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Russian Church chooses new leader
Interim leader chosen for the Russian Orthodox Church to replace Patriarch Alexy II.
Last Modified: 06 Dec 2008 18:42 GMT

Kirill was chosen as hundreds watched the transport of Patriarch Alexy's coffin from his residence[AFP]

The Russian Orthodox Church has chosen Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad as its interim leader.

The 62-year-old Kirill is regarded as something of a reformist in the conservative Orthodox church.

Kirill was named "guardian of the throne" of the Orthodox Church on Saturday, a day after the death of Patriarch Alexy II, who had led the Church since 1990 through its post-communist revival.

Kirill will serve as interim patriarch until a larger church council is held within the next six months to pick Alexy's successor.

The appointment of Kirill is a move that could open the way for more co-operation with Catholics.

Controversial leader

He is known for his forthright style of speech and heads the Church's department for
external relations. Most Russians see him as the public face of the Church, frequently appearing on television.

Kirill has had extensive contacts with the Vatican and churches around the world, making him relatively open to new ideas, but he is a controversial figure among conservatives, analysts say.

The main issues in choosing the new Patriarch will be church relations with the state and the Catholic Church. Kirill has been a reformer on both matters.

The Kremlin is seen as having strong indirect influence over the decision.

Patriarch Alexy II's funeral will be held on Tuesday, in the Christ the Saviour cathedral in Moscow.

The cathedral was demolished on Stalin's orders. The date in 1931 when authorities demolished the cathedral, December 5, coincides with the date of Alexy's death. Reconstruction of the cathedral was one of his triumphs as patriarch. 

Mourning services

Alexy's body was to be taken to the cathedral on Saturday for three days of public viewing. Mourning services were held across Russia and in Orthodox churches abroad.

Patriarch Alexy died at his residence outside Moscow on Friday. No cause for his death was given but the 79-year-old patriarch had been sick for some time.

Alexy was an establishment figure who restored the authority of the church after decades of Soviet repression.

He died at a time when the Russian Orthodox Church had not yet determined its preferred status, as an institution closely allied with political authorities or a church more in tune with the Russian people.

Source:
Agencies
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