The most prominent religious leader in Montenegro, who once described a pilgrimage as “God’s vaccine,” has tested positive for the coronavirus and is in stable condition, his representatives said on Wednesday.
Amfilohije Radovic, the Serbian Orthodox metropolitan bishop of Montenegro and the Littoral, was given the diagnosis Tuesday after a routine health check, and was taken to Podgorica, the capital. The metropolitan, who is 82, was feeling well and was under the “constant care of doctors,” a statement on his website said.
The Serbian Orthodox Church, by far the largest Christian denomination in Montenegro, has more than 8 million adherents worldwide, most of them in Bosnia, Montenegro or Serbia. About three-quarters of Montenegrins are Serbian Orthodox.
During a sermon in May, as pilgrims honored a 17th-century bishop in Podgorica, Metropolitan Radovic told believers that while a coronavirus vaccine would be welcome, “there’s a vaccine here which has acted through the centuries,” Reuters reported. The metropolitan was seen forgoing a face mask at public events.
A controversial figure who wields significant influence, Metropolitan Radovic has clashed with civil authorities in the country over allegations that some religious services have violated coronavirus restrictions. Earlier this year, he organized protests against a much-debated law that gave the state ownership of some religious buildings and estates. Antigovernment feeling roused by the protests played a part in unseating the Democratic Party of Socialists, led by President Milo Djukanovic, in elections in August.
The virus is spreading as quickly now in Montenegro as it has at any time during the pandemic. With a population of about 625,000 people, the country has reported 12,584 coronavirus cases — 2,009 of them in the last week — and 188 deaths, according to a New York Times database.