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Russians Bid Farewell to Orthodox Church Leader

MOSCOW (AP) - In a somber service, Russia has paid final tribute to Patriarch Alexy II, who rebuilt the Russian Orthodox Church after 70 years of Communist repression.

A crowd that included President Dmitry Medvedev, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and two relatives of the last czar thronged Moscow's
Christ the Savior Cathedral for a six-hour service for Alexy, who
died Friday at age 79. He was later buried in a marble sarcophagus
at the Epiphany Cathedral across town.

A priest at the service said, "Our whole nation has been orphaned."

Chosen as patriarch in 1990, a year before the Soviet breakup, Alexy turned his church into the world's largest and richest Orthodox denomination. He also forged close ties with the Kremlin, earning the church considerable financial support as well as privileges beyond those granted Russia's other officially recognized faiths.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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