5 Dec 2008

Head of Russian Orthodox Church dies

10:42 pm on 5 December 2008

Patriarch Alexiy II, the head of Russia's powerful Orthodox Church, has died at his residence at the age of 79, a church spokesman said on Friday.

A spokesman for the Moscow Patriarchy of the Russian Orthodox Church said Alexiy had died on Friday morning at his residence in Peredelkino near Moscow.

The Church never commented on Alexiy's health and did not immediately disclose a cause of death, but diplomats in Moscow had said that the patriarch had been suffering from cancer.

Head of the Russian Orthodox Church for the past 18 years, the Estonian-born Alexiy was an influential figure with close links to the Kremlin.

He oversaw a major religious revival in Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union, with hundreds of new churches built throughout the country.