Orthodox Russians Celebrate Christmas

Merry Christmas to all our Russian Orthodox friends!

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A night Christmas service ended at the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour at 2 o’clock in the morning on Thursday. It was attended by more than 5,000 people. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and his wife Svetlana were among those present.

After the liturgy the president and the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, exchanged Christmas gifts in the altar. Dmitry Medvedev presented a modern hand-written New Testament with miniatures to Patriarch Kirill, while the head of the Russian Orthodox Church gave a four-volume edition of the works of Russian writers and poets of the 14th-20th centuries to President Medvedev.

Sixteen television channels and dozens of photo reporters, including correspondents from Germany, the United States, France and Turkey, broadcast the Christmas night service live. The Russian television channel “Russia Today” delivered live broadcasts to the Arab and Spanish-speaking countries.

Archbishop Antonio Mennini, Vatican’s representative in Russia, was present at the service at the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour.

Patriarch Kirill extended Christmas greetings to all those who gathered in the cathedral. He thanked the country’s leadership and all Russians for their firmness demonstrated in the 2009 crisis year. The past year was vital for the establishment of national identity.

Orthodox Russians are celebrating Christmas on Thursday, January 7. The Nativity of Jesus Christ ushered in a new era in the history of mankind two thousand and ten years ago.

Orthodox Christians will mark the Saviour’s arrival for another 12 days until the Epiphany (January 19).

In the beginning of the 21st century the Russian Orthodox Church has about 30,000 churches and more than 800 monasteries. The beginning of the year will be marked by the consecration of a new Orthodox church in Nagoya, Japan, on January 11.

The Orthodox Church of Jerusalem as well as the Serbian and Georgian Orthodox Churches also celebrate Christmas on January 7.

A Christmas service was held in the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus Christ. A Russian liturgy that was attended by members of the Russian Orthodox Mission in Jerusalem and Russian pilgrims was held in the Basilica a week before Christmas.

In Moscow Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill led the night Christmas service. He and Metropolitan Yuvenaliy will conduct the Christmas Evening Prayer in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour at 16:00 Moscow time.

In his Christmas message to the Russians Patriarch Kirill urged the Russians to mediate over the significance of the historical event that ushered in a new era in the history of mankind.

A Christmas night service devoted to the Nativity of Jesus Christ was held in the Church of the Assumption of Our Lady located in the territory of the Russian Embassy in Beijing.

The church was built in the territory of the Russian Orthodox Mission in China in the early 20th century. Later, the church was destroyed. It was rebuilt and consecrated in October 2009. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was present at the opening ceremony. He presented two icons to the church.

Father Meletiy and Priest Alexey Dyuka led the Christmas liturgy which, alongside with Russians, was attended by Ukrainians, Serbs, Bulgarians, Greeks, Romanians and Orthodox Christians from the United States and France who reside in Beijing.

Christmas is being marked in Abkhazia where Christmas is a day off. Orthodox god believers had gathered in the Annunciation Cathedral in Sukhum for the night Christmas service by midnight on Wednesday, January 6.

Fahter Vissarion Apliaa, the head of the Abkhazian Orthodox Church, told Itar-Tass that over the past ten years more and more people of different age had been coming to the church on Christmas night to pray.

“The outgoing 2009 became significant both for secular Abkhazia and for its Orthodox parish. The restoration of the Abkhazian Orthodox Church began last year for the first time since 1795,” Father Apliaa said. He added that many Orthodox families in Abkhazia had lit candles near their windows on Christmas night, symbolically inviting the Mother of God to enter their homes.

ITAR-TASS
7 January, 2010