Russia Orthodox Church Selects Top 3 Contenders for New Patriarch

World | January 25, 2009, Sunday // 00:00| Views: | Comments: 0
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Russia Orthodox Church Selects Top Three Contenders for New Patriarch: Russia Orthodox Church Selects Top 3 Contenders for New Patriarch Russian President Medvedev kisses Patriarch Alexy II's forehead during his lying-in-state. Photo by BGNES

The Russian Orthodox Church began Sunday the process of selecting its new Patriarch following the December 5 death of Alexy II.

Church leaders have gathered at Christ the Savior's Cathedral near Kremlin to choose the top three contenders from a list including 145 candidates. They are voting with a secret ballot.

The Russian information agency ITAR-TASS informed Sunday evening that the top three have been selected and they are: the Church's interim leader, Metropolitan Kiril of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, who is seen by Church experts as favorite to take on the Church leadership, and Metropolitans Kliment and Filaret.

The final selection will be made on January 29, before a weekend enthronement.

Alexy II, who died at the age of 79, became patriarch in 1990, just before the breakup of the Soviet Union. It will be the first election of a Patriarch since the end of the Soviet era, at times when the Church's popularity in Russia as well as its close ties with the Kremlin are considered unprecedented.

Alexy II gave last year his blessing to Medvedev's election as President and publicly praised the social programs he implemented as Deputy Prime Minister.

The strength of the Church's relations with the Kremlin was clearly demonstrated when President Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin kissed Alexy II's forehead during his lying-in-state.
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