10/13/2004, 00.00
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Russians come together in churches to remember Beslan

Only prayer can give the strength needed to go on living, Aleksij II says.

Beslan (AsiaNews/Agencies) – In North Ossetia as well as the whole of Russia Orthodox Cathedrals remembered the victims of Beslan. In the town where some 400 people died, Mgr Theofan Ashurkov, Orthodox Bishop of Stavropol and Vladikavkaz, celebrated the liturgy in memory of the victims.

Following the 40 days of mourning prescribes by Orthodox tradition, hundreds of people –relatives and friends– visited School Nº1. They brought photos, flowers and candles.

It is traditional here for men to let their beard grow during mourning and for women to wear black clothes. But for close relatives mourning can last many years. "Time will pass but our wounds won't heal," a man attending the event said.

"Only human compassion and prayer can give the strength needed to overcome the pain of loss," Aleksij II said in a message read by his vicar in yesterday's mass in Moscow's Christ the Saviour Cathedral. Addressing directly the victims' families, the Russian Patriarch said that "the fury of these criminals against the innocent has caused anguish in the whole world and left deep scars on the soul of every Russian".

On September 3, 394 people, half of them children, died in a shootout between Russian security forces and terrorists who, for two days, had been holding hostage about a thousand people in the gym of Beslan's School Nº1, in North Ossetia. The school takeover was claimed by Chechen terrorists belonging to a group under Chechen separatist leader Shamil Basayev.

Tighter security has been imposed on the region. There are fears that following the traditional period of mourning, North Ossetians might take revenge against people in neighbouring Ingushetia because several Ingush were among the hostage takers.

Several events in remembrance of the victims are scheduled in Beslan this week. On October 15, a concert will be performed in Moscow's Christ the Saviour Cathedral to raise funds. Proceeds will go for the building of a church that will stand as a monument to the victims on the grounds of the bombed out school. (MA)

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Ossetia: Orthodox bishop working to release hostages
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Moscow patriarchate justifies killing of terrorist Basayev
Orthodox bishop proposes building church in place of Beslan school


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