Old Saint Basil's Cathedral in MoscowJohnson's Russia List title and scenes of Saint Petersburg
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#3 - JRL 7006
Orthodox Church deplores Russia's social problems

MOSCOW. Jan 5 (Interfax) - The Russian Orthodox Church has expressed alarm over today's hardships for millions of Russians and deplored the plight of homeless children, alcoholism and drug abuse.

Moreover, young people "get caught in the nets of various alien teachings, and are corrupted spiritually and physically," the head of the church, Patriarch Alexy II, said in his Christmas message.

The Russian Orthodox Church, following the Julian calendar, celebrates Christmas on January 7, 13 days behind that following the Gregorian calendar.

"The Church is making every effort to help the people find their spiritual core," Alexy said.

He urged everyone "to do his/her work in the place where the Lord has put him with faith, hope, and love as though working for the Lord Himself, without expecting any reward or human fame."

"By doing so, each of us will serve our earthly homeland as well," he said.

"When Russia heard constant prayer and tended to the erection of God's churches, it prospered and expanded. But as soon as the light of Christ and the powerful love of the Christian faith began to dim among the people, our country lost its power and strength, and fell under the yoke of theomachists, who sought to turn it into a spiritual desert," the patriarch said.

He expressed hope that the new century would bring Russia "new prosperity" and said 2003 was a special year for the Russian church as it is the centenary year of Serafim of Sarov's canonization. Alexy voiced hope that, owing to Serafim's prayers, Russia would be Orthodox forever.

He wished the country's Orthodox community a peaceful, creative, and favorable new year.

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