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Russian Church Chief Seeks Spotlight With Putinesque Call-In Show

Patriarch Kirill
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/Ukraine/Belarus Desk in RFE/RL's Central Newsroom in Prague and the author of The Week In Russia newsletter. He lived and worked in Russia and the former Soviet Union for nearly 20 years between 1989 and 2014, including postings in Moscow with the AP and Reuters. He has also reported from Afghanistan and Pakistan as well as other parts of Asia, Europe, and the United States.

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