to be appointed within the next three months after the elections.
The Serbian Church is part of a group of autocephalous or independent churches that make up the Orthodox Christian faith. The Orthodox churches split from the Vatican and the Roman Catholic Church in the 11th century in an event called the Great Schism.