Russia marks Christmas amid church revival
President Dmitry Medvedev celebrated the spread of religion across Russia on Friday as the country marked Orthodox Christmas in ceremonies highlighting the rising role of the Church.
"I am extremely happy that everyone can now celebrate the holy festival of Christmas," Medvedev said during a visit to a central Russian orphanage.
"Not everyone could have watched something like this 10 years ago," he added after sitting through a children's performance of a Christmas play.
"Our life is changing," he added in nationally televised remarks.
Television footage also showed the country's de facto leader Vladimir Putin wearing a simple cream-coloured sweater while attending a Christmas ceremony in his parent's village of Turginovo, where he was shown kissing an icon.
The Russian Orthodox Church has enjoyed a renaissance since the fall of the Soviet Union, with Putin particularly promoting ties between the Church and state during his presidency.
Highlighting that rise, Medvedev on Friday awarded the order of Alexander Nevsky to Patriarch Kirill, the Kremlin press service said, noting that the prestigious award was last issued at the end of World War II.
© 2011 AFP