Orthodox Christians celebrate Easter with 'Holy Fire' ceremony in Jerusalem, greetings from Putin in Russia

(Photo: REUTERS / Maxim Shemetov)Russian President Vladimir Putin (C) kisses Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, as Svetlana Medvedeva (R), wife of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, looks on during an Orthodox Easter service in the Christ the Saviour Cathedral in Moscow May 5, 2013.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has congratulated Orthodox Christians and all Russian citizens on Orthodox Easter one week after Christians in the West celebrated their belief in Jesus rising from the dead three days after his crucifixion.

Putin, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and his wife Svetlana attended the Orthodox Easter service at the Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow on April 7, where several thousand-people gathered, including members of parliament.

In Jerusalem the "Holy Fire" ceremony helped Eastern Orthodox Christians usher in Easter.

Some 7,000 pilgrims in Jerusalem's Church of the Holy Sepulchre lit their candles off the "flame" from the "miracle light" on the night of April 7 and early morning of April 8, Easter Day.

The light emanates from the stone bed that Christian tradition believes to be the spot where Jesus's body was placed for burial.

The flame represents the resurrection of Christ and will be passed candle to candle and taken to other Orthodox churches around the world. The ritual dates back some 1,200 years.

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the rest of the Old City lies in east Jerusalem, captured by Israel from Jordan in the Six Day War of 1967 and later annexed by Israel.

The Greek Orthodox, Armenian, and Roman Catholic denominations share custody of the church.

Christians made up more than 18 percent of the population of the Holy Land when Israel was founded in 1948, but now form less than two percent, mostly Orthodox, The Times of Israel reported.

In Kiev, church services, festivals, and children's events were scheduled for April 8 and a holiday the following day.

Easter can occur on different days in the Gregorian (Western) and Julian (Eastern Orthodox) calendars.

In his message Putin said, "The great holiday of Easter, which symbolizes a triumph of life, good and love and has a huge moral significance.

"It wakens faith, hope and intention to do good deeds, to help to our fellow people. It consolidates people among eternal spiritual values and ideals. In these spring days filled with a sincere joy we understand the importance of the traditions and customs," the Russian president said in a statement, as quoted by the Kremlin press service.

The Assyrian, Greek, Russian and other Orthodox don't usually celebrate Easter on the same date as Catholics and Protestants. But in 2017, in a rare occurrence both the Orthodox Christians and Catholics did celebrate Easter on the same date.

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