Russian Orthodox Patriarch Aleksy II dies at age 79

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Patriarch Aleksy II of the Russian Orthodox Church, who presided over the restoration of his church as the largest Orthodox church in the world and a powerful influence in Russian society after decades of Soviet persecution, died on Friday at his country residence in Peredelkino, outside of Moscow. He was 79.

The Moscow Patriarchate said that doctors were determining the cause of death. The patriarch had reportedly suffered from myocardial ischemia for years and been treated in Russia and at European clinics.

Aleksy II, who became patriarch in 1990, significantly deepened the role of the church in Russia's everyday life - erecting and restoring cathedrals, introducing Orthodox religious education in public schools and becoming a prominent voice on moral issues. During Russia's war with Georgia last August over the breakaway region of South Ossetia, he called for peace and reminded Russians that Georgia is also an Orthodox country.

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