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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Church Stages Unorthodox Celebrations

Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II, in a departure from staid church traditions, urged more than 15,000 parishioners in a soccer stadium Sunday not to forget the trials their faith endured in the past century.

Alexy's address, shown on ORT television, kicked off a day of highly unusual celebrations commemorating the Christian millennium, marked by skits and theatrical presentations.

Commonly used by the Catholic church during festivals, such events are rare in Orthodox practice and proved popular among those in attendance at Ramenskoye, outside Moscow.

"Today we are returning to the foundations of our faith," Alexy, wearing a white headdress, told the crowd.

Parishioners attending Sunday's gathering waved flowers and carried signs representing their regions.

Small children took part in skits on the soccer pitch alongside giant costumed figures and uniformed servicemen depicting the birth of Christ and events in Russian history.