Worshippers across the Orthodox Christian world have begun Christmas celebrations, with clergy in Bethlehem, Cairo, Moscow, Kyiv and other Eastern Christian communities commemorating the biblical birth of Jesus.
In Bethlehem, which braced for a rare snowstorm, Syria’s Orthodox archbishop joined his Greek and Coptic Orthodox counterparts for religious services at the Church of the Nativity in Manger Square. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Jordanian officials also were slated to attend Midnight Mass officiated by Jerusalem’s Patriarch Theophilus.
In Moscow, worshippers braved bone-chilling temperatures of minus 25 degrees C to attend midnight Mass at Christ the Savior Cathedral.
Elsewhere, the head of Ukraine’s Orthodox Church, Patriarch Filaret, prayed for peace at St. Volodymyr’s Cathedral in central Kyiv. Ahead of the service, President Petro Poroshenko delivered a nationally televised address urging Ukrainians to pray for troops battling pro-Russian separatists near the Russian border.
Today is Christmas day for Orthodox Christians in Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro and Serbia. The holiday also is commemorated in Syria, Bulgaria, Greece, Romania, Albania, Cyprus, Finland and by the Orthodox Church in America.
The Assyrian and Ethiopian churches also celebrate Christmas on the seventh, according to the Julian calendar.