MOSCOW: The Russian Orthodox Church elected a conservative nationalist as its new leader to replace Patriarch Alexy II who died nearly two months ago.
Metropolitan Kirill (62), a long-standing church diplomat and skillful orator, won by a landslide a two-candidate race to become the 16th Patriarch.
He garnered 508 votes cast by the 702-member Local Council in a secret ballot on Tuesday.
Kirill is known for his harsh criticism of Western notions of human rights and moral values, especially tolerance of homosexuality, abortions and gambling.
As a long-time head of the Church’s department for external relations, he played a key role in the reunion of the Russian Orthodox Church and its estranged foreign-based sister Church. He is expected to improve ties with the Roman Catholic Church, which have been fraught with rivalry for years.
In his congratulation to the new Patriarch, Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev expressed the hope for “further development of dialogue between the Russian Orthodox Church and the state, the strengthening of spiritual and moral values and the strengthening of inter-religious harmony in Russian society.”
The Church saw a remarkable revival in Russia after the collapse of communism and has enjoyed close ties with the secular authorities.