MOSCOW, May 5 (RIA Novosti) – Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev attended early on Sunday the Easter service in downtown Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral as Russia celebrates Christianity's most important and joyful holiday.
Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, who heads the Russian Orthodox Church, led the divine service.
In his Holy Liturgy, the patriarch cautioned against interpreting freedom as permissiveness, and called on believers to be guided more by spiritual rather than material values in their lives.
A group of pilgrims delivered late on Saturday the Holy Fire from Jerusalem to the central Russian cathedral. The Holy Fire that is lit every year at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem on the day preceding Orthodox Easter is believed by Orthodox Christians to be a miracle.
The influence of the Orthodox Church in the country has been on the rise since the collapse of the Soviet Union, despite the fact that the Russian Constitution separates the church from the state.
A public opinion survey conducted by the Kremlin-backed pollster Public Opinion Foundation (FOM) last year showed 65% of Russians have confidence in the Church.
Russia's Easter traditions include painting and coloring eggs - normally red as a symbol of the blood of Christ - and cracking them. The tradition of giving each other paschal eggs dates back to the first century A.D.
Many Russians on Easter Sunday visit the graves of loved ones, a tradition not welcomed by the Church, which has special days to commemorate the dead and says Easter is a time of joy rather than sad reflection.