As Russians attend midnight mass to mark Orthodox Christmas today Pope congratulates
07 Jan 2017
Vatican City: January 7, 2017. Pope Francis has congratulated Orthodox Church believers with the coming Christmas (under the Julian calendar) "in the spirit of brotherly love."
The Pontific delivered these greetings from a window of the Apostolic Palace while addressing pilgrims on Saint Peter’s Square with a sermon on the occasion of the Catholic Feast of the Epiphany.
The Pontific also greeted all the participants in the traditional costumed Journey of the Magi along central streets of the Eternal City organized for the 32nd time this year.
Patriarchs of the various Orthodox churches in Jerusalem led processions to Bethlehem on Friday for the Midnight Mass at the Church of Nativity.
While the Catholics celebrate Christmas on December 25, the Orthodox churches celebrate it on January 7.
President Mahmoud Abbas has also arrived in Bethlehem on Friday to attend the midnight mass with the various Orthodox Christian communities.
Russian Orthodox Christians have been celebrating Christmas, attending special midnight mass held in churches and cathedrals across the country.
From eastern Europe to Africa and central Asia, many Christians are celebrating Christmas now, two weeks after people in the West.
According to tradition people begin celebrating Christmas at the night mass, and continue at home the following day.
The Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and his wife joined hundreds of worshippers at the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow.
The Head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, led the mass, urging Christians to be more tolerant and forgiving, leave what he called “virtual reality” for the real world, and help those in need.
President Vladimir Putin attended a service in the Novgorod region, over 500 kilometres north of Moscow.
Recent years have seen efforts to promote Christmas, which was only revived after the Soviet era ended 25 years ago.
But for many Russians, the big celebrations are still reserved for New Year’s Eve.