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Russia and the Orthodox Church

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  • Russia and the Orthodox Church

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    Archived from 2004

    Russia marks Christmas with religious, secular celebrations
    The Associated Press

    Moscow, Jan. 7--(AP) Russians mixed spiritual ceremonies with secular celebrations Wednesday on the day marked as Christmas by the country's dominant church, which President Vladimir Putin said is linked with the nation's culture and the state in the soul of the people.

    Christmas Day falls on Jan. 7 for the Russian Orthodox Church and some other Orthodox Christian churches that use the old Julian calendar instead of the 16th century Gregorian calendar, adopted by Catholics and Protestants and commonly used in secular life around the world.

    Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II held a Christmas Day service at the hulking Christ the Savior Cathedral in central Moscow, where he earlier led a midnight service that began late Tuesday and was attended by some 5,000 believers, according to the ITAR-Tass news agency.

    Christ the Savior was destroyed under Soviet dictator Josef Stalin's order in 1931 and decades later replaced with a swimming pool, then reconstructed with a shining golden dome and consecrated in 2000, a symbol of the resurgence of the church - which was closely tied to the state during the Czarist era - following the collapse of the atheist Communist regime.

    In a Christmas address broadcast on state-run television, Alexy called Russia's "rebirth of faith'' a "miracle,'' adding: "The strengthening of our great country is becoming clearer and clearer - the awakening in the life of our country of a true popular spirit, the affirmation of its moral and spiritual origins.''

    Beneath the multicolored onion domes of St. Basil's Cathedral outside the Kremlin, actors and singers in colorful costumes performed a fast-paced Christmas pageant with a nativity scene as a backdrop. At the same spot earlier in the day, a group of students pronounced a pledge not to flag in their quest for knowledge, Echo of Moscow radio reported. Later, thousands of students marched to a park for concerts by university bands and pop groups, it said.

    Putin, who has repeatedly praised the Russian Orthodox Church while emphasizing the separation of church and state, said during a visit to a church and monastery outside Moscow that Orthodox Christianity is an integral part of Russian culture. "One should not completely draw a line between the culture and the church,'' Putin said in televised comments. "Of course, by law in our country the church is separate from the state, but in the soul and the history of our people it's all together. It always has been and always will be.''

    Putin spoke during a visit to an orphanage in Zvenigorod, a city west of the capital, where state-run television showed him drinking tea with the boys who live there and watching them perform a Christmas concert.

    Told that the boys wanted a bathhouse with a swimming pool, Putin promised that the government would help realize the dream--a generous Christmas gift in a country where many orphanages are poorly equipped.

    In a Christmas message released by the Kremlin on Tuesday, Putin said that the "activities of the Russian Orthodox Church and other Christian faiths traditional for our country contribute to the promotion of moral values in society.''

    About two-thirds of Russia's 144 million people are considered Orthodox Christians, but many do not attend church regularly despite the revival and New Year's remains the focus of the winter holiday season for most, as it was in the Soviet era. In a televised meeting with Putin, Alexy said half-jokingly that many Russians go to church only on Easter, the church's most important holiday.

    The dominance of the Russian Orthodox Church and its centuries-old ties to the state have prompted concern among religious minorities, and the church has clashed with the Roman Catholic Church and other Christian denominations it accuses of poaching souls on its traditional territory.

    In neighboring Ukraine, worshippers holding flickering candles and singing Baroque hymns packed Kiev's 11th century Monastery of Caves to hear the liturgy of Metropolitan Volodymyr, leader of one of two feuding Ukrainian Orthodox Church patriarchates, in a two-hour service broadcast live on state television.

    Archive, 2004
    http://www.beliefnet.com/story/138/story_13827_1.html
    Last edited by Stormy; 11-02-2008, 12:17 AM.

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