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SOCHI, January 07, 3:12 /ITAR-TASS/. Russian President Vladimir Putin has attended a Christmas service at the newly built Holy Face of Christ the Savior Church in the Russian southern city of Sochi early on January 7, 2014.
Most Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas according to the Julian calendar on January 7, two weeks after most western Christian churches that abide by the Gregorian calendar. The Holy Face of Christ the Savior Church is located outside the Sochi Olympic Park.
The president arrived at the church minutes before midnight. He met the arrival of Christmas amidst parishioners in the central part of the church. About 300-400 parishioners attended the Christmas service at the Holy Face of Christ the Savior Church in Sochi.
Putin listened to Patriarch Kirill’s Christmas address and said good-bye to the parishioners. He exchanged Christmas gifts with Archimandrite Flavian, the superior of the Holy Face of Christ the Savior Church. Putin gave the archimandrite a 19th-century Russian icon of the Holy Face of Christ the Savior made of lime tree and leaf gold. The president, in turn, received an icon and the 2014 Orthodox calendar.
As Putin was leaving the church, he was greeted by the parishioners. “Christmas Greetings!’ he replied.
It was the second time that the president met Christmas in Sochi. Last year, he attended the Christmas service at the Holy Trinity St. George convent in the village of Lesnoye in the Adler district near Sochi.
The Holy Face of Christ the Savior Church is located near the Olympic facilities in the Imereti lowlands. Its construction started in the August of 2012. The first stone laid down in the church’s foundation was taken from the remnants of a wall of the 9th-century Byzantine church. Archaeologists found the graves of killed Christians, who, as scientists believe, died for the Christian faith, in the ruins.
The new Holy Face of Christ the Savior Church became a part of the Refuge of St. John the Precursor complex.
It has become a tradition with Russian President Vladimir Putin to visit various Russian churches on major religious holidays. The president prefers to stay in Moscow for the Easter and travel to other parts of Russia for Christmas.
In previous years, Putin attended a Christmas service in St. Petersburg where he was baptized; in the Tver region where his parents had been baptized as well as in the Kostroma region, in Karelia, in the town of Velikiy Ustyug and in the Moscow region.
In 2006, Putin met Christmas in a church in Yakutia in temperatures that were minus 50 below zero Centigrade.
In 2001, President Putin stayed in Moscow for Christmas.
In 2000, when he was still the acting president, Putin attended a Christmas Eve service at the Church of Life-Giving Trinity on Vorobyovy Hills in Moscow.