5 Dec 2008

Patriarch of Russian Orthodox church Alexy II dies

The head of the Russian Orthodox church, Patriarch Alexy II, who played an influential role in denouncing the KGB coup against Michael Gorbachev, has died.

The late head of the Russian Orthodox church, Alexy II, releases a dove after a holiday service at the Kremlin, in April 2004

The church said the 79-year-old died at his residence outside Moscow on Friday. It did not give the cause of death, but the patriach had suffered from a heart ailment - and was known to be seriously ill earlier this year.

The outspoken cleric had led the world's biggest Orthodox church since 1990, presiding over a flock that by most estimates numbers two-thirds of Russia's population of 142 million.  guardian.co.uk