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By Aleksandar Vasovic

BELGRADE (Reuters) - Several thousand worshippers and clergy, some without face masks, filed steadily into a Belgrade church on Saturday to pay their respects to Patriarch Irinej, the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church, who died aged 90 after contracting COVID-19.

Irinej tested positive for the coronavirus on Nov.

4 and died on Friday, prompting the Serbian government to declare three days of national mourning in the predominantly Orthodox Christian country.

Despite a rise in COVID-19 cases, some of the faithful maintained tradition by kissing the glass-covered casket containing the Patriarch's body, which was dressed in a gold-embroidered robe and an ornate crown.

Most, however, solemnly walked past it and wore protective masks as they paid their respects to Irinej, who became the Church's 45th patriarch a decade ago.

"God protects those who protect themselves," said Tomislav Gajic, 65, a pensioner from Belgrade, wearing a white face mask as he lined up outside the city's St. Sava temple where the Patriarch's body will lay in state until Sunday's funeral.

Like other European countries, Serbia has seen a spike in coronavirus cases in recent weeks, and Predrag Kon, an epidemiologist and a member of the state committee tasked with combating COVID-19, said the Patriarch's funeral "is a great risk".

    "That gathering is not acceptable... But that is something no one can ban," Kon told state television.

Before the start of two days of funeral rites, Serbian army guardsmen in blue uniforms, escorted by clergy, carried Irinej's coffin to a catafalque inside the church - one of the largest in the world.

Serbia's government imposed tighter coronavirus controls on Saturday, such as requiring face masks to be worn outside "where distance can not be maintained" from next week.

Authorities have been reluctant, however, to impose strict sanitary restrictions on the powerful Church, which has about 12 million followers, mainly in Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia.

Serbia, which has a population of about seven million, has reported 110,351 COVID-19 cases and 1,140 deaths.

(Reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic; Additional reporting by Daria Sito-Sucic in Sarajevo; Editing by)

Copyright 2020 Thomson Reuters.

Tags: Croatia, Christianity, coronavirus, Europe, Serbia

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Mayor Lori Lightfoot Seeks Federal Gun Control as Chicago Shootings Surge

Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D) pushed for more federal gun control Tuesday as Chicago gun violence surges and firearm-related homicides continue to increase.

Breitbart News reported eight people were shot inside a residence Tuesday, leaving four dead and four wounded while 43 people were shot over the weekend in Chicago and 55 were shot the previous weekend in the city.

ABC News indicates Mayor Lightfoot responded to the violence by appealing to the federal government for more gun control.

Lightfoot specifically addressed Tuesday’s shooting of eight people in a residence, saying, “What we will likely learn as the details become clearer is that illegal guns continue to plague us. Gun violence continues to have a deep and painful history in our city. Unfortunately, Chicago is not unique. We are part of a club of cities for which no one wants to belong, cities with mass shootings.”

She added, “Cities individually cannot tackle this problem. We just cannot. In Chicago, we’ve done absolutely everything possible and we need help from the federal government. When guns are so porous that they can come across our borders as we see every single day in Chicago, we know that we have to have a multi-jurisdictional, national solution to this horrible plague of gun violence.”

Lightfoot asked for federal help and said, “This is a national problem,” returning to a refrain she has repeated many times before in addressing the problem afflicting her increasingly violent city:

Mayor Lori Lightfoot / Periscope

In the summer of 2020 Lightfoot responded to heightened violence in the city by calling for more gun control. She did not mention the Chicago-area already has an “assault weapons” ban, thanks to a Cook County prohibition.

Moreover, Chicago and the entire state of Illinois already have a licensing process for would-be gun owners that includes a background check.

Additionally, Chicago and all of Illinois have a 72-hour waiting period on gun purchases and a red flag law, among other gun controls.

AWR Hawkins is an award-winning Second Amendment columnist for Breitbart News and the writer/curator of Down Range with AWR Hawkins, a weekly newsletter focused on all things Second Amendment, also for Breitbart News. He is the political analyst for Armed American Radio. Follow him on Twitter: @AWRHawkins. Reach him at [email protected] You can sign up to get Down Range at


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