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Russian President Putin attends Christmas service at rural church in Tver Region

January 07, 2016, 6:06 UTC+3 TURGINOVO VILLAGE

Putin already visited the very same church, also known as the Protection of Our Most Holy Lady Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary Church, in 2011 for the Christmas service

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© Alexey Druzhinin/TASS

TURGINOVO VILLAGE /Tver Region/, January 7. /TASS/. Russian President Vladimir Putin attended an Orthodox Christmas service at the Intercession of the Theotokos Church in the village of Turginovo, in Russia’s central Tver Region.

The appearance of Putin was a total surprise for other local Orthodox believers at the rural church, where they gathered for the service to celebrate Christmas, as there were no previous announcements of the Russian president’s plans to visit the Tver Region.

Putin already visited the very same church, also known as the Protection of Our Most Holy Lady Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary Church, in 2011 for the Christmas service. His parents were baptized in this church in 1911.

President Putin traditionally visits various Russian churches during the most important religious festivals. He usually prefers to stay in Moscow for Easter and travels to other parts of the country for Christmas.

Last year, the Russian president attended the Orthodox Christmas service at a newly restored church in Russia’s Otradnoye village near the southern city of Voronezh.

In 2014, Putin visited the newly built Holy Face of Christ the Saviour Church in Russia’s southern resort city of Sochi, located outside the Olympic Park.

In the previous years, he also attended Christmas Eve services in the city of St. Petersburg where he was baptized, in the Tver region where his parents were baptized in 1911, as well as in the Kostroma region, in Karelia, in the northern town of Veliky Ustyug and in the Moscow region.

In 2001, the president celebrated Christmas in the Russian capital, where he attended a service at Moscow's main Orthodox Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. In 2000, when he was still the acting president, Putin attended a Christmas Eve service at the Church of Life-Giving Trinity on Sparrow Hills (Vorobyovy Gory) in Moscow.

Christians conclude a four-week fast during which they confess their sins and receive communion. And on Christmas Eve they have special fasting, "until the first star," in memory of how the Magi came first to the birthplace of Christ following the movement of the star in the sky. At present, a candle in front of the altar, which is lit at the end of the Christmas Eve service at about noon, symbolizes the star.

Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia recited Christmas Eve liturgy at the Christ the Saviour Cathedral in Moscow. The service at Russia’s main cathedral was attended by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.

The festive Christmas service recalls the great event that marked the beginning of a new era for mankind. At the moment of birth of Godman God's grace touched every person, every family line, and from that time the person has the opportunity to accept the gift.

Russia’s main Orthodox cathedral, the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, built to commemorate the victory in the Patriotic War of 1812, is dedicated to the biblical birth of Jesus, since on this very day, December 25 of the older Julian calendar, the last soldier of the Napoleon army left Russia. For the first time ever, the Christmas Eve service was held with open Holy Doors to symbolize the openness of God’s word for all.

The Russian Orthodox Church today has more than 30,000 churches and 800 monasteries in almost 70 countries. Religious services are conducted during the night and in the morning in all Orthodox churches on all continents.

January 7 is also Christmas day for Orthodox Christians in Serbia, Jerusalem, Georgia, and the monastic community of Mount Athos in Greece, one of Orthodox Christianity's holiest sites. A midnight mass also took place in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem which marks the spot where Christians believe Jesus was born in the West Bank town.

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