Tuesday, January 27, 2009

From Russia with Love

After an interregnum that included surrogates, rebuttals and media spin, and an election featuring a myrrh-streaming icon, the Christian family's second-largest community has its new leader: Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kalingrad was elected the 16th patriarch of Moscow and All Russia within the hour, garnering 508 (72%) of the 700 votes cast in the local council of the Russian Orthodox Church, meeting in the capital's Cathedral of Christ the Savior.

With bells across the city (even at the Kremlin) pealing, that other sound you hear is likely rejoicing in Rome -- long the Moscow patriarchate's point-man on external affairs and a well-known, highly-regarded figure at the Vatican as a result, the 62 year-old Kirill was widely believed to be the Vatican's favored choice. Even though the newly-elected patriarch said in the hours before the vote that his church's concerns would need to be addressed before any new patriarch could meet with Benedict XVI, that the two already know each other and the other side's concerns paves significant ground toward a historic meeting of the heads of Christianity's two largest branches.

Come Sunday, Kirill will be enthroned as the head of 130 million-member Russian Orthodox church.

PHOTO: AP/Alexander Zemlianichenko