Meeting in Moscow today, the Russian Orthodox Church has elected Metropolitan Kirill as its new patriarch. Patriarch-elect Kirill’s election is being hailed as a boon for those seeking to buttress Orthodoxy against a spreading secularism.
According to the Associated Press, Metropolitan Kirill received 508 of the 700 votes cast. Prior to today’s election, Metropolitan Kirill was the most well-known candidate, having served as the head of the External Affairs Office for the Moscow patriarchate. Since the death of Patriarch Alexy II on December 5, 2008, he has functioned as the Patriarchal Locum Tenens or interim head of the church.
Father Joaquín Alliende, president of Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), remarked on the differences between an ecclesiastical election and a secular election. Although the election of the new patriarch was conducted according to democratic principles, he explained, it was not merely a matter of obtaining a majority but rather of "listening to the blowing of the Holy Spirit and seeking to discern the will of God, the Lord of history."
Fr. Alliende also mentioned that ACN has enjoyed "fruitful contacts" with Patriarch-elect Kirill since 1992 and that he expects the Catholic-Orthodox dialogue to improve under Kirill. This intensified dialogue will enable the two churches to “together tackle the challenges of the present time that all Christians face," Fr. Alliende said.
Patriarch-elect Kirill will be installed on Sunday as the successor to Moscow Patriarch Alexy II, who is credited with a revival of the Orthodox Church in Russia and abroad.
The Russian Orthodox Church has 100 million adherents in Russia and several million more around the world.