Senior figures within the Russian Orthodox Church have gathered to pick a new leader for the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union.The front-runner is Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad. He has been acting head of Russian Orthodoxy since the death in December of Patriarch Alexiy II. For many observers, the Church stands at a crossroads with a choice between sticking to tradition and opening up to the rest of the world. With the stakes high, demonstrators gathered to voice their hopes that the election process goes without a hitch and helps strengthen the Church. Patriarch for 18 years, Alexiy died aged 79. A staunch conservative, he was credited with enabling the dramatic revival of the Church after the collapse of Communism.