kirillThe head of Russia’s Orthodox Church has flown fighter jets and passenger airliners and has tried to convince colleagues of the joys of parachute jumps, according to a senior cleric in Moscow.

Patriarch Kirill, enthroned as leader of the world’s 160 million Russian Orthodox believers in February, spends much of his time following rituals little changed since the Middle Ages.  But he has other ways to get close to the heavens. (Photo: Patriarch Kirill,1 Feb 2009/pool)

“He has taken the control stick of passenger planes, to which I am a witness, and of fighter jets,” said Archbishop Hilarion Alfeyev, quoted by Interfax news agency.

“Once he even tried to convince me to make a parachute jump,” said Alfeyev, a senior cleric who oversees the church’s relations with other Christian denominations.  “I said I was ready so as long as I knew the date in advance so I could leave my papers in order.” He said the 62-year-old patriarch had not yet set a date.

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