Patriarch Kirill blesses inmates of Moscow prison on Easter Sunday

The head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, has visited Moscow’s Butyrskaya prison for the first time ever, to celebrate the Easter Holiday with the inmates and to offer them presents.

“The fact of imprisonment is a very rigorous test,” Patriarch Kirill told over a hundred convicts, who gathered outside the prison chapel to hear his address. “One can pass this test in different ways; he can break, become angry and hardened at heart, or start a normal life after being released. I wish for events to develop according to the latter scenario in your case. Hope helps people overcome the most difficult challenges.”

The head of the Russian Orthodox Church called upon the correctional officers to never forget that the inmates are not only criminals, but people as well. He also opened up about his grandfather, who spent 20 years behind bar for fighting against the closure of churches in the Soviet period, becoming a priest after regaining freedom in the 1950s.

The Patriarch then visited several cells, including those of people serving-life sentences, where he talked to the inmates, gave them presents and blessed them.

The Patriarch also blessed a young couple, who are planning to get married in a few days, despite the groom serving a 12-year sentence. The bride refused to abandon her man, saying that she’s going to support him through his prison term and wait until he regains his freedom to create a family.

The church leader was shown a state-of-the-art inmate inspection post, where X-ray equipment is employed, and the video surveillance system, which covers almost all of the premises of the prison.

On Sunday night the Patriarch celebrated an Easter vigil in Russia’s main Orthodox Church, Christ the Savior Cathedral, which was attended by thousands of people, including President Putin.

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Easter is the most important holiday for Orthodox Christians, as they celebrate the resurrection of Christ after his death by crucifixion. It also marks the end of the observance of Great Lent. Many families spend the night in the church and gather for a sumptuous Easter meal later on Sunday.

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