Millions of Orthodox Christians celebrate Easter

  • Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko attends an Orthodox Easter service in St. Volodymyr Cathedral in Kiev, Ukraine, Saturday, April 15, 2017.

    Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko attends an Orthodox Easter service in St. Volodymyr Cathedral in Kiev, Ukraine, Saturday, April 15, 2017. Associated Press

  • Ukrainian Orthodox faithful light candles from the Holy Fire brought from Jerusalem in St. Volodymyr Cathedral during the ceremony of the Holy Fire in Kiev, Ukraine, Saturday, April 15, 2017. The Holy Fire ceremony is part of Orthodox Easter rituals and the flame symbolizes the resurrection of Christ in a ceremony dating back to the 12th century.

    Ukrainian Orthodox faithful light candles from the Holy Fire brought from Jerusalem in St. Volodymyr Cathedral during the ceremony of the Holy Fire in Kiev, Ukraine, Saturday, April 15, 2017. The Holy Fire ceremony is part of Orthodox Easter rituals and the flame symbolizes the resurrection of Christ in a ceremony dating back to the 12th century. Associated Press

  • Ukrainian Orthodox believers attend an Orthodox Easter service in the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra church, also known as the Kiev Monastery of the Caves, in the capital city of Kiev, Ukraine, Sunday, April 16, 2017.

    Ukrainian Orthodox believers attend an Orthodox Easter service in the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra church, also known as the Kiev Monastery of the Caves, in the capital city of Kiev, Ukraine, Sunday, April 16, 2017. Associated Press

  • Ukrainian Orthodox believers attend an Orthodox Easter service in the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra church, also known as the Kiev Monastery of the Caves, in the capital city of Kiev, Ukraine, Sunday, April 16, 2017.

    Ukrainian Orthodox believers attend an Orthodox Easter service in the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra church, also known as the Kiev Monastery of the Caves, in the capital city of Kiev, Ukraine, Sunday, April 16, 2017. Associated Press

  • Ukrainian Orthodox faithful light candles from the Holy Fire brought from Jerusalem in St. Volodymyr Cathedral during the ceremony of the Holy Fire in Kiev, Ukraine, Saturday, April 15, 2017. The Holy Fire ceremony is part of Orthodox Easter rituals and the flame symbolizes the resurrection of Christ in a ceremony dating back to the 12th century.

    Ukrainian Orthodox faithful light candles from the Holy Fire brought from Jerusalem in St. Volodymyr Cathedral during the ceremony of the Holy Fire in Kiev, Ukraine, Saturday, April 15, 2017. The Holy Fire ceremony is part of Orthodox Easter rituals and the flame symbolizes the resurrection of Christ in a ceremony dating back to the 12th century. Associated Press

  • Ukrainian Orthodox faithful light candles from the Holy Fire brought from Jerusalem in St. Volodymyr Cathedral during the ceremony of the Holy Fire in Kiev, Ukraine, Saturday, April 15, 2017. The Holy Fire ceremony is part of Orthodox Easter rituals and the flame symbolizes the resurrection of Christ in a ceremony dating back to the 12th century.

    Ukrainian Orthodox faithful light candles from the Holy Fire brought from Jerusalem in St. Volodymyr Cathedral during the ceremony of the Holy Fire in Kiev, Ukraine, Saturday, April 15, 2017. The Holy Fire ceremony is part of Orthodox Easter rituals and the flame symbolizes the resurrection of Christ in a ceremony dating back to the 12th century. Associated Press

  • An Orthodox priest blesses traditional Easter cakes and painted eggs prepared for Easter celebrations in the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra church, also known as the Kiev Monastery of the Caves, in Kiev, Ukraine, Sunday, April 16, 2017.

    An Orthodox priest blesses traditional Easter cakes and painted eggs prepared for Easter celebrations in the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra church, also known as the Kiev Monastery of the Caves, in Kiev, Ukraine, Sunday, April 16, 2017. Associated Press

  • Ukrainian Orthodox believers attend the Orthodox Easter service in St. Volodymyr Cathedral in Kiev, Ukraine, Saturday, April 15, 2017.

    Ukrainian Orthodox believers attend the Orthodox Easter service in St. Volodymyr Cathedral in Kiev, Ukraine, Saturday, April 15, 2017. Associated Press

  • Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, second right, and his wife Maryna Poroshenko, right, attend an Orthodox Easter service in St. Volodymyr Cathedral in Kiev, Ukraine, Saturday, April 15, 2017.

    Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, second right, and his wife Maryna Poroshenko, right, attend an Orthodox Easter service in St. Volodymyr Cathedral in Kiev, Ukraine, Saturday, April 15, 2017. Associated Press

  • Kosovo Serb Orthodox woman holds her baby as other believers hold candles during an Easter vigil mass in the monastery of Gracanica during an Easter service, Kosovo on Sunday, April 16, 2017. Across the world, Orthodox Christians are celebrating Easter, commemorating the day followers believe that Jesus was resurrected more than 2,000 years ago.

