Russian Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas

Millions of Russian Christians celebrated Christmas, 13 days behind the Gregorian calendar.

Updated: Jan 07, 2011, 19:40 PM IST

Moscow: The spiritual head of the Russian
Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, today called on his
followers to come together in times of need, as millions of
Christians in the country celebrated Christmas, 13 days behind
the widely accepted Gregorian calendar.

"The importance of joining forces to overcome tragedy
and misfortune was demonstrated by the last year`s wildfires
and drought across Russia. But people`s unity should not be
limited only by times of trouble," Patriarch Kirill said in
his Christmas message.

"It should become an indispensable part of our
national identity and life," the spiritual head of the Russian
Orthodox Church said.

Along with several other Orthodox Churches of the
eastern Christianity, Russia is celebrating Christmas today.

Orthodox Christians, who make up around 60 per cent of
the 140 million inhabitants of Russia, celebrate Christmas 13
days after December 25, in accordance with the Julian
Calendar.

Last night, President Dmitry Medvedev with his spouse
Svetlana attends the main Christmas service conducted by the
Moscow and All-Russia Patriarch Kirill in the cathedral of
Christ here.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin attended the Christmas
service in a church in his ancestral Turginovo village in
neighbouring Tver region, where his father and mother were
Christened and his grandmother is buried.
Medvedev also sent a Christmas greeting to the nation
via his Twitter account.

According to police, at least 14,000 people attended
Christmas service in Moscow cathedral rebuilt in the
post-Soviet era, after Stalin had blown it up in 1930s and an
open air swimming pool was built on the site.

The Russian Orthodox Christian Church, which from the
beginning was identified as the spiritual centre of the
expanding Russian Empire.

Today it faces a new challenge. After the Soviet
collapse, parts of the former Communist empire are now
independent states and the Moscow Patriarchy does not want its
activities to be seen as a creation of a `fifth column` in the
former Soviet republics.

"I manifestly felt the strength of church unity during
my numerous journeys to the dioceses of Russia, Ukraine,
Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan," Patriarch Kirill said.

The spiritual leader said this plants hope for a
"successful growth of church life in the spirit of unity and
co-operation".

PTI