Church leader tests positive for coronavirus in Montenegro

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In this photo taken Sunday, Aug. 30, 2020, Serbian Orthodox bishop Amfilohije prepares to vote in parliamentary elections at a polling station in Cetinje, some 30 km south of Podgorica, Montenegro. The head of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro, which led months of protests against the small Balkan state’s pro-Western government, has been hospitalized after testing positive for the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Risto Bozovic)

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PODGORICA, Montenegro (AP) — The head of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro, which led months of protests against the small Balkan state’s pro-Western government, has been hospitalized after testing positive for the coronavirus, the church said Wednesday.

It said Bishop Amfilohije, 82, was feeling fine and had no major symptoms. He has been taken to a hospital in the capital, Podgorica, for preventive reasons.

Ahead of a parliamentary election in August, the largest faith group in Montenegro has led months of protests by its believers against a property law adopted by the parliament in December.

The pro-Russian Serbian Orthodox Church has argued that the law allows the Montenegrin state to confiscate its property as a prelude to setting up a separate Montenegrin church. This has been denied by the government.

The protests, some held in defiance of a ban on public gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic, have managed to galvanize the opposition, which narrowly won the vote in August.

Amfilohije, known for his staunch anti-Western and pro-Russian political views, played a key role in leading the anti-government protests and putting together an opposition coalition that is likely to form the country’s new government.

Amfilohije once said Muslims are “a false people with a false religion” and is also known for his frequent statements against gay and gender equality groups.

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