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(RNS) Metropolitan Kirill, the Russian Orthodox leader of the provinces of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, has been chosen as the interim leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, following the death Friday (Dec.
5) of Patriarch Alexy II.
Kirill, 62, was chosen by secret ballot by the Holy Synod, a ruling group of 12 senior clergy who met Saturday outside Moscow, Reuters reported.
He is considered to be a reformer in his approach to relations with the Russian government and the Roman Catholic Church. He leads the church’s external relations department and has appeared often on television representing the church.
The next patriarch must be chosen within six months and Kirill is viewed as one of four candidates in the running, the news agency reported.
As Alexy lay in state on Sunday in the gold-domed Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow, Kirill conducted a two-hour service at his coffin.
Alexy’s funeral is scheduled for Tuesday.
The patriarch, who died of heart failure at age 79, was elected in 1990 and helped his church revive after it had been repressed under communism.
President Bush offered condolences to members of the church and the Russian people.
“The president’s heart is with the community of Russian believers as they continue to rebuild the rich spiritual traditions of Russia,” said White House Press Secretary Dana Perino.
By Adelle M. Banks
Religion News Service
Copyright 2008 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

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