Moscow (AsiaNews) - Russians are preparing to celebrate Orthodox Easter this Sunday. Whilst most of them (72 per cent ) are expected to take part in some traditional activities like egg painting, only one Russian in ten (11 per cent ) will go to church, this according to the Interfax news agency, citing a survey conducted late last month by the independent Levada centre.
According to study, most of those who plan to attend Easter vigil will be over 55 years of age and residents of small towns. In accordance with Russian customs, 27 per cent of respondents said they will celebrate Easter by going to the cemetery.
Another survey by the Vtisom center found however that 42 per cent of those who declare themselves atheist will celebrate Easter as well, preparing traditional dishes such as Kulich, a type of bread with frosting on the top.
Celebrated last week, Palm Sunday is known as Verbena Sunday in Russia because that plant's branches are used during the liturgy that starts the Holy Week.
Easter also marks the end of the Great Fast (Russian Lent). Tomorrow, the Holy Light will come from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem to be used in Moscow's Christ the Saviour Cathedral to light thousands of candles for Easter Vigil.
During this service, the officiating priest will symbolically remove the shroud from the tomb and come out of the church in procession searching for the body of Christ.
After following a predetermined route, he will announce 'Christos voskres!' (Christ is Risen) to the faithful who will respond 'Voistinu voskres' ('Truly He is risen'). Ordinarily, people use the same expressions to express good wishes among family and friends.
This year, as he opened Holy Week, Metropolitan Hilarion, head of the External Relations Department of the Moscow Patriarchate, called on the faithful to "devote their entire lives to God," as well as reminded them to do the same, even the "simplest actions", every day, and not only during religious holidays.
For his part, Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, head of the Synodal Department for Church and Society, appealed to the opposition. The latter is planning a demonstration in central Moscow to mark the anniversary of last year's violent clashes between demonstrators and police during an anti-Putin protest rally.
"Probably, people have the right to express their political views on that day as on any other, but it is essential to remember that it is a special day, it has a special spirit to it, it is a day of peace, joy, brotherly fellowship and mutual forgiveness," Archpriest Chaplin said.