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

  • Quick-thinking N.S. men rescue woman trapped in sinking car

    Canada News CTV News
    Two young men are being credited with helping save a woman’s life after a vehicle she was travelling in veered off a Halifax road and fell into the water. Jessee Lowe, 19, and his friend Nathan Sampson had spent the day at the beach and were travelling down a stretch of winding road on June 4. Source
  • Hamilton home of mobster Musitano riddled with bullets [Photos]

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    HAMILTON - The Hamilton home of mob kingpin Pasquale “Fat Pat” Musitano was riddled with bullets early Tuesday morning in the city’s latest gangland incident. Musitano’s younger brother, Angelo, was gunned down in the driveway of his Waterdown home on May 2. Source
  • Colombian government, FARC rebels mark disarmament with ceremony

    World News CBC News
    Guerrillas from Colombia's largest rebel army no longer carry their guns along the road miles from the nearest city, a byway with mud so deep that even earth-moving equipment is paralyzed when it rains. In recent days, each of the rebels stationed at this demobilization camp carved from Colombia's eastern jungles have relinquished their weapons to United Nations observers and vowed to help end the country's half-century conflict. Source
  • Two unnamed leopard cubs make public debut in Germany [Photos]

    World News Toronto Sun
    LEIPZIG, Germany — Two Amur leopard cubs have made their public debut at the zoo in the German city of Leipzig. Now the search is on for their names. Mother Mia kept a close eye Tuesday on her two sons, who were born April 22 and now weigh more than 4 kilos (8.8 pounds) each. Source
  • Five years after Superstorm Sandy flooding, NYC subway station reopens

    World News CTV News
    NEW YORK -- A New York City subway station has reopened nearly five years after Superstorm Sandy flooded it with 15 million gallons of water. The South Ferry station on the No. 1 line reopened Tuesday after more than $340 million worth of repairs. Source
  • 80-year-old woman attacked by rabid bobcat in garden

    World News Toronto Sun
    SUNAPEE, N.H. — An 80-year-old New Hampshire woman fought off a rabid bobcat with the help of her two dogs and her gardening sickle. Elsie Dabrowski says she was gardening Sunday at her Sunapee home when the animal attacked , biting her face, arm and back. Source
  • Famed lawyer F. Lee Bailey files for bankruptcy once again

    World News Toronto Sun
    PORTLAND, Maine — Famed defence attorney F. Lee Bailey has filed for bankruptcy again to tie up loose ends following his bankruptcy filing last year. The attorney, whose high-profile clients have included O.J. Simpson, discharged more than $4 million in debt to the Internal Revenue Service in the previous case. Source
  • New York City subway train derails, dozens injured

    World News CBC News
    A subway train derailed near a station in Harlem on Tuesday, frightening passengers and resulting in minor injuries as hundreds of people were evacuated from trains along the subway line. "We started seeing sparks through the windows. Source
  • Royal Bank to reimburse $22M in investment fees it shouldn't have charged some clients

    Canada News CBC News
    The Ontario Securities Commission says the settlement comes after a compliance review in 2015 found the bank had overcharged some of its customers 'excess fees,' for their investments. (Mark Blinch/Reuters) The Royal Bank of Canada will pay almost $22 million in compensation to clients who were charged excess fees on some mutual funds and investments products. Source
  • Lockdown lifted at Alabama military post

    World News Toronto Sun
    HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — Authorities locked down an Alabama military post on Tuesday amid reports of possible active shooter, and workers were advised to “run hide fight.” About two hours later, the all-clear was given and officials said there were no confirmed injuries or arrests. Source