Metropolitan Kirill elected Locum Tenens of the Patriarchal Throne

At its extraordinary session of 6 December 2008 the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church elected Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad the Locum Tenens of the Patriarchal Throne of the Russian Orthodox Church. Metropolitan Kirill will be the primate of the Moscow Patriarchate until the election of the new Patriarch, which will take place at the Local Council. The latter is due to be scheduled not earlier than 40 days and not later than 6 months after the death of His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II.

Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad (secular name Vladimir Mikhailovich Gundyaev) was born on 20 November 1946 in Leningrad to the family of a priest. He graduated from secondary school in 1964 and from the Leningrad Theological Seminary and Academy in 1970 with the degree of Candidate of Theology for his study on "The Formation and Development of the Church Hierarchy and the Teaching of the Orthodox Church on Its Gracious Nature".

He was tonsured by Metropolitan Nikodim of Leningrad and Novgorod on 3 April 1969. He was ordained hierodeacon on 7 April and hieromonk on 1 June of the same year. He was appointed personal secretary to Metropolitan Nikodim on 30 August 1970. As a teacher at the Academy and secretary to the Metropolitan he devoted much of his time to participation in the external activity of the Moscow Patriarchate. In 1971 he represented the theological schools of the Russian Orthodox Church at the SYNDESMOS General Assembly and was elected by the assembly to the SYNDESMOS Executive Committee. He was elevated to the rank of archimandrite on 12 September 1971 and appointed representative of the Moscow Patriarchate at the World Council of Churches (WCC) in Geneva. In 1972 he was elected to the Board of the WCC Fund for Reconciliation and Reconstruction in Indochina.

He was appointed rector of the Leningrad Theological Schools on 26 December 1974. In 1975 he became chairman of the Leningrad Diocesan Council. By the resolution of His Holiness Patriarch Pimen and the Holy Synod on 3 March 1976 Archimandrite Kirill was made Bishop of Vyborg, Assistant Bishop of the Leningrad Diocese. His episcopal consecration took place on 14 March 1976.

Metropolitan Kirill has been actively involved in the ecumenical activity of the Russian Orthodox Church. In 1975 he was elected to the Central and Executive Committees of the WCC at its 5th Assembly in Nairobi. On 9 September 1976 he was appointed representative of the Russian Orthodox Church at the WCC Plenary Commission "Faith and Order". He participated in the 1st Pre-council Pan-Orthodox Conference in 1976 in Geneva, as well as Orthodox-Catholic dialogues in 1978, 1980 and 1984. From 1976 to 1978 he was Deputy Patriarchal Exarch for Western Europe and later took pastoral care of the Patriarchal parishes in Finland. He was elevated to the rank of archbishop on 2 September 1977. Since 1979 he has been member of the Holy Synod Commission for Christian Unity, now the Synodal Theological Commission.

On 26 December 1984 he was transferred to the See of Smolensk. By the decision of the Holy Synod of 14 November 1989, he was appointed Chairman of the Department for External Church Relations and Permanent Member of the Holy Synod. In 1991 he was elevated to the rank of metropolitan. He is an Honorary Member of the St. Petersburg Theological Academy and Doctor honoris causa of the Reformed Theological Academy in Budapest. He has been decorated with high orders of the Russian Orthodox Church and many Local Orthodox Churches. In August 1993 he was awarded the international Loviis Peace Prize. In 2002 he received honorary doctorate in political sciences honoris cause from the University of Perugia, Italy.