MOSCOW, January 7. Russian President Vladimir Putin greeted Orthodox believers, all Russians celebrating Christmas, the Kremlin’s press service said on Thursday. “This holiday fills us with festive fun, gives birth to most light feelings and thoughts. It unites us around ideals of kindness, love and mercy. These eternal values pay a special role in the history of Russia, and over centuries they have been the spiritual, ethic base of the society,” the greeting reads. “It is very important that these days the Russian Orthodox Church, other Christian confessions in Russia continue the traditions of their responsible service, help people find belief, give them force in life. They participate actively in upbringing of the growing generations, in development of the institutes of family, maternity and childhood. This big work deserves deep, sincere respect,” the president said.
He wished the Orthodox believers and all people in Russia, who celebrate Christmas, happiness, peace success in good deeds and undertakings. Earlier, Putin attended an Orthodox Christmas service at the Intercession of the Theotokos Church in the village of Turginovo, in Russia’s central Tver Region. Putin already visited the very same church, also known as the Protection of Our Most Holy Lady Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary Church, in 2011 for the Christmas service. His parents were baptized in this church in 1911. President Putin traditionally visits various Russian churches during the most important religious festivals. He usually prefers to stay in Moscow for Easter and travels to other parts of the country for Christmas. Last year, the Russian president attended the Orthodox Christmas service at a newly restored church in Russia’s Otradnoye village near the southern city of Voronezh. In 2014, Putin visited the newly built Holy Face of Christ the Saviour Church in Russia’s southern resort city of Sochi, located outside the Olympic Park. In the previous years, he also attended Christmas Eve services in the city of St. Petersburg where he was baptized, in the Tver region where his parents were baptized in 1911, as well as in the Kostroma region, in Karelia, in the northern town of Veliky Ustyug and in the Moscow region. In 2001, the president celebrated Christmas in the Russian capital, where he attended a service at Moscow’s main Orthodox Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. In 2000, when he was still the acting president, Putin attended a Christmas Eve service at the Church of Life-Giving Trinity on Sparrow Hills (Vorobyovy Gory) in Moscow. Christians conclude a four-week fast during which they confess their sins and receive communion. And on Christmas Eve they have special fasting, “until the first star,” in memory of how the Magi came first to the birthplace of Christ following the movement of the star in the sky. At present, a candle in front of the altar, which is lit at the end of the Christmas Eve service at about noon, symbolizes the star. Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia recited Christmas Eve liturgy at the Christ the Saviour Cathedral in Moscow. The service at Russia’s main cathedral was attended by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. The festive Christmas service recalls the great event that marked the beginning of a new era for mankind. At the moment of birth of Godman God’s grace touched every person, every family line, and from that time the person has the opportunity to accept the gift. Russia’s main Orthodox cathedral, the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, built to commemorate the victory in the Patriotic War of 1812, is dedicated to the biblical birth of Jesus, since on this very day, December 25 of the older Julian calendar, the last soldier of the Napoleon army left Russia. For the first time ever, the Christmas Eve service was held with open Holy Doors to symbolize the openness of God’s word for all. The Russian Orthodox Church today has more than 30,000 churches and 800 monasteries in almost 70 countries. Religious services are conducted during the night and in the morning in all Orthodox churches on all continents. January 7 is also Christmas day for Orthodox Christians in Serbia, Jerusalem, Georgia, and the monastic community of Mount Athos in Greece, one of Orthodox Christianity’s holiest sites. A midnight mass also took place in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem which marks the spot where Christians believe Jesus was born in the West Bank town.