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MOSCOW, February 06, /ITAR-TASS/. Multi-faith prayer centers have opened in three Olympic villages in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi that will host the 2014 Winter Olympic Games on February 7-23, clerics who inspected them told Itar-Tass Wednesday.
Volunteers and clergy from Russia’s traditional faiths - Christianity, Islam, Judaism and Buddhism - Orthodox Christian priests, Catholic and Protestant clergy, imams, rabbis and lamas - will be on duty round the clock at the centers in the Coastal, Mountain and Endurance Olympic villages.
“The prayer centers contain separate rooms for Orthodox Christians, Western Rite Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists and Hindus. This is the Sochi Olympics’ advantage over many others, which had only one prayer room for all religions and denominations,” a spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Church told Itar-Tass.
The Moscow Patriarchate also said Orthodox priests had already consecrated their prayer rooms and then visited the headquarters of the Russian Olympic national team, where they worshipped an icon of St. George the Victory-Bearer that has accompanied Russian Olympic teams since 2004.
Roman Catholic Church clerics told Itar-Tass how their prayer rooms would be organized. Priests furnished the rooms themselves, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Moscow said.
“There are altars in two of them, crosses, icons of Our Lady of Czestochowa and portraits of Pope Francis hang on walls. The third room in the Mountain Village that will be used jointly with Orthodox Christians also has icons and all necessary items to celebrate Mass, even folding chairs unusual for Orthodox liturgical rooms,” the archdiocese said.
Catholic clerics will arrive from different countries, including together with delegations of foreign athletes.
One of the key concerns for Russia’s Federation of Jewish Communities was to organize kosher nutrition for the upcoming Olympics. “It was hard to provide it, as Sochi had no kosher restaurants until now,” Russia’s Chief Rabbi Berl Lazar said. Now it is possible to order the food in canteens in the Olympic village, and there is special cuisine and a kosher food store in Sochi.
The Council of Muftis told Itar-Tass that their prayer rooms “contain, like it is said in the instructions, separate rooms for prayers by men and women.” Imams working in multi-faith centers will represent the Spiritual Directorate of Muslims of Adygea and the Krasnodar Territory in south Russia. An international halal certification center has checked special food.
The Olympic Committee’s demand is that each faith’s prayer room should have at least two clerics. Volunteers - cultural and religion studies students - will answer questions from visitors, distribute brochures on the history of various religions and show films.
Organizers do not think regular mass divine services would be held in the multi-faith centers. For example, Orthodox priests do not plan to hold liturgy or administer other sacraments in prayer rooms other than the one in the Coastal Village. But each guest will be able to pray or talk to a priest as well as take part in common prayers there.