More People Returning to the Faith, Moscow Patriarch Says

Appeals for Hope Despite Poverty and Moral Problems

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MOSCOW, JAN. 7, 2002 (Zenit.org).- In his message for Christmas, which was celebrated today by the Orthodox, Moscow Patriarch Alexy II said that Russia is returning to the Christian faith.



Last night, the Churches that follow the Julian liturgical calendar celebrated the birth of Jesus with great solemnity. The liturgy in Moscow´s Cathedral of Christ the Savior, was presided over by the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russias and televised live.

In his Christmas message, Alexy II revealed that from his pastoral visits in 2001 he could see "that more and more people are returning to the faith of their forefathers."

Thousands of pilgrims, including many children, came to receive Holy Communion, he said -- "all this shows that the Orthodox soul of the people is alive and its restoration to its former strength is near at hand."

The patriarch did not ignore the many sufferings endured by the Russian people, including "poverty, social insecurity, the threat of terrorism, crime, the spread of immorality, alcoholism, drug addiction and other dreadful vices."

Alexy II added, "it is impossible to change society for the better without faith, hope and charity."

"Be not afraid, only believe," the patriarch exhorted. "Suffering should not harden our hearts."

He added: "Our every day and every hour, my dear ones, should be filled with the joy of the Lord, especially on the radiant day of his nativity. May no room remain in our hearts for fear and dejection, for enmity and discord, for despair and lack of faith in the power of God."