Moscow (AsiaNews) - Thousands of faithful in Moscow, despite days of pouring rain, are lining up to venerate the relic of the Cross of St. Andrew, exhibited in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, a symbol of religious revival in Russia. The event, organized by the Fund "Andrew the First-Called," is part of the celebrations of the 1025th anniversary of the Baptism of Russia, which will culminate on 28 July in Kiev. Women and girls with their heads covered, dads with their children in their arms, and even many disabled and sick arrived in Moscow from the most distant regions to pray for a special petition before the remains of the cross on which St. Andrew was crucified.
The relic arrived in St.
Petersburg on July 11, from the Greek city of Patras, where - according to tradition
- the apostle was crucified in 62 AD. Ahead of arriving in the capital, the relic
was exposed in two small towns in the Moscow region. In all, it was
visited by around 310,000 faithful. In
Moscow, the authorities expect at least 700,000 pilgrims to arrive until July
To ensure security around the cathedral and surrounding neighborhood, 550 policemen and soldiers have been deployed. There are also 215 chemical toilets and dozens of eateries with food and water points along the route that leads from Kulturi Park Metro to the cathedral door. And over 100 volunteers on hand. The queue takes on average an hour, but for the past three days it has not stopped raining in the capital.
The cross will remain in Moscow until July 26, when it will leave for Kiev. On July 29, however, it will be brought to Minsk, where it will end its "tour" on August 2. The event officially opens the solemn celebrations dedicated to the 1,025 years since the Baptism of Russ' by Kiev, the anniversary will be celebrated not only in the Federation but also in Ukraine and Belarus. The exact anniversary falls on July 28, the day of St. Vladimir, the Baptist of Slavs. The center of the celebrations will be Kiev, and will be attended by Russian President Vladimir Putin and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, who will celebrate the Divine Liturgy "in the cradle of the Baptism of Russia."
The Baptism of
ancient Russia took place in what is now Ukraine. In
2010, the Russian Duma passed a law transforming the day when Prince Vladimir, in
the late summer of 988, gathered the inhabitants of Kiev on the banks of the
Dnieper to be baptized by Byzantine priests, into a national holiday. The
event marked the beginning of a long process of foundation of Christianity in
the Russian lands and holds a strong significance for Slavic unity, to which the
Russian Patriarch often appeals to.
The "Andrew the First-Called" Fund - chaired by a Putin loyalist, the CEO of Russian Railways Vladimir Yakunin - in 2011 already organized the arrival in Russia of the "belt of the Virgin." Usually kept on Mount Athos, the relic attracted about 3 million faithful from all over the country. An extraordinary event for Russia, but one that brought with it a lot of controversy surrounding its alleged exploitation by the Kremlin to gather support and attract the more conservative electorate. The "tour" of the Virgin's belt took place shortly before the parliamentary elections, which then gave rise to unprecedented protests against fraud and the return of Putin to the presidency.