Saturday, December 06, 2008

In Moscow, the Synod Selects its Camerlengo

In what Rome could consider an early good omen following yesterday's death of Patriarch Alexei II, earlier today the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox church elected its point-man to the Vatican as the Moscow patriarchate's temporary administrator.

Holder of the church's external-affairs portfolio, Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kalingrad will serve as locum tenens -- literally, "placeholder" -- for no more than six months, the point when the church's statutes dictate the election of a new patriarch must proceed. A former representative of the patriarchate to the World Council of Churches, the 62 year-old hierarch (right, with B16) was one of seven possible choices for the post.

Underscoring the immense import Pope Benedict has attached to forging warmer ties with global Orthodoxy's largest branch, the pontiff has received Kirill in multiple private audiences since his 2005 election, including one a year ago tomorrow.

At the time, the metropolitan told Vatican Radio in an interview that "In order to overcome the divisions, the most important thing is that the East and the West leave aside considering the other as foreigners.

The two sides, he added, "have to feel themselves part of one family and to enhance the awareness of mutually needing each other."

Likewise earlier today, the Vatican announced that its delegation to the patriarch's funeral will be led by two key cardinals: the Christian Unity Tsar Walter Kasper and the retired top-flight diplomat Roger Etchegaray, the vice-dean of the College of Cardinals.

According to wire reports, Alexei's sendoff will culminate with a final divine liturgy and burial on Tuesday in Moscow. Both Russian President Dimitri Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin are slated to be in attendance.

PHOTO: Reuters