Old Saint Basil's Cathedral in MoscowJohnson's Russia List title and scenes of Saint Petersburg
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Patriarch Alexy extends greetings to Russians on Orthodox Christmas

MOSCOW. Jan 6 (Interfax) - Patriarch Alexy II has sent a traditional Christmas greeting to Russians who celebrate the Orthodox holiday on January 7.

Alexy said he hopes that the third year of the 21st century will be peaceful, fruitful, and good for all disciples of the Russian Orthodox Church.

The patriarch said he is concerned about the hardships that millions of Russians are bearing today, about abandoned children and young people "who are being trapped by various foreign teachings and corrupted spiritually and physically," and about alcoholism and drug addiction.

Noting that "the Church is making every effort to help people acquire a spiritual core," Alexy called on every person, "wherever God assigned them, to do their work with faith, hope, and charity as if they are laboring for Lord Himself, without expecting rewards or glory."

"In doing so, each of us will also serve our earthly Homeland," the patriarch said. "For as long as Russia prayed and painstakingly created God's temples, it prospered and expanded. But once the light of Christian faith and real love began to fade among the people, our Motherland lost its might and strength and fell under the yoke of theomachists, who tried to turn it into a spiritual desert," he said.

He said he believes that the new century will bring Russia "a new heyday," and Alexy also recalled that the year 2003 will be special for the Russian Church, as it will mark the hundredth anniversary of glorifying Rev. Serafim of Sarov among the saints. The patriarch said he hopes that, thanks to Serafim's prayers, Russia will always remain devoted to the Orthodox faith.

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