Split since Russian Revolution, Orthodox churches to reunite

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The Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, whose founders fled Bolshevik rule almost a century ago, is poised to reunite with the Moscow-based church.

The formerly rival churches will seal their historic reconciliation at a ceremony on May 17 in the Russian capital's largest cathedral.

President Vladimir Putin has hailed the move, which will end more than eight decades of bitter estrangement, as an "epoch-making event."

The head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Aleksy II, and Metropolitan Lavr, the leader of the New York-based Church Abroad, are due to sign an "act of restoration of canonical relations."

Clergymen from both churches will then celebrate a lavish joint Mass in Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral. Moscow's largest cathedral was blown up by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin and rebuilt after the 1991 Soviet collapse.

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