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Patriarch who revived Russian Orthodox Church Passed Away

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    MOSCOW (Reuters) – Patriarch Alexiy II, a staunch conservative who revived Russia s Orthodox Church after the collapse of communism and clashed with Rome
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 5, 2008
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      MOSCOW (Reuters) – Patriarch Alexiy II, a staunch conservative who
      revived Russia's Orthodox Church after the collapse of communism and
      clashed with Rome over Catholic missionary activity, died on Friday
      at the age of 79.

      A spokesman for the Moscow Patriarchy said Alexiy, who led the
      powerful church for 18 years and developed close ties with the
      Kremlin, died at his residence in Peredelkino, a former Soviet
      writers' colony, outside Moscow.

      President Dmitry Medvedev, who was on an official visit to India,
      hailed the patriarch as "an outstanding religious figure" and
      canceled a planned trip to Italy to return to Moscow.

      "He was a true shepherd, who throughout his life was an example of
      spiritual fortitude and noble human deeds," Medvedev told state
      television. "He was always with his flock both in the days of
      reprisals and in the period of religious revival."

      Prime Minister and former President Vladimir Putin, an ex- communist
      spy who now openly professes his Orthodox faith, said Alexiy was
      a "great statesman" who had "done a great deal for the establishment
      of a new Russian statehood."

      The Church never commented on Alexiy's health and gave the cause of
      death as heart failure. But diplomats in Moscow had said the
      Patriarch had been suffering from cancer for some time.

      In a sign of his importance, Russian state television immediately ran
      a film showing highlights from Alexiy's life, accompanied by the
      sound of tolling church bells.

      Church officials said Metropolitan Juvenali of Krutitsy and Kolomna --
      a senior bishop -- may lead the Russian Orthodox until the election
      of a new patriarch.

      Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia since 1990, the Estonian-born
      Alexiy was a powerful and influential figure with close links to the
      Kremlin but a controversial past and strongly held conservative views
      on social issues.

      He oversaw a major religious revival in Russia after the collapse of
      the Soviet Union, with hundreds of new churches built across the
      country, monasteries reopened and seminaries filling with new priests.

      But despite repeated church denials, he also failed to shake off
      allegations by researchers that he had links to the Soviet KGB
      intelligence service.

      Russia's Orthodox Church is by far the biggest of the churches in the
      Eastern Orthodox communion, which split with Western Christianity in
      the Great Schism of 1054. It is the majority religion in Russia.

      DEEPLY CONSERVATIVE

      Alexiy was outspoken in his defense of traditional Russian values and
      criticized the West over issues such as gay rights.

      In a rare visit to western Europe in 2007, Alexiy described
      homosexuals as sinners suffering an illness similar to kleptomaniacs
      and decried what he said was a rupture between morality and human
      rights.

      Much of Alexiy's reign coincided with the leadership of Polish-born
      Pope John Paul II at the Vatican.

      After the fall of communism in 1989 and the break-up of the Soviet
      Union in 1991, relations between the Vatican and Russia's Orthodox
      Church were severely strained over accusations that Catholics were
      using their newfound freedom to poach souls.

      The Vatican denied the accusations but the chill in relations was the
      main cause for the failure to arrange a meeting between Alexiy and
      the Pope although they came close to arranging a meeting in
      a "neutral" venue, such as Vienna.

      In Rome, Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Vatican's
      Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, praised Alexiy for
      restoring the vitality of Russia's church after communism.

      "He was instrumental in fostering the enormous growth of dioceses,
      parishes, monasteries and educational institutions which have given
      new life to a Church sorely tested for so long," Kasper said.

      Alexei Mikhailovich Rediger was born on February 23, 1929 in the
      Estonian capital Tallinn, into the family of a Russian Orthodox
      priest of German descent.

      He later said his family's many pilgrimages to the-then Soviet
      Union's religious sites were key to moulding his future path.

      In 1953 he graduated from the St Petersburg Spiritual Academy as a
      priest. He served in Estonia and Russia before becoming a monk in
      1961, taking the vow of chastity necessary for any Orthodox clergyman
      seeking a top position in the church.

      In 1961 he was appointed Bishop of Tallinn and Estonia and in 1986
      was consecrated Metropolitan of Leningrad and Novgorod.

      http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20081205/ts_nm/us_russia_patriarch
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