MOSCOW – Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II wished health and happiness on Sunday to millions of Orthodox Christians as believers celebrated Easter, the holiest day of the Orthodox calendar.
The Russian Orthodox Church, all but banned under the Soviet Union, has experienced a major resurgence since 1991, with an estimated two-thirds of Russia’s 144 million people believed to be observant.
Orthodox churches use a calendar different from that of the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches, which celebrated Easter March 27.
At the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in the Kremlin, those who gathered included Russian President Vladimir Putin. In Ukraine, President Viktor Yushchenko sent greetings to believers.
In Jerusalem, pilgrims and local Christians celebrated at Christianity’s holiest site. In Turkey, faithful gathered early Sunday at the seat of the Greek Orthodox Church in Istanbul to celebrate Easter.