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The Russian Orthodox Church on Sunday started the process of electing
The Russian Orthodox Church on Sunday started the process of electing a new leader following the death of Patriarch Alexy II last year.

Patriarch Alexy II, who led the revival of Orthodoxy in the country after the demise of communism, died of heart failure at the age of 79 in December 2008. Kirill, Metropolitan of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, was chosen by the Holy Synod as interim patriarch.

Senior members of the Russian Orthodox Church are meeting at the Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow on January 25-26 to draw up a shortlist of three candidates. A full Church Council, including lay people, will then gather on January 27-28 to elect one of the three candidates as Alexy II's successor.

The Russian VTsIOM pollster said on Thursday that Russians identified Metropolitan Kirill, the interim leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, as the most likely candidate to become the next patriarch.

According to the VTsIOM survey, 28% of Russians expect Kirill, 62, to be chosen as the new patriarch. However, 71% of those surveyed failed to make any prediction, including 69% of the respondents who could not name any member of the Russian Orthodox Church hierarchy.

Half the respondents said they would like the next patriarch to be a spiritual leader and a mentor to the Russian nation. The opinion was most often voiced by elderly respondents (52%) and Orthodox believers (57%).

Another 8% of those surveyed view a patriarch as a prominent statesman, and a member of the country's top authorities.

The pollster said 14% of the respondents would favor an intelligent and educated patriarch, and another 12% said they would like the candidate to be kind and sympathetic.

The VTsIOM conducted the poll on January 10-11 among 1,600 people in 140 towns across 42 Russian regions.


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