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Moscow's Patriarchate said on Tuesday it expected Archbishop Hilarion,
Moscow's Patriarchate said on Tuesday it expected Archbishop Hilarion, the new head of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR), to continue the course of the late Metropolitan Laurus, who signed a historic unification act with Russia's Orthodox Church.

Nine out of the 11 members of the Pontific Synod in New York elected the Archbishop of Sydney, Australia and New Zealand on Monday to replace Metropolitan Laurus, who was found dead at a seminary in Jordanville, New York, U.S. in March at the age of 80.

"We are confident that Archbishop Hilarion will continue leading the Orthodox Church Outside of Russia along the same path as Metropolitan Laurus," said Bishop Nikolai Balashov, a spokesman for the Moscow Patriarchate.

Hilarion, 60, was elected by secret ballot and will be inaugurated on May 18.

"Witnesses [at the Synod in New York] said it took bishops less than 10 minutes to elect the archbishop," Balashov said, describing Hilarion as a "wise, experienced, reasonable and cautious archbishop."

Metropolitan Laurus proposed Hilarion as ROCOR head in 2001, but the Pontifical Synod unanimously favored Laurus.

Laurus and Alexy II, Patriarch of Moscow and all-Russia, signed a church unification act reestablishing canonical ties between the two churches in Moscow on May 17. The document was widely seen as a milestone on the way toward overcoming a decades-long rift with the foreign-based branch.

ROCOR was formed soon after the Russian Revolution of 1917, and split from the Russian Church of the Moscow Patriarchate in 1927 in response to the latter's pledge of loyalty to the atheist Soviet state.


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