JL says Alexiy the Second's influence extended beyond theology: he was a powerful political figure, as seen as the reaction from politicians in Russia, like Medvedev and Putin's statement. (Is the Patriarch the sort of Russian equivalent of the Pope?) He wouldn't have thanked you for making that statement, there were frosty relationships with the Catholic Church. (Why?) Because of poaching souls, that was the big accusation Alexiy the Second made against Pope John Paul II. But recently Pope Benedict tried to thaw these tensions. (It was thought there was a close proximity between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian government. What does that mean?) In historical context, under the Czar the Russian Orthodox Church was known as the hand maiden of the state, it was its ideological wing. Under the Soviet Union, it was thus scrutinized a lot. So it's been cast out in the cold or brought back in as its suited the state. In the 1990s, it's become close to the state again, very closely ideologically aligned. It's difficult to imagine Alexiy the Second having risen as high as he did without political connections. Some have alleged he had ties to the KGB, which has been denied by the Church. (What would average Russians have to say about their own religion these days, especially because of the dominance of the Russian Orthodox Church?) It's very checkered. Alexiy the Second also pushed a 1997 law on religious freedom. However if you are a protestant sect, many would claim to be persecuted. So it's a mixed picture.