The head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Alexiy II, has died. The patriarch died on Friday morning, aged 79. patriarch_aleksii2

He had been sick for some time. Alexiy II was credited with helping restore the moral authority of the Russian Orthodox Church after decades of repression under communism, no easy tak I should think.

Alexiy II became its head in 1990, shortly before the fall of the Soviet Union.

He brought the scattered branches of the Russian Orthodox church back under the control of the Moscow Patriarchate.

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev said he was shocked by the death. “I respected him deeply,” he said.

Born Alexei Rediger to a Russian Orthodox family living in Estonia in 1929, the future patriarch rose swiftly through the ranks of the Church after studying theology in St Petersburg.

By the age of 32 he was a bishop, by 35 he was an archbishop.

He served as the Moscow Patriarchate’s chief administrator and the deputy head of the Church’s external affairs department before being elected as its head.

O Master, Lord our God, Who in Thy wisdom hast created man, and didst honour him with Thy Divine image, and place in him the spirit of life, and lead him into this world, bestowing on him the hope of resurrection and life everlasting; and after he had violated Thy commandments, Thou O Gracious lover of mankind, didst descend to the earth that Thou mightest renew again the creation of Thy hands. Therefore we pray Thee, O All-Holy Master give rest to the souls of Thy servant, Alexiy, in a place of brightness, a place of green pasture, a place of repose, and, in that they have sinned in word, or deed or thought forgive them: For Thou art a good God and lovest mankind and unto Thee do we ascribe Glory, together with Thy Father, Who is from everlasting and Thine All-Holy and good, and ever giving Spirit, now, and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.