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    MOSCOW, April 4, 2004. (RIA Novosti) - Russia's Orthodox Christian community is observing Palm Sunday, the first day of Holy Week. Patriarch Alexis II of Moscow and All Russia will perform tonight a festive service at the city's major church, the Cathedral of Christ the Redeemer, the Moscow Patriarchate's external church relations unit has announced.

    As is known, Palm Sunday celebrates Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem after three years of preaching in the hinterlands of Israel. When He rode into the city, crowds would cheer Him as their Messiah, laying garments and palm branches at His feet.

    In Russia, pussy willow branches are traditionally used in commemorating the occasion, for the pussy willow is the first tree to bloom here in early spring. Russian worshippers bring branches with silky gray-haired blooms into church for Palm (or Passion) Sunday services to praise Jesus as Lord.