Friday, January 11, 2013

Moscow, over 220 thousand faithful attend Christmas celebrations

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.

The 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.

Christmas is also a time of high terror alert and about 7 thousand officers, including police and army, monitored the sensitive sites.

According 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.

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