ISTANBUL - Thousands of young men have leapt into icy rivers and lakes across eastern Europe to retrieve crucifixes cast by priests in ceremonies commemorating the baptism of Jesus Christ.
By tradition, a cross is cast into the water on the Feast of the Epiphany and the person who retrieves it is blessed for the coming year.
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox Christians, led a liturgy at the Patriarchal Cathedral of St. George in Istanbul. Although only a few thousand Greek Orthodox Christians now live in Turkey, some visited to celebrate Epiphany.
Some Orthodox Christian churches, including those in Russia, Egypt, Syria and Lebanon, follow a different calendar, and Sunday was Christmas Eve, with Epiphany on Jan. 19.
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