Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad has been elected as the new head of the Moscow Patriarchate in the Orthodox Church after serving a period as interim leader and following an election in which he got an overwhelming majority of votes.
Church officials said after the election on 27 January that the 62-year-old Kirill garnered 508 votes in a secret ballot of the Local Church Council in Moscow while his challenger Metropolitan Kliment of Kaluga and Borovsk got 169 votes. The election involved more than 702 Russian Orthodox clergymen, monks and laymen from 64 countries.
"I accept and thank the Local Church Council for my election as Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia," Kirill said after the election results were announced and before leading the congregation in a church service.
Kirill will be installed on 2 February as the successor to Moscow Patriarch Alexei II, who had headed the church from 1990 and died on 5 December after leading a revival of the church in a post-Soviet era revival of Orthodoxy after decades of atheism being at the fore under communism.
The son of a priest, Kirill was born in Leningrad which reverted to its old name St. Petersburg after the end of the Soviet Union and he had headed the external relations department of the world's largest Orthodox church for almost 20 years.
Many observers believe Kirill’s relationship with the Russian State will be as crucial as his relations with other churches, which he has in the past favoured and also his relationship with the Roman Catholic Church following a meeting he had with Pope Benedict XVI in December 2007.
[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Conference of European Churches.]