Orthodox Christians celebrate Easter
Orthodox Christians celebrate Easter
By MIKE ECKEL
MOSCOW (AP) - Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexy wished health and happiness
to millions of Orthodox Christians as believers on Sunday marked Easter, the
holiest day in the Orthodox calendar.
The Russian Orthodox Church, all but banned under the Soviet Union, has
experienced a major resurgence since 1991, with an estimated two-thirds of
Russia's 144 million people believed to be observant.
"Let the joy of the Easter holiday touch every heart. Let this joy give you
strength and courage to withstand all hardships and troubles," the patriarch
said in his address, parts of which were broadcast on Russian television.
Orthodox churches use a different calendar than the Roman Catholic and
Protestant churches, which celebrated Easter on March 27.
At the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, a massive church near the Kremlin
that was destroyed by Stalin and rebuilt with a golden dome, thousands of
believers gathered for midnight mass, including President Vladimir Putin and
Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov.
Earlier in the evening, organizers put on a first-ever laser show that
painted the church's white exterior with images of icons and famous church
In his Easter greetings, Putin said the country was undergoing a spiritual
"On this festive spring day, I'd like to point to the growing positive
influence of the Russian Orthodox Church and other traditional Christian
confessions on moulding the spiritual and moral climate in Russian society,"
the president said.
In Ukraine, where the country's sizable Roman Catholic population marked
Easter nearly a month ago, President Viktor Yushchenko sent Easter greetings
to Orthodox believers, telling them Ukraine received divine help during last
year's pro-democratic Orange Revolution that brought him to the presidency.
"We see our future tied with the future of other European nations . . . I
wish that this Easter marks the beginning of a new and better life for
everyone," Yushchenko said.
Almost 90 per cent of Ukrainians are members of the Orthodox church.
Across Romania, a hostage crisis in Iraq involving three Romanian
journalists and their translator overshadowed the holy day celebrations as
tens of thousands of Orthodox Christians lit candles to mark Easter.
From the Black Sea beaches in eastern Romania to the central city of Craiova
and the flooded plains of western Romania, Orthodox priests and the faithful
prayed for the release of the journalists and the interpreter kidnapped
In Jerusalem, hundreds of pilgrims joined a handful of local Christians in
celebrating Orthodox Easter in Christianity's holiest site, where tradition
holds that Jesus rose after being crucified and buried.
Worshippers celebrated peacefully despite plans by Palestinians to protest
the participation of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch, Irineos I, a central
figure in a land dispute in Jerusalem's Old City.
Pilgrims from Russia, Serbia, Greece and other countries kneeled to rub
oils, crosses, religious pictures and other articles across a rectangular
orange stone representing the place where the body of Jesus was prepared for
burial, just inside the entrance of the ancient Church of the Holy
Sepulcher, built over the traditional site of Calvary.
In Turkey, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew spoke out against terrorism and
killing in the name of religion as Orthodox faithful gathered early Sunday
at the seat of the Greek Orthodox Church in Istanbul to celebrate Easter.
Bartholomew, the spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox Christians and a
longtime advocate of harmony between different religions, led several
thousand worshippers at a crowded midnight liturgy. Many were pilgrims from