Late Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) Patriarch, Irinej, loved Serbia and Serbs everywhere in the world and the future of the Serbs in Kosovo, as well as in Bosnia’s Serb-majority entity of Republika Srpska, were among his main concerns, Serbian President, Aleksandar Vucic, said at the funeral of the religious leader on Sunday.
Patriarch Irinej died due to COVID-19-related complications at a military hospital in Belgrade early on Friday.
"Patriarch Irinej died as he lived, in peace with himself, God, the Church and the people. That life had clear goals - God, love and Serbia, the entire Serbian people, wherever they may live," Vucic said.
“Love was the basis of his faith because he knew that faith and hope are impossible without love. His Serbia was the one he was creating. A Serbia of peace, which understands and gathers, which wins through work and wisdom,” he said.
One of the main achievements of the late Patriarch was the construction of the Saint Sava Temple in Belgrade, Vucic said, arguing that had the religious leader not been there, “we would have been building the Temple for decades.”
“He loved Russia infinitely and Patriarch Kirill (of Moscow), he was grateful to Putin for supporting the construction of the Temple and he believed in the closeness of our two peoples. He was not against anyone from the West, he waited for them to change their attitude towards our people.”
Vucic argued that the Patriarch renewed the “culture of memory.”
“We have been ashamed for years and silent about the suffering of our people. Thanks to him, we speak proudly about the heroes from Kosare, we mark the anniversary of the NATO aggression, we are not afraid to tell the truth directly to the whole world,” he added. The Patriarch did not separate Serbia from Bosnia’s Serb-majority Republika Srpska (RS) entity, Vucic said.
“Thanks to him, there were no conflicts among Serbs east and west of the Drina river. Kosovo was his main concern. He approached that issue rationally, seeking ways for us to not recognise the independence of Kosovo and understanding our difficult reality, he believed in the growing force of the Serbian state. He was a great Patriarch, he united the divided Church in America, established a partnership with the state,” he said.
The Serbian President said he loved Patriarch Irinej “infinitely.”
He said that in one of the last conversations the two had, Irinej urged him to take care of Republika Srpska and Kosovo.