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Russian church enthrones new leader

  • Story Highlights
  • Patriarch Kirill becomes first new leader of church since fall of communism
  • Kirill is seen as a modernizer and has met Pope Benedict XVI
  • Patriarch Alexy II died December 5 after 18 years as head of the church
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MOSCOW, Russia (CNN) -- The Russian Orthodox Church enthroned a new leader Sunday at Moscow's spectacular Christ the Savior Cathedral in a ceremony attended by Russian leaders and Christian delegations from around the world.

Patriach Kirill is the first new leader of the Russian Orthodox Church since the collapse of communism.

Patriach Kirill is the first new leader of the Russian Orthodox Church since the collapse of communism.

Patriarch Kirill, 62, becomes first new leader of the church since the fall of communism, and the first enthroned in the Cathedral since it was rebuilt at the end of the 1990s.

Russian first lady Svetlana Medvedeva was the first person to receive the Eucharist from the new Patriarch, Russia's Interfax news agency reported.

Russian Orthodox Church leaders chose Kirill Tuesday to replace Patriarch Alexy II, who died in December.

Kirill, who became acting head of the church after Alexy died, is seen as a modernizer. He chaired the church's department for external relations starting in 1989.

Kirill becomes the 16th Patriarch since the position was created in 1589. The appointment is for life.

He met Pope Benedict XVI recently, one of the highest-level meetings between Roman Catholic and Orthodox leaders since the two churches split more than 1,000 years ago.

The late Pope John Paul II was repeatedly denied permission to visit Russia.

Kirill said before he was elected Tuesday that the Russian Orthodox Church should work with other Christian faiths to support "those partners who are ready to oppose, together with us, the marginalization of religion, to speak out for believers' rights and to build one's life according to one's own principles, to defend the underlying meaning of morality in the life of an individual and society."

Alexy, 79, died December 5 after 18 years at the head of the church. He is credited with reviving the denomination after years of communist rule.

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