International Orthodox Christian News

Bulgarian President Georgi Purvanov sent his condolences to the holy synod of the Russian Orthodox Church on the death of patriarch Alexei II of Moscow and all Russia, the Presidency press office said on December 5 2008.

Estonian-born Patriarch Alexei II died in his residence in Peredelkino, Moscow region on December 5 2008 at the age of 79 Alexei was head of the Russina Orthodox Church for the past 18 years following the fall of communism. His close ties with the new Russian leaders starting from Boris Yeltsin, Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev was among reasons why he was able to restore many of the Orthodox Christian places of worship in Russia that for decades had been neglected by the communist regime.

These close ties, however, were among the reasons why some secular Russians viewed Alexei II with suspicion. He was engaged in a number of political matters, mainly by strongly and openly supporting the position of the Russian state including its refusal to recognise the independence of Kosovo. Another controversial case was his appearance in 2001 in a TV commercial for Lukoil, Russia's largest oil company. At the time, the company and the church said it was a natural way to thank the company for its contribution to the rebuilding of church buildings.

One of the highlights of his reign was the pact that Alexei II signed in 2007 with Metropolitan Laurus in 2007 which ended a 80-year long schism within the Russian Orthodox Church.

Laurus had been head of a faction established by the group of White Guard Russians (the colour of the Russian Tsarist army) who fled the Soviet Union for the West after the fall of the Russian empire following the end of World War 1. Another achievement was to bring back religion to school by introducing Orthodox Christian classes in some public schools. In the past 18 years, he had been constantly accused by critics that he had been a KGB agent, which he vigorously denied. He will be buried at Moscow's Epiphany Cathedral.

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