    Kosovo Serb Orthodox woman holds her baby as other believers hold candles during an Easter vigil mass in the monastery of Gracanica during an Easter service, Kosovo on Sunday, April 16, 2017. Across the world, Orthodox Christians are celebrating Easter, commemorating the day followers believe that Jesus was resurrected more than 2,000 years ago. Associated Press

  • An altar boy holding candles walks with Kosovo Serb Orthodox Bishop Teodosije, right, a nun and pilgrims during an Easter vigil mass in the monastery of Gracanica during an Easter service, Kosovo on Sunday, April 16, 2017. Across the world, Orthodox Christians are celebrating Easter, commemorating the day followers believe that Jesus was resurrected more than 2,000 years ago.

    An altar boy holding candles walks with Kosovo Serb Orthodox Bishop Teodosije, right, a nun and pilgrims during an Easter vigil mass in the monastery of Gracanica during an Easter service, Kosovo on Sunday, April 16, 2017. Across the world, Orthodox Christians are celebrating Easter, commemorating the day followers believe that Jesus was resurrected more than 2,000 years ago. Associated Press

  • Kosovo Serb Οrthodox believers attend Easter mass in the monastery of Gracanica during an Easter service, Kosovo Sunday, April 16, 2017. Across the world, Orthodox Christians are celebrating Easter, commemorating the day followers believe that Jesus was resurrected more than 2,000 years ago.

    Kosovo Serb Οrthodox believers attend Easter mass in the monastery of Gracanica during an Easter service, Kosovo Sunday, April 16, 2017. Across the world, Orthodox Christians are celebrating Easter, commemorating the day followers believe that Jesus was resurrected more than 2,000 years ago. Associated Press

  • Kosovo Serb Orthodox woman holds her baby during an Easter vigil mass in the monastery of Gracanica during an Easter service, Kosovo Sunday, April 16, 2017. Across the world, Orthodox Christians are celebrating Easter, commemorating the day followers believe that Jesus was resurrected more than 2,000 years ago.

    Kosovo Serb Orthodox woman holds her baby during an Easter vigil mass in the monastery of Gracanica during an Easter service, Kosovo Sunday, April 16, 2017. Across the world, Orthodox Christians are celebrating Easter, commemorating the day followers believe that Jesus was resurrected more than 2,000 years ago. Associated Press

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin attends the Easter service in Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow, Russia, early Sunday, April 16, 2017. (Alexei Druzhinin, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

    Russian President Vladimir Putin attends the Easter service in Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow, Russia, early Sunday, April 16, 2017. (Alexei Druzhinin, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP) Associated Press

  • Russian believers hold candles as they wait to take part in a religion procession during the Easter service at the Church of the Holy Martyr Tatiana just next to the Kremlin Wall in Moscow, Russia, Saturday, April 15, 2017.

    Russian believers hold candles as they wait to take part in a religion procession during the Easter service at the Church of the Holy Martyr Tatiana just next to the Kremlin Wall in Moscow, Russia, Saturday, April 15, 2017. Associated Press

 
 
Posted4/16/2017 7:00 AM

BUCHAREST, Romania -- Millions of Orthodox Christians around the world have celebrated Easter in overnight services and with "holy fire" from Jerusalem, commemorating the day followers believe that Jesus was resurrected nearly 2,000 years ago.

This year the Orthodox churches celebrate Easter on the same Sunday that Roman Catholics and Protestants mark the holy festival. The Western Christian church follows the Gregorian calendar, while the Eastern Orthodox uses the older Julian calendar and the two Easters are often weeks apart.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

In predominantly Orthodox Romania, Patriarch Daniel urged Christians to bring joy to "orphans, the sick, the elderly the poor ... and the lonely."

Late Saturday, Orthodox clerics transported the holy flame from Jerusalem by plane and it was then flown to other churches around the country. According to tradition the flame appears each year at the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem and is taken to other Orthodox countries.

In Russia, where Orthodox Christianity is the dominant religion, President Vladimir Putin along with Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and his wife Svetlana attended midnight Mass at Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral.

The cathedral is a potent symbol of the revival of observant Christianity in Russia after the fall of the officially atheist Soviet Union. It is a reconstruction of the cathedral that was destroyed by explosion under dictator Josef Stalin.

In Serbia, the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Irinej, held a liturgy in Belgrade's St. Sava Temple which outgoing president Tomislav Nikolic attended.

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Irinej said in his Easter message that "with great sadness and pain in our hearts, we must note that today's world is not following the path of resurrection but the road of death and hopelessness." He also lamented the falling birth rate in Serbia as "a reason to cry and weep, but also an alarm."

Irinej evoked Kosovo, Serbia's former province which declared independence in 2008. Hundreds of medieval Orthodox churches and monasteries are located there.

Orthodoxy also is predominant in Greece, Bulgaria, Ukraine and Moldova.

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AP writers Jovana Gec in Belgade, Serbia, and Jim Heintz in Moscow contributed to this report.

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