A great and bitter schism has ended and the two parts of the Russian Orthodox Church are again united.
Church bells pealed in Moscow as leaders of the Russian Orthodox faith signed a pact on Thursday healing a historic schism between the church in Russia, which for decades cooperated with Soviet authorities, and an offshoot set up abroad after the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution.
After a choir sang sonorous hymns, Moscow Patriarch Alexy II, leader of the main Russian Orthodox Church, led the ceremony with a sermon praising the healing of the split. Later, he formally signed the pact with Metropolitan Laurus, head of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.
Russian President Vladimir Putin attended the somber celebrations, which were broadcast live on television.
Worshippers and white-robed clergy thronged the Christ the Savior Cathedral, symbolic of Russia's rejection of its communist past, when atheism was state doctrine and many believers were arrested and imprisoned.
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