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» 11/28/2011, 00.00

RUSSIA

Putin and Communist leader among two million pilgrims to Virgin's Holy Belt

Nina Achmatova

The relic’s tour of Russia ends, in Moscow alone 800 thousand faithful brave sub-zero temperatures to see it. During the election campaign leaders also in church. Opposing comments from those who see this as a "clear sign of the religious revival of the post-Soviet Russia", and those who see it as proof of the "social desperation" that is gripping the country.
Moscow (AsiaNews) - A veritable ocean of people, with the center of the Russian capital brought to a standstill and the most unlikely candidates rushing to kneel in church. From November 19 to 27 the Holy Belt of the Virgin was on display in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. One of the most venerated relics of the Orthodox Christian world, it drew about 800 thousand pilgrims to Moscow, who have faced queues of up to 5 km with average 12-15 hour wait and sub-zero temperatures.

Not even in the Soviet times could the mummified corpse of Lenin boast such numbers. Political leaders, aware of the importance of the event, took advantage of the occasion to boost their visibility ahead of the legislative election on December 4. The prime minister and possible future Russian president Vladimir Putin, and the leader of the Communists, Gennady Ziuganov, were just some of the most famous figures who flocked to kiss the relic that here-to-fore had never left Mount Athos, where it is kept. Many others, bypassing the kilometer-long queue, arrived in front of the cathedral with sirens blaring and used preferential queues to the anger of waiting crowds.

For days it was difficult to even walk around Christ the Saviour. The police were forced to deploy 14 thousand agents to ensure security, who even demanded documents from pedestrians to cross the street.

The Holy Belt of the Virgin arrived in the Russian capital at the end of a tour of the Country, which began on October 24 from St. Petersburg. In all two million pilgrims flocked to worship it in 14 different cities before arriving in the capital.

On average, the comments have pitted those who read the story as a "clear sign of the religious revival of the post-Soviet Russia", and those who see it as proof of the "social desperation" that is gripping the country where the growth in the number of billionaires does not match a more widespread prosperity.

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