Orthodox Christian faithful mark Christmas in Europe, Middle East

MOSCOW -- For much of the Orthodox Christian world, Thursday is celebrated as Christmas Day. Believers in Russia, Ukraine, and parts of Eastern Europe and the Middle East flocked to churches for the holiday.

See Full Article

Some Orthodox churches follow the liturgical calendar observed by the Roman catholic and Protestant churches and celebrate Christmas on Dec. 25.

A look at Christmas events throughout the world Thursday:

RUSSIA

As Christmas approached across the sprawling country's nine time zones, Russians flocked to churches for long and solemn Masses. At Moscow's enormous Christ The Savior Cathedral, the service began at 11 p.m. on Wednesday and stretched two and a half hours, led by Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill, with the devout standing shoulder-to-shoulder.

President Vladimir Putin attended a midnight service at a church in the village of Turginovo, about 150 kilometres northwest of Moscow, where his parents were baptized.

Soldiers taking part in Russia's airstrikes in Syria attended a nighttime service in a tent on the Russian air base. The tent's walls were lined with icons and a few strings of purple lights were festooned at its entrance.

In his Christmas greetings to the nation, Putin said: "It is very important in these days that the Russian Orthodox Church and other Christian confessions in Russia continue the traditions of responsible service, help people find belief and give them force in life. They participate actively in upbringing of the growing generations, in development of the institutes of family, maternity and childhood."

EGYPT

Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Christians celebrated Christmas Eve across the mainly Muslim country amid tightened security for fear of militant attacks, which have exponentially increased following the military overthrow of an Islamist president.

Roadblocks were set up before churches nationwide and cars and motorcycles were temporarily banned from idling in front of them, police Maj. Gen. Gamal Halawa said. In Cairo alone, police searched over 300 churches for explosives.

Egypt's Orthodox Coptic Christians fervently supported the 2013 ouster of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi. Ever since, Christian homes, businesses and churches have been more targeted.

"We have been late in restoring and fixing what has been burned.... Everything will be fixed... Please accept our apologies for what happened," President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who as military chief led Morsi's overthrow, told the crowd on Wednesday at Cairo's St. Mark Cathedral, the papal seat, in a rare public apology and acknowledgement of the attacks. Egyptian presidents never attended Christmas masses, making el-Sissi's visit this year, the second of its kind, doubly appreciated.

The heightened security measures were in part a preparation for the Jan. 25 anniversary of the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak. Officials including el-Sissi have voiced concern about attempts to mark the anniversary of the revolt with protests in recent weeks.

Egypt's Orthodox Coptic Christians make up about 10 per cent of the country's 90 million people.

GEORGIA

In Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, the main avenue was crowded with colorfully dressed marchers in the traditional Christmas Day procession, collecting gifts and goods to donate to the needy.

The tradition, called "Alilo" (Glory to God), dates back centuries, when people would go out to collect alms for charity after Christmas Mass. It was banned during Soviet times, and restored only in 2000.

The procession included people dressed in robes displaying Georgia's national emblem of a red cross on white background and others in outfits symbolizing scenes of the Nativity. Some rode in carts pulled by donkeys or cattle, and other carried animal mock-ups including a camel and giraffe.

"This procession is an attempt to share the happiness with all those people who could not celebrate Christmas because of illness or poverty. We will go to all of them and bring gifts," said Father Kakhaber Gogotishvili, a priest who took part.

UKRAINE

President Petro Poroshenko and his family attended Christmas services at a village church in the Ivano-Frankiivsk region in the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains. According to the presidential press service, Poroshenko and others prayed for peace and reconciliation "on all Ukrainian land."

Conflict between Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine persists, although the intensity has diminished in recent months. Rebels said on Wednesday that they were prepared to release some of the conflict's prisoners on Christmas, but Ukrainian authorities made no direct public response and there were reports Thursday of a release taking place.

Nour Youssef in Cairo and Sophiko Megrelidze in Tbilisi contributed



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Trump Jr calls it 'nonsense' that family's profiting from presidency

    World News CTV News
    Donald Trump Jr. gives a thumbs up as he arrives for a meeting in New Delhi, India, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup) Source
  • Widow of avalanche victim sues guides, lodge operator for negligence

    Canada News CTV News
    VANCOUVER - The widow of an Alberta man who died in an avalanche near Golden, B.C., is suing the guides, their mountain guide association and the lodge operator for negligence. Douglas and Sheila Churchill were among 13 people skiing in the backcountry, about 50 kilometres northwest of Golden, when a large avalanche struck in February 2016. Source
  • Storm causes disruptions across New Zealand

    World News CTV News
    WELLINGTON, New Zealand - Mudslides blocked the only road to a small New Zealand town Wednesday after a powerful Pacific storm caused disruptions across parts of the country. The 1,000 tourists and 5,000 locals in Takaka are not entirely trapped, but would have to use a boat, helicopter or small plane to leave town now or wait a week or more before the road is cleared and repaired. Source
  • Canada welcomes release of final text of CPTPP deal

    Canada News CBC News
    The final version of a landmark deal aimed at cutting trade barriers in some of the Asia-Pacific's fastest-growing economies was released on Wednesday, signalling the pact was a step closer to reality even without its star member the United States. Source
  • Quebec man pleads guilty to importing cocaine into Australia

    Canada News CTV News
    One of three Quebecers charged with importing a large amount of cocaine into Australia in 2016 has pleaded guilty. New South Wales District Court spokeswoman Felicia Benedikovics says Andre Tamine pleaded guilty last Friday to importing cocaine in commercial quantities and will be sentenced on Oct. Source
  • Roof of community arena collapses in Calgary neighbourhood, nobody hurt

    Canada News CTV News
    CALGARY - No one was hurt when the roof of a small arena collapsed in a Calgary neighbourhood. The failure of the roof at the Fairview Community Centre Tuesday afternoon came only a day after the building was evacuated due to concerns about its structural integrity. Source
  • Japan sees transfer at sea that may violate North Korea sanctions

    World News CTV News
    TOKYO -- Japan's military has witnessed a ship-to-ship transfer on the high seas that it "strongly suspects" violates U.N. sanctions on North Korea, in the third such incident reported by Japan in the past month. Source
  • North Korea calls off meeting with Mike Pence 'at the last minute,' White House says

    World News CBC News
    U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence was all set to hold a history-making meeting with North Korean officials during the Winter Olympics in South Korea, but Kim Jong-un's government cancelled at the last minute, the Trump administration said Tuesday. Source
  • 'We aren't politicians, but we have voices': Shooting survivors push lawmakers on gun laws

    World News CTV News
    A group of students who survived a massacre at their Florida high school is optimistic that their anti-gun message will be heard by the state’s Republican politicians. A busload of students headed to Tallahassee Tuesday in hopes of pushing legislators to adopt stricter gun control laws in the wake of the deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where 17 students and faculty members were killed last Wednesday. Source
  • Week of reckoning on White House aides' access to secrets

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- It's a week of reckoning for White House senior adviser Jared Kushner and dozens of other officials who have been working without permanent security clearances for the better part of a year. Those who have been operating with interim access to top secret information since before June are set to see that access halted Friday under a new policy enacted last week by chief of staff John Kelly. Source