Russia celebrates Christmas

Today Russia celebrates Christmas, which is one of two most important religious holidays along with Easter.

Patriarch Kirill congratulated Orthodox Christians after a midnight service at the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow.

"With all my heart I congratulate you with the great life-saving holiday of Christmas. On this day, especially the believers feel the presence of God in their hearts," Patriarch Kirill said in the early hours of Saturday.

The Christmas mass at the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour was attended by Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, Sputnik writes.

Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia in his speech on Christmas Eve urged Christians to be more tolerant and forgiving, leave "virtual reality" for the real world and help those in need.

"Let’s not be judgmental of each other’s weaknesses, more tolerant and kinder, give each other more joy and love. Let’s leave the virtual reality space for the real world, opening our hearts to people that really need attention and care," the Patriarch said.

Patriarch Kirill noted that Christmas is "one of the most important holidays in the calendar of all Christian churches." "The Church sees it as a turning point in human history, the emergence of the possibility to actually reverse the tragic course of life, to turn from darkness to light, from collapse - to creation, from sin - to righteousness, from death - to life," he said, adding that Christmas is a celebration that traditionally gathers the whole family. "A family where there is peace and love, is an entry into the kingdom of God," he said, TASS reports.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is attending an overnight Orthodox Christmas service at the Spassky (St. Savior) Cathedral of the St. George’s Monastery in Veliki Novgorod. The monastery was founded by Prince Yaroslav the Wise back in 1030.

As a rule Putin leaves Moscow for Christmas, while on Easter he stays in the capital for a night-time service at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior.

Last year Putin went to a Christmas service in a rural Church near Voronezh. Before that he twice attended Christmas services in Sochi and a year earlier he went to a Christmas Service at a cathedral in St. Petersburg where he was baptized.

Congratulating Orthodox Christians on Christmas, the head of Dagestan Ramazan Abdullatipov reminded about creative power of this holiday, which awakens the kindest feelings and thoughts, contributes to the unity of millions of people on the basis of common spiritual values and historical traditions, an integral part of which are mutual respect and harmony, compassion and care for neighbors. 

"The Russian Orthodox Church and representatives of other faiths of Russia actively participate in the life of the country and society, promote decent upbringing of the younger generation, support of family, motherhood and childhood, pay close attention to the preservation of our unique historical and cultural heritage, education and charity," he said.

The head of North Ossetia Vyacheslav Bitarov congratulated Orthodox Christians on and stressed that Christmas is a symbol of great hope, good, best spiritual and moral traditions.

"Christmas season once again reminds us about compassion, charity, attention and special care for those who need our help and support," he noted.

Governor of Stavropol Territory Vladimir Vladimirov pointed out that this holiday brings kindest feelings and faith in better things, returns us to centuries-old spiritual heritage of Russia, which is based on eternal ideals of mutual respect, love and compassion.

The head of Ingushetia Yunus-Bek Yevkurov reminded in his congratulatory message that the traditions of Orthodoxy always make a significant contribution to the improvement of moral foundations of society, to the upbringing of young generation.

"I hope that true Christian traditions of selfless love for one's neighbor, compassion and tolerance, love for peace and common good will help to strengthen social cohesion and unity of all peoples of Russia," he said.

The head of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov also congratulated Russian Christians on this holiday. Politician stressed that the republic's authorities are doing everything for Orthodox to participate in celebrations, visit churches and temples.

The head of Kabardino-Balkaria Yuri Kokov noted that for many centuries Christmas reminds those who celebrate it about eternal significance of spiritual and moral traditions, about the fact that it is very important to protect family values and care for others.

The head of Karachay-Cherkessia Rashid Temrezov said that this day brings joy and light, peace and love to the hearts of Christians, calls for philanthropy and charity - values that are still relevant for all people, no matter what religion they profess.

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