MOSCOW: Russia’s Orthodox Patriarch, Alexy II, was buried in Moscow on Tuesday in a grand funeral that demonstrated the Church’s revived influence and close ties with the secular authorities in the country.
President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin accompanied by their spouses were among tens of thousands of people who paid respects to Alexy II, who died last Friday at the age of 79.
De facto state religion
In post-Communist Russia, the Orthodox Church has been elevated to a de facto state religion, even as Russia’s other traditional religions — Islam, Judaism and Buddhism — have seen a remarkable revival.
Addressing the funeral ceremony, Metropolitan Kirill said Alexy II had taken charge of the Church when it was “weak and frail” and had “brought the Church up from its knees.”
Kirill, picked as interim leader of the Church on Saturday by a 12-man Synod, is a top contender to succeed Alexy II.
The Presidents of Belarus, Armenia, Moldova and Serbia, where the Russian Orthodox Church is the dominant religion, were also present to bid farewell to Alexy II, along with Church dignitaries from other countries.
After a six-hour ceremony at the soaring Christ the Savior Cathedral, rebuilt in the 1990s, Alexy II’s coffin was taken across town to another cathedral, where he was laid to rest. Russian TV channels cancelled all advertising and entertainment programmes and broadcast live coverage of the funeral ceremonies and religious programmes.