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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Patriarch Calls 2004 a Hard Year

Patriarch Alexy II offered blessings and prayers on Orthodox Christmas and, in a reference to the Beslan school attack, noted that 2004 had been a difficult year.

"Flouting everything that is holy in their impious madness, terrorists raised their hands against children. The deaths of innocent victims has become our common grief and filled our hearts with pain and sorrow," he said at a midnight service attended by 11,000 people, including Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov, at the Christ the Savior Cathedral.

"But at the same time, the horrible tragedy has shown that moral ideals are alive in the people: Facing death, many people manifested high examples of sacrificial love for their neighbors, laying down their lives for their friends, as the Holy Scripture says," he said.

The patriarch also addressed Christians worldwide and people of other faiths, saying, "Let us work together for the sake of peace and the prosperity of our peoples."

Christmas falls on Jan. 7 for Orthodox Christians in Russia.

President Vladimir Putin attended a midnight service in Gorodnia, a village in Tver, 150 kilometers north of Moscow. On Christmas Day, he attended a children's concert in Klin.

Putin offered Christmas greetings to the patriarch in the Kremlin on Thursday.

"I want to again wish you a Merry Christmas, happiness and health to you and all the Orthodox Christians, to all the people who will be observing this holy holiday," Putin said.

(MT, AP)