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    MOSCOW, APRIL 5, 2004. (RIA NOVOSTI) - Orthodox Christian churches across the world will join in a prayer for peace in Jerusalem in their Holy Saturday services, leading to the Vigil of Easter. The Russian Foundation of Andrew the First Called has come out with this initiative and Patriarch Alexis II of Moscow and All Russia has given it his blessing.

    Speaking to reporters on Monday, Georgy Poltavchenko, presidential envoy to the Central Federal District who presides over the project's organizing committee, said that the idea behind this project is to rally people around the Holy City as a center of three world religions and the site of Christian, Jewish, and Moslem shrines. If peace is restored to Jerusalem, then other war-torn regions, including the Serbian province of Kosovo, may regain calm and stability as well.

    April 26, 2003, was the first time Orthodox churches the world over had joined in a prayer for peace in Jerusalem. On that day, millions of Orthodox Christians in countries as far apart as Russia, Serbia, Belgium, Germany, Canada, the United Kingdom, the United States, Argentina, Syria, Albania, the Czech Republic, and Japan prayed for peace in the Holy Land. "The prayer began in Japan and ended in America (in accordance with the time zones); in Moscow and Jerusalem churches, the prayer was read concurrently, at 3 o'clock in the afternoon," Poltavchenko said.

    According to the presidential envoy, leaflets with the text of the prayer were distributed among those unable to come to church on that day. The organizing committee penned the text and then had it edited by Patriarch Alexis II. Soon after last year's pan-Orthodox Prayer for peace in Jerusalem, the implementation of the Road Map began in the Middle East, Poltavchenko recalled. People of any faith and denomination are welcome to join the project, he emphasized.

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