More than 220 thousand faithful in Moscow participated in the Vigil liturgy between January 6 and 7, when the Russian Orthodox Church celebrates Christmas according to the Julian calendar.
The data from the Russian Ministry of the Interior, as
reported by the Ria Novosti agency, recorded an increase compared to
last year when 90 thousand people participated in the functions.
population of the Russian capital is, officially, 12 million people.
The percentage of those who went to the church is thus less than 2% of
the total population, calculating, however, that the city is literally
empty during the New Year holidays, which run in Russia from 31 December
to 9 January.
Masses were celebrated in 348 of the 900 Russian Orthodox churches that are under the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate.
is also a time of high terror alert and about 7 thousand officers,
including police and army, monitored the sensitive sites.
to a recent survey, 80% of Russians call themselves Orthodox Christian,
but those who practice the faith are only a small percentage (around
8%). For many, faith is mostly associated with the idea of national
identity and not really rooted in practice.
Perhaps for this reason, the
proto-deacon Andrei Kuraev, professor at the Moscow spiritual Academy
and influential member of the Russian Orthodox Church, has proposed to
unite the Orthodox Christmas and Novi God (New Year) and celebrate both
on January 1, the religious feast - now little felt after 70 years of
state atheism - and the secular, which is considered to be the most
important of the year by Russians.
Media scandals that have
affected the Patriarch last year (from the Pussy Riot episode to those
of Kirill's alleged life of luxury and his open support for the policies
of President Putin) have deepened the separation between the
communities of faithful and the heads of the Russian Church, which
within itself is experiencing a time of great debate among the members
of the clergy.