And then there were three…Senior clergy have drawn up a shortlist of nominees to become the next patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church. Way ahead in the first round of voting was Russian Orthodoxy’s acting head, Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad. He himself announced the nominees in the first election of a new leader for the Church since the fall of the Soviet Union. Kirill, a moderniser, is firm favourite to take over from Alexiy II who died last month. But religious scholars say he could face a backlash from traditionalists who may rally around another candidate to block him. Metropolitan Kliment of Kaluga and Borovsk could be the conservatives’ choice. The third and eldest candidate is 73-year-old Metropolitan Filaret of Minsk and Slutsk. Earlier, the church prayed for divine guidance in making its choice. The final vote begins on Tuesday. The new patriarch will determine whether to repair ties with the Vatican, strained since a schism in 1054 split Christianity into eastern and western branches.