It’s Christmas for 150 million Orthodox in the world

Posted On January 7, 2007

Filed under News Europe, News Middle East

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Today Orthodox Christians in Russia, the Holy Land and some eastern Churches are celebrating Christmas according to the Julian calendar.

The Patriarch of Moscow: the joy of the birth of Christ, the tragedy of the Holy Land. Even Putin delivered greetings. The Christmas period has been an opportunity for rapprochement between Catholics and Orthodox.

Moscow > Around 150 million Christian Orthodox are celebrating Christmas today according to the Julian calendar. The Pope yesterday recalled “our beloved brothers and sisters of the eastern Churches” and “with affection” wished them “abundance of peace and Christian prosperity”.

Russian Orthodox Christians of the Holy Land and of some other eastern Orthodox churches celebrate Christmas as per the Julian calendar, 13 days later than the Gregorian calendar adopted by Catholics, Protestants, some Orthodox and the secular world. On 7 January, the secular and religious world in Russia meet, abstinence from meat, sweets and alcohol that started on 28 November is over and Christmas is celebrated as a national feast.

Yesterday the Patriarch of Moscow and all the Russias, Alexei II, celebrated the Liturgy of the Vigil at the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in the capital. In his Christmas message, the Patriarch called on the faithful to “welcome in their hearts the joy of this birth” and to experience the beauty and strength of faith in daily life, public, and private. He also expressed concern about the “tragic events that have overrun the Holy Land where the Saviour was born 2,000 years ago”. “Let us pray to God that the land sanctified by the birth, life, passion and resurrection of Christ may become, in time, a land of peace”, said the message published on 5 January.

President Putin, in a message of greetings to the nation, said: “This feast brings joy and hope to millions of people and unites us around traditional moral values, reinforcing the moral foundations and harmony in society.” He also invited Russians to look to the future with “hope”. 

In reality, Christmas is also a time when security is on maximum alert especially in Moscow. The city administration deployed 9,000 policemen on the night of the Vigil and for all of today. There are 254 churches under surveillance; officers are also controlling the stands of means of public transport.

The Christmas period in Russia, even with the calendar differences between Catholics and Orthodox, has provided the opportunity to reiterate the commitment of the two sister churches towards more substantial rapprochement. In a press conference on 26 December, Mgr Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, Archbishop of the Mother of God Archdiocese in Moscow, invited Catholics and Orthodox to “remain united and to help each other in the face of current challenges”. Igor Vyzhanov, secretary for inter-Christian relations at the Moscow Patriarchate department for external church relations, said much the same. During a recent meeting with priests and religious of the Mother of God Archdiocese, the representative of the patriarchate said: “We should not be rivals but should seek to attain, even at the level of the clergy, that mutual comprehension we already have about many issues at official level.” He added that the Russian Orthodox were ready to collaborate with Catholics, especially in the social sector and works of charity.

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