April 3, 2020 / 4:55 PM / 3 months ago

Russian church leader tours Moscow with holy icon to halt coronavirus

Patriarch Kirill, head of Russia's Orthodox Church, conducts a service at a cathedral after driving the holy icon of the Virgin Mary around the city streets to pray for the end of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in Moscow, Russia April 3, 2020. Patriarchal Press Service/Handout via REUTERS

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Patriarch Kirill, the head of Russia’s influential Orthodox Church, drove a holy icon around the streets of Moscow in a procession of cars on Friday, as the country fights to halt the spread of the coronavirus.

The icon of the Virgin Mary was driven 109 kilometres (68 miles) in a procession of sleak black cars shown on state television and was brought to a cathedral in Moscow for a service.

Patriarch Kirill has said he would use the drive to pray for the end of the coronavirus outbreak and appealed to Russians to respect and follow restrictions introduced by the authorities to stem the contagion, Interfax news agency reported.

Moscow, the epicentre of Russia’s coronavirus outbreak, has been in lockdown since Monday and many regions across the country have since imposed similar measures.

Russia has reported 4,149 coronavirus cases and 34 deaths.

Some Orthodox priests have taken to helicopters or planes with icons, flying above some Russian regions while singing and praying in the hope of halting the virus.

Reporting by Tom Balmforth; Editing by Gareth Jones

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