Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II wished health and happiness to millions of Orthodox Christians on Sunday as believers marked Easter, the holiest day in the Orthodox calendar.
“Let the joy of the Easter holiday touch every heart. Let this joy give you strength and courage to withstand all hardships and troubles,” the patriarch said in his address, parts of which were broadcast on Russian television.
Orthodox churches use a different calendar than the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches, which celebrated Easter on March 27.
At the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, a massive church near the Kremlin that was destroyed by Stalin and rebuilt with a golden dome, thousands gathered for midnight Mass, including President Vladimir V. Putin and Prime Minister Mikhail Y. Fradkov.
Earlier in the evening, organizers put on a laser show that painted the church’s white exterior with images of icons and famous church frescoes.
The Russian Orthodox Church, all but banned under Communist rule in the former Soviet Union, has experienced a major resurgence since 1991, with an estimated two-thirds of Russia’s 144 million people believed to be observant.
In his Easter greetings, Putin said Russia was undergoing a spiritual revival.
“On this festive spring day, I’d like to point to the growing positive influence of the Russian Orthodox Church and other traditional Christian confessions on molding the spiritual and moral climate in Russian society,” he said.