Feb 2, 2009

World - Russia;Patriarch Kirill enthroned

Vladimir Radyuhin

MOSCOW: Leader of the Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill was enthroned on Sunday at a colourful ceremony attended by the country’s top leadership.

The ceremony was held at Russia’s biggest Cathedral, Christ the Saviour, which stands as an opulent symbol of the Orthodox Church’s revival in post-Soviet Russia. The original 19th-century cathedral was blown up on Josef Stalin’s orders in 1931 and rebuilt about 10 years ago after Russia abandoned its official atheist ideology.

Patriarch Kirill (62) is the first church leader to take charge of the Russian Orthodox Church after the breakup of the Soviet Union. He succeeds Patriarch Alexy II, who died in early December after almost two decades at the helm of the church.

In his enthronement speech, the new Patriarch vowed to uphold church unity and attract young people to the Church, saying they “badly need spiritual guidance.”

President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin with spouses attended the ceremony along with dozens of members of the government and religious leaders from other countries.

Mr. Medvedev said it was “an outstanding event in the life of the country and all Orthodox nations” and expressed the hope that it would create “new conditions for a full-fledged cooperative dialogue between the Russian Orthodox Church and the state.”

Church and state are officially separate under the Russian Constitution, but the government has cultivated close ties with clerics relying on religion to fill the ideological and moral vacuum left by the collapse of Communism.

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