Senior clergy from the Russian Orthodox church have backed a moderniser who favours closer ties with the Vatican in the first round of voting to choose a new patriarch.Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad is one of the most senior Russian clerics to have met the Roman Catholic pontiff. He won the most votes in the church’s Council of Bishops and goes through to the next round as favourite. Metropolitan Kliment of Kaluga and Borovsk, widely regarded as the traditionalists’ favourite, is in second place with 32 votes. Metropolitan Filaret of Minsk and Slutsk is in third place with 16. The Russian Orthodox church has been without a leader since Alexiy II died last month after 18 years as patriarch. 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. The vote on the final three begins on Tuesday.