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“The Russian Orthodox Church works tirelessly to bring unity and to educate the younger generation in the spirit of patriotism”, Putin said.
Last Easter a service was held in Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral. Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill led the service which was attended by several hundred people including Russian President Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister Dimitry Medvedev and Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin.
Millions of Orthodox believers around the world celebrated Easter according to the old Julian calendar on Sunday, as opposed to the Gregorian one used by Evangelicals and Catholics.
During the service, Vladimir Putin praised the Russian Orthodox Church for its patriotism, and emphasised the work it is doing by strengthening the unity of all Russian citizens.
“The Russian Orthodox Church plays an enormous formative role in preserving our rich historical and cultural heritage and in reviving eternal moral values. It works tirelessly to bring unity, to strengthen family ties and to educate the younger generation in the spirit of patriotism”, Putin said
“It is making a great contribution to resolving social issues and strengthening inter-ethnic and inter-religious accord in the country. Such multifaceted work is very important today and deserves deep respect”, he added.
When Putin revealed in 2012 that he was secretly baptised by his mother as a child, in order that his father, a Communist official, did not find out, Patriarch Kirill said the that Putin’s era of leadership since 2000 was a “miracle of God.”
That same year, a small group of activists from the feminist group Pussy Riot invaded Christ the Savior Cathedral, shouting: “Mother of God, Blessed Virgin, drive out Putin!.”
After that, Patriarch Kirill condemned calls for leniency from some Christians when three of the women were arrested. The women were sentenced to two years in a penal colony, although one was released on appeal.
In 2013, the patriarch criticized Western countries for passing laws allowing same-sex marriage and warned that it would lead down a “path of self-destruction” if applied in Russia.
Right after that, Putin approved a law banning loosely-defined “homosexual propaganda among minors”. He also signed off on a blasphemy law that introduced punishments of up to three years in prison for “public activities” that insulted the religious feelings of believers.
The Church’s influence was apparent again last month when the director of a Siberian theatre was fired for putting on a performance of Richard Wagner’s opera "Tannhauser". The opera featured a poster of a crucifix between the naked, open legs of a woman. Several thousand people attended a protest against the director's sacking in Novosibirsk.
A poll by the Public Opinion Foundation last year indicated that 68 per cent of Russian citizens identify themselves as Orthodox Christians, but only 13 per cent got to church more than once a month and pray regularly.