Thousands of believers gathered outside Russia's main cathedral on April 22 as part of what religious leaders called a day of prayer "in defense" of the Orthodox Christian faith.
Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, led morning prayers at Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral before launching a procession of supporters carrying icons and other property religious authorities say have been "defiled" by an alleged wave of attacks against the church.
In particular, the church has pointed to a stunt by the girl punk band Pussy Riot, which in February entered Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral to perform a song about the church's support for Vladimir Putin ahead of the country's presidential election.
Similar events will be held at Orthodox churches throughout the country.
In Moscow, some defenders of the church began gathering as early as April 21, including members of the Night Wolves motorcycle club.
Aleksandr Zaldostanov, one of the leaders of the Night Wolves, said the group wanted to show its support for the pro-Orthodox initiative, which coincides with the start of motorcycle season.
"We wanted to, at the same time [as the opening of the motorcycle season], support the Russian Orthodox Church, to show our solidarity, and to stress that we are with them and not with those crazy [antichurch] people -- that we are with our country and with our faith," Zaldostanov said.
Priests carry out the liturgy in Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral
Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, a spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Church, on April 21 stood surrounded by bikers as well as more traditional members of the church and said the event aimed to bring all Orthodox faithful together at a special time of year for the church.
"We came here to express our support for the church and to speak about our faithfulness to the Christian spirit, faithfulness to God's truth, and in these Easter days it's very important to feel that we, as Orthodox Christians, are together," Chaplin said.
Moscow authorities ordered thousands of police to maintain order at the site, where Pussy Riot supporters were expected to stage a separate demonstration.
With reporting by AFP