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06:43 GMT +3 hours20 December 2014
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Russians queue to see holy relic

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Some 20,000 people lined up on Tuesday around the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow to see one of the most revered Orthodox Christian relics, pilgrim hotline employees said.

Some 20,000 people lined up on Tuesday around the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow to see one of the most revered Orthodox Christian relics, pilgrim hotline employees said.

As the mercury in the Russian capital fell below zero, worshippers spent up to 15 hours in a 4-kilometer line to venerate a belt believed to have belonged to the Virgin Mary.

The belt has been brought to Russia from Mount Athos in Greece for the first time in history, and has been on display since November 19.

Despite arrangements including free meals being handed over to the worshipers and buses parked along the line where they could get warm, more than 70 believers required medical assistance on Tuesday, nine of whom were hospitalized, a medical source said.

The belt, that is believed to heal diseases and help women to conceive, arrived in Moscow on Saturday.

Worshipers from all over the country, as well as from other former Soviet states, have poured into the capital to see the belt. More than 200,000 believers have already visited the relic, church officials said.

Orthodox Christianity is Russia's traditional and largest religion and makes up over 60 percent of the country’s population.

According to believers, the Virgin Mary wove the miraculous belt out of camel wool and wore it until the end of her Earthly days. At the time of her ascension, she passed the belt on to the Apostle Thomas.

Currently, the relic belongs to the Vatopedi monastery on Mount Athos in Greece. The belt was brought to Russia on October 20 and has already been shown in many Russian cities, including St Petersburg.