Orthodox Russians celebrate Easter with nighttime services in Moscow Cathedral

MOSCOW (AP) — Worshipers include the president. Vladimir Putin Moscow’s landmark Cathedral of Christ the Savior was packed to capacity for evening Easter services. Patriarch Kirillleader of the Russian Orthodox Church and an outspoken supporter of the Kremlin.

The service with traditional songs began late Saturday, with Kirill delivering well-wishes to Orthodox believers and the event was broadcast on Russian television. Later, a procession of white-robed clergymen waved censers and chanted the liturgy as they circled the vast cathedral, rebuilt after the collapse of the Soviet Union and widely seen as a symbol of Russia’s rejection of its atheistic past. .

Most Western churches celebrated Easter on March 31st, but the Russian Orthodox Church follows a different calendar.

In his Easter speech, Kirill wished “God’s blessing on Russia, its people, and all countries where the Church is present.”

In a written message posted on the church’s website on Saturday, Kirill said: Break through discouragement. ”

This year, the Patriarch appeared to avoid political statements, unlike last April, when he lamented “grave events taking place on historic Russian lands.” Russian military actions in Ukraine And it reinforces the Kremlin’s narrative that the Ukrainian state is essentially a fiction.

The service, which featured a mixed choir and standing worshipers holding thin red candles, was scheduled to extend into Sunday.

Putin was seen among the worshipers, standing next to Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin as the two joined in the traditional Easter greeting. The Russian leader was then seen exchanging celebratory gifts with Kirill.

Early Saturday morning, Russian Orthodox people headed to church to fill baskets with festive food, including hand-painted eggs and traditional Easter cakes blessed by a priest.

President Putin is keen to portray himself as defending the “traditional values” espoused by the Russian Orthodox Church in the face of what he has repeatedly cast as the “degrading” influence of the West. was. The country has taken an increasingly conservative turn, with restrictions on abortion and widespread bans on abortion. LGBTQ+ activism Gender transition with support from the church.

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