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    PATRIARCH ALEXIS II RELEASES PIGEONS ON ANNUNCIATION DAY

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    MOSCOW, April 7, 2004 (RIA Novosti) - Over 200 pigeons soared in the sky over the Kremlin's Cathedral Square on Annunciation Day, which the Russian Orthodox Church marks on April 7.

    Pigeons were released by Alexis II, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, along with Orthodox school students and the Moscow parishioners' children after a service in the Kremlin's Annunciation Cathedral.

    "Releasing pigeons on the day of the Annunciation of the Holy Virgin Mary is an old Russian tradition," the patriarch said to Orthodox believers, passers-by and foreign tourists who gathered on the square attracted by the ceremony.

    Before the Bolshevik revolution, Russians used to buy birds on Okhotny Ryad on the holiday's eve. Today, the Sporting Pigeon Raising Association provides pigeons for the ceremony.

    Sporting pigeons' flying speed is 175 km an hour, Association President Alexander Karelin told RIA Novosti.

    For only a few seconds, the pigeons got indiscernible in the sky. The flock circled about the cathedrals and broke into groups, each of which flew for its farm located in Moscow or near it.

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