Home > Queensland Synod News > Russian archbishops choose short list of candidates for Patriarch

Russian archbishops choose short list of candidates for Patriarch

World News

The Archbishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church has selected a short list of three candidates from among its ranks to succeed Patriarch Alexei II, who died last month after leading the church through the post-Soviet era.

Prayers for the repose of Patriarch Alexei’s soul marked the opening of the Archbishops’ Council on 25 January. The Synod of Bishops met in the cathedral’s Hall of Church Councils and sat in front of a wall depicting a huge mosaic of the Descent of the Holy Spirit Upon the Apostles.

Metropolitans Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, Kliment of Kaluga and Borovsk, and Filaret of Minsk were chosen after several hours of closed-door deliberations and secret ballot-voting by nearly 200 metropolitans and archbishops from around Russia, the former Soviet Union and the diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church.

A new Patriarch will be enthroned on 1 February following the final selection that will be made by the Local Council, which opens on 27 January. It includes the hierarchs and monastic, clergy and laity representing the entire church.

The gatherings are at the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, which was blown up on the orders of communist dictator Josef Stalin in 1931 and rebuilt in the 1990s. Funeral services for Alexei were held there on 9 December, five days after he died. There is a ring of security around the cathedral and traffic is being re-routed for the duration of the councils.

Kirill, the chairperson of Moscow Patriarchate’s external affairs section, has been regarded as the frontrunner since he was elected locum tenens, or interim patriarch, by the Synod of Bishops on 6 December. He received the greatest number of votes, 97, while Kliment, who is the Moscow Patriarchate’s property manager, got 32, and Filaret, 16. The rest of the votes were scattered among a handful of other candidates.

The Local Council has the right to introduce other candidates, so observers have said that an unexpected outcome is still possible.

In Russia the election is being covered like a presidential campaign, with talk of bargaining for votes and the impact of regional factors.

Past scandals have been rehashed in the Russian media, especially charges of corruption surrounding alcohol and tobacco concessions granted to the church in the 1990s to fund reconstruction. Komsomolskaya Pravda, a popular tabloid newspaper, ran a full page story on 23 January asserting that while Kirill is usually associated with those scandals, Kliment had a bigger role.

Ukraine and the status of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, has been a looming issue.

As the hierarchs convened, demonstrators gathered across the street from the cathedral on a cordoned off square below a statue of Friedrich Engels, one of the fathers of communism, and prayed for church unity and a worthy candidate. "The Holy Spirit will point out the Worthy One," read one of their banners.

In his speech at the Archbishops’ Council, Kirill said that celebrations to mark the 1020th anniversary of the Baptism of Rus in Kiev in July 2008 were marred by efforts of the Ukrainian authorities to create a standoff between the Patriarchates of Moscow and Constantinople and gain support for breakaway churches opposed to Moscow in Ukraine.

A crisis between the patriarchates and other canonical Orthodox churches from around the world that Ukrainian authorities were attempting to draw into the conflict was avoided, he said.

"The experiences of those days had a serious effect on the health of His Holiness the Patriarch," said Kirill, adding that doctors recommended Alexei should not try to go to Ukraine. "But, after consulting with members of the Holy Synod, His Holiness nonetheless made a firm decision to visit Kiev." [

(c) Ecumenical News International

Photo : World News