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Russian Orthodox Church enthrones new patriarch -2


(Adds details in paras 4-9)

MOSCOW, February 1 (RIA Novosti) - The Russian Orthodox Church enthroned on Sunday its new leader, Patriarch Kirill, at a ceremony held in the Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow.

Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad was elected as the 16th Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia on Tuesday by the Local Council of the Russian Orthodox Church, succeeding Patriarch Alexy II, who died in December at the age of 79.

During the enthronement ceremony, senior bishops seated Kirill three times in the patriarch's chair at the center of the altar, chanting "Axios" (the Greek word for "Worthy") together with the clergy and the flock.

After that, deacons replaced Kirill's archbishop's vestments with the patriarchal sakkos (tunic), the omophorion (a broad scarf) and the patriarchal mitre.

The enthronement ceremony was attended by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and other dignitaries.

An articulate public speaker, Kirill is seen as a liberal figure in the largely traditionalist Russian church and led dialogue with the Vatican as head of the Russian Orthodox Church's external relations, the post he had occupied for more than a decade.

Pope Benedict XVI welcomed on Wednesday the election of Kirill as the new Russian Orthodox Church patriarch.

"May the Almighty also bless your efforts to seek that fullness of communion which is the goal of Catholic-Orthodox collaboration and dialogue," Pope Benedict said in his message.

Relations between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Vatican, which split almost 1,000 years ago, have been strained since the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, mainly over accusations that the Catholic Church stepped up activities to convert believers. The Vatican has denied this.

The dispute prevented Pope John Paul II, who died in 2005, from visiting Moscow and meeting with Alexy II.

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