Moscow - - 20081209 -  Russia's political leaders joined prelates of the Orthodox Church on December 9 at the funeral of Patriarch Alexei II. The deceased Patriarch's success in restoring the prominence of the Russian Orthodox Church after decades of Soviet repression was confirmed by the presence of President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin at his funeral in Christ the Savior cathedral. Medvedev had ordered regular television programming suspended during the funeral and the burial service at Epiphany cathedral.

Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, the chief ecumenical official of the Moscow patriarchate, presided at the funeral. On December 6 the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church had elected Metropolitan Kirill as the "patriarchal locum tenens," or interim head of the Church following the death of Patriarch Alexei II the previous day. At least six months must pass between the death of a patriarch and the election of his successor. Since 1989, Metropolitan Kirill has served as the Russian Orthodox representative in ecumenical dialogues as chairman of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate. He recently wrote a foreword to a book by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican’s secretary of state.

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