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Russian Church Chief Seeks Spotlight With Putinesque Call-In Show

Patriarch Kirill

Live from Moscow, it's Patriarch Kirill.

Russian President Vladimir Putin seeks to charm his country and rattle the West with an annual call-in show broadcast live on television.

Now the head of the Russian Orthodox Church wants some time in the spotlight.

Patriarch Kirill will conduct a live, televised question-and-answer session on September 3, state news agency TASS reported.

The August 28 report said Kirill would do the show during a church congress on social ministry that will also be attended by government officials.

Unlike Putin's call-in show, which is carried by the main state channels, Kirill's is apparently to be broadcast live only on Soyuz, a church-affiliated channel.

But the program may fuel criticism from secular-minded Russians who say that Kirill often acts like a politician and lament the close ties between church and state, which have tightened under Putin and Kirill even though the constitution says Russia is a secular country.

Polls have shown that some three-quarters of Russians identify themselves as Russian Orthodox, but that only a small fraction attends church regularly.

Kirill, who has headed the church since 2009, gave his informal but clear support to Putin's campaign for a third Kremlin term in 2012, and Putin has held out the church as a bulwark of morality.

The services Kirill leads on Orthodox Christmas and Easter are shown on state TV, as are holiday addresses he delivers.

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    Steve Gutterman

    Steve Gutterman is the editor of the Russia Desk in RFE/RL's Central Newsroom in Prague. He has lived and worked in Russia and the former Soviet Union off and on -- mostly on -- since 1989, including postings in Moscow with the Associated Press and Reuters.

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