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Russian Orthodox Church hold main midnight Christmas service

Russian President Vladimir Putin attended a Christmas service on Thursday at a church near his presidential home in the Moscow region. During two decades in power, Putin generally has marked Christmas outside Moscow, often at relatively little-known provincial churches Meanwhile, the Russian Orthodox Church held its main midnight Christmas service at Christ the Saviour Cathedral in Moscow, led by the Patriarch Kirill, an elaborate ceremony with dozens of clerics led by church head Patriarch Kirill chanting and holding long candles while masked worshipers watched. The majority of Orthodox believers celebrate Christmas on January 7, with midnight services especially popular. The churches in Romania, Bulgaria, Cyprus and Greece mark it on December 25, along with other Christian denominations. The Russian Orthodox Church, the largest Orthodox congregation, said celebrants must wear masks and observe social distancing at services. But a live broadcast of the service from Moscow's huge Church Of The Savior Of The Holy Face, indicated about half those attending had no masks or pulled them to their chins as they watched the pageantry of gold-robed priests including church leader Patriarch Kirill chant prayers and wave smoking containers of incense. Although Russia's daily tally of new infections has dropped by about half since a month ago, to about 15,000 Thursday, concern is strong that the highly contagious omicron variant may be getting a foothold in the country. Health Minister Mikhail Murashko said Thursday officials have detected omicron infections in people who had not travelled outside Russia.