MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia's powerful Orthodox Church admonished people refusing to be vaccinated against COVID-19, calling them sinners who would have to atone for the rest of their lives, as the country reported another jump in new infections and deaths.
The church urged all its faithful to be inoculated as another 24,353 new COVID-19 cases were registered on Monday, including 6,557 in Moscow, taking the official national tally since the pandemic began to 5,635,294.
The government coronavirus task force said 654 people had died of coronavirus-linked causes in the past 24 hours, pushing the national death toll to 138,579.
The federal statistics agency has kept a separate count and has said Russia recorded around 270,000 deaths related to COVID-19 from April 2020 to April 2021.
Speaking on state television, Metropolitan Hilarion, head of the Moscow Patriarchate's department for external church relations, said those refusing to vaccinate were committing "a sin for which they will have to atone throughout their lives".
He added: "I see situations every day where people visit a priest in order to confess that they had refused to vaccinate themselves or their close ones and unwillingly caused someone's death.
"...The sin is thinking of oneself but not of another person."
(Reporting by Gleb Stolyarov; Writing by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Alison Williams)