Thursday, December 27, 2012

Catholic Christmas in Moscow

Рождественская месса собор Непорочного зачатия пресвятой девы Марии в Москве ясли католичество сочельник рождество храм католицизмOn the night of December 24, Roman Catholics and members of several other Christian denominations celebrated Christmas Eve.

In the late hours of December 24, the largest Roman Catholic cathedral in Russia – the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin – was full of people. 

With an exclamation of the priest, “Christ is born!”, which was joyfully repeated by the people, the holiday mass began. 

The Russian Orthodox Church and several other Orthodox churches celebrate Christmas on January 7.

According to a Catholic tradition, a Christmas service starts with putting a figurine of the Infant Jesus into a crib.

“This is a holy night for every Christian,” Metropolitan Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Moscow Paolo Pezzi addressed the people.
“On this night, more than 2,000 years ago, Jesus Christ was born,” Archbishop Paolo said. 
“Although the holiday of Christmas repeats every year, each time, on this night, we have a feeling that something incredible and supernatural is happening. Jesus Christ, God and Man, is being born into the world – but Christ is also being born in our souls. God the Son incarnated into the world to save us not because we have deserved it. He did it because of His boundless love and mercy to us. Doesn’t this fill us with joy?”

The Moscow Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception is a building in the Gothic style, the size and splendor of which are really impressive, built in the early 20th century. On the Christmas night, several thousand people gathered in the cathedral.
“For me, this cathedral is a second home, and Christmas is the main holiday in my life,” Olga, who was born and has always lived in Moscow, says.

“Celebrating Christmas always fills me with joy,” Olga says. “I always try not to leave Moscow on this day. I dress up a Christmas tree – and think about how beautiful life is.”

“I was baptized as a Roman Catholic only 7 years ago, although I had wanted to become a Catholic for a long time. The dogmas of the Roman Catholic Church are very close to me.”
Despite a rather widely spread belief that the majority of Roman Catholics in Russia are foreigners, there were many Russians in the cathedral on the Christmas Night as well.

“Our parish consists of people of various nationalities – Poles, Ukrainians, Belarusians, Lithuanians and others,” the senior priest of the cathedral Father Kirill Gorbunov says. “But they all consider themselves people of Russian culture. They don’t feel themselves as foreigners in Russia. Still, there are also many ethnic Russians in our parish. True, the majority of Russians are Orthodox Christians – but Roman Catholicism has long-standing traditions in Russia as well.”
Under the atheistic Soviet regime, the cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, like many other churches of various confessions all over the Soviet Union, was closed. In the late 1990s, the cathedral was restored, and divine services, after a break of many decades, resumed there.

“I am happy to be here on such a day,” a man called Christian, who has come from Germany, says.

“This is the second time I come to Moscow,” Christian says. “I first came here when you still had the Soviet regime. That time, the cathedral was closed. Now, I have a chance to be inside it – and I should say that I did not expect it to be so beautiful. It resembles many cathedrals in my native Germany.”

“I am a Roman Catholic,” Christian continues. “Although Germany is often considered to be a Protestant country, in reality, the percentage of Protestants and Catholics in Germany is approximately the same. As a rule, I celebrate Christmas in my church community in Germany – but now, I am happy to celebrate it in Moscow.’

However, not only Roman Catholics came to the cathedral on the Christmas night. Marianna, an Orthodox Christian, says:

“I am not going to change my confession, but I am very interested in Catholicism. I believe that if you have God in your soul, you will feel His presence everywhere, be it an Orthodox cathedral or a Catholic one.”

As mentioned, the Russian Orthodox Church, which lives according to a calendar different from the Western one, celebrates Christmas on January 7. 

However, several Orthodox local churches, like the Church of Alexandria, of Antioch, the Rumanian Church, the Church of Cyprus, of Greece and several others, celebrate it on December 24. 

Still, according to an undocumented agreement, on the territory of Russia, representatives of the above-mentioned Orthodox churches celebrate it on January 7, together with the Russian Orthodox Church.