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11 Apr, 2009 19:08

Roman Catholics around the world celebrate Easter

Christians around the world are celebrating the end of Lent - forty days of prayer and fasting followed by Easter.

Hundreds of people in Cuba took part in a service at Havana's Cathedral followed by a procession through the city. Meanwhile, in Italy people exchanged chocolate rabbits and decorated eggs as a symbol of Jesus' rebirth.

In Russia’s capital, people are flocking to the central Catholic Cathedral to attend the Easter service. 600 people and counting were present at the Holy Saturday evening mass, preparing for the Easter Sunday service.

The Cathedral in central Moscow was built in 1911, shut down by the Soviets in 1941 and re-opened to the welcoming Russian Roman Catholic congregation in 1991.

There are over 750,000 Roman Catholics in Russia, a predominantly Orthodox Christian country.

However, despite being very much a religious minority in the country, the celebration is given its due credit. Russian Roman Catholics are commemorating Easter in line with fellow believers around the world.

The ceremony started with people coming in with baskets of offerings for the church and the holy fire, a tradition which dates back to pre-Christian times. The holy fire is an Easter symbol, representing new beginnings, cleansing and welcoming springtime.

A most anticipated part of the ceremony which Muscovite Roman Catholics are attending is the baptismal moment when the priest sprays holy water over the congregation as part of the cleansing process after Lent.

Easter Sunday for Christians all over the world marks the resurrection of Christ. Good Friday, in the week preceding it, is the day marking the crucifixion of Christ. For the 2.2 billion Christians around the world celebrating Easter, this will be one of the most important religious celebrations of the year.

The Orthodox Christians will be celebrating their Easter, according to the Julian calendar, a week later, which reduces the number of Christians celebrating this week down to 1.75 billion.

The celebrations include processions, plays representing the life of Christ and, on a lighter note – people getting together to mark the coming of spring and spending time with family. Easter is therefore marked in its religious aspect, but also in a social one.

The Easter Bunny, a symbol of spring, is a popular symbol in many of the secularized countries around the world such as America, Australia and parts of Europe. It is celebrated with chocolate, but also Easter eggs, which are a traditional symbol of life and resurrection.