11:38 GMT26 February 2020
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    Vatican 'rejoiced' over Russia patriarch election

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    The Vatican "rejoiced" at the election of Metropolitan Kirill as the new head of the Russian Orthodox Church, its spokesman Federico Lombardi said.

    VATICAN CITY, January 28 (RIA Novosti) - The Vatican "rejoiced" at the election of Metropolitan Kirill as the new head of the Russian Orthodox Church, its spokesman Federico Lombardi said.

    "The Catholic Church observed with attention and prayers this important moment in the life of the Russian Orthodox Church," Lombardi told the ANSA news agency on Tuesday.

    "We congratulate the new patriarch and wish him the best in carrying out his most important ministry," the spokesman said.

    Kirill was elected as the 16th Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia on Tuesday, receiving 508 votes, and the second candidate, Metropolitan Kliment of Kaluga and Borovsk, 169 votes. A total of 700 ballots were cast in the vote, with 23 declared invalid.

    Metropolitan Filaret of Minsk and Slutsk, who had been on the three-person shortlist, withdrew his candidacy on Tuesday, urging the electors to vote for Kirill, the metropolitan of Smolensk and Kaliningrad.

    The 700-plus-member group convened for a three-day session to elect a successor to Patriarch Alexy II, who died in December at the age of 79 after leading the revival of the world's largest Orthodox church since 1990. This was the first election of a patriarch since the breakup of the atheist Soviet Union.

    Lombardi said the Vatican had great esteem for Kirill, who as head of the church's external relations has led dialogue with the Vatican, and wished him to "continue his path of reciprocal understanding and collaboration for the good of humanity." Relations can be difficult between the two churches, which split almost 1,000 years ago.

    Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin congratulated Metropolitan Kirill on his election as the new leader of the Russian Orthodox Church.

    Medvedev "expressed hope that the dialogue between the Russian Orthodox Church and the state in the country's further development and strengthening spiritual and moral values will continue," his spokeswoman Natalya Timakova said.

    Kirill, 62, had been the Russian Church's interim leader since the death of Alexy II and was always seen as the leading candidate. He is well-known in Russia through his weekly television program and frequent public appearances.

    He was born in St. Petersburg in 1946 in a family of a priest and graduated from the Leningrad Theological Academy, where he remained as a professor of dogmatic theology.

    In 1971, Kirill was named as a representative of the Moscow Patriarchate to the World Council of Churches (WCC) in Geneva. In 1974, he was appointed as Rector of the Leningrad Academy and Seminary. He became a metropolitan in 1991.

    The new patriarch is expected to be enthroned on Sunday.

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