April 26, 2000

ISTANBUL, Turkey (AP) - The spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox Christians is urging his flock to face the fear of death with faith.

In a message to be read during Orthodox Easter this Sunday, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I says that ``modern man, being unable by his own power to face the inevitable reality of death, has repressed this fact into the depths of his subconscious.''

``We, as faithful Christians, face the fear of death, not by refusing to think about or deal with it, but rather through our faith in the resurrection of Christ, which entails also the expectation of our resurrection,'' the patriarch wrote. A text was posted on the internet. (Read the text.)

The text will be read during Easter liturgy at the patriarchate in Istanbul, and in diocese across the world, on Sunday.

Easter, the anniversary of the death and the resurrection of Jesus, is observed on Sunday by Orthodox, a community of 300 million. Roman Catholics and Protestants celebrated Easter a week earlier.

The patriarchate in Istanbul dates from the 1,100-year-old Orthodox Greek Byzantine Empire, which collapsed when the Ottoman Turks conquered Constantinople, today's Istanbul, in 1453.

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