07/18/2017, 19.35
RUSSIA
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“Evil cannot dominate forever,” says Kirill in Valaam, “good eventually overcomes” it

by Vladimir Rozanskij

Moscow patriarch visits the monastery on Lake Ladoga. Under Soviet rule, the complex was all but ruins by the 1960s.  “[M]onastic life itself now resumes with unexpected vigour”. Vladimir Putin was present at the event.

Moscow (AsiaNews) – "With the complete restoration of the monastery of St Saviour of the Transfiguration in Valaam, we have a demonstration that good eventually overcomes evil,” said the Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia, Kirill (Gundyayev), during the homily for the community’s celebration.

As he does every year, the patriarch visited the monastic island on the huge Lake Ladoga, north of St Petersburg, on the feast day of Sergey and German, founders of Valaam (11 July). This year, President Vladimir Putin took part in the service that marked the full return of the monastery to its mission.

The shrine on the northern island is one of the symbolic places of Russia’s early evangelisation. According to legend, the Apostle Andrew walked to the lake on the border with Finland, after visiting Constantinople and Kiev. Here he chased the pagans and planted a cross on the island where the monastery rose, almost a thousand years later.

In fact, well before Rus’ baptism in Kiev in 988, tribes of Slavs and Varangians began to mix in the far north, the so-called 'Ilmen Rus', which the Scandinavians call Gardariki, the land of cities (gard) and lakes.

Ancient Rus' was born to link north and south along the "way from the Varangians to the Greeks" that carried fur, wax and honey, and on which Byzantine-Slavic Christianity developed, becoming a bridge between East and West as well.

The Valaam monastery symbolises the roots of the great development of this faraway part of Christian Europe. It saw its greatest flowering in the 15th century, when it had almost a thousand monks. Over time, it was gradually abandoned and definitively closed during the Soviet-Finish war in 1940.

The patriarch, a St Petersburg native like the president, mentioned visiting the island as a young monk in 1969, and felt that every hope for the monastery’s rebirth had been lost. Fifty years after it was closed, reconstruction began in 1990.

"The Lord raised the convent from dust, not just the walls of the monastery, which today shine with a greater beauty than in the past, but monastic life as well, as it now resumes with unexpected vigour," said Kirill.

The head of the Russian Orthodox Church tried to reassure all those who still fall prey to dejection and despair due to crisis and uncertainty of contemporary life.

"Evil cannot dominate forever; it will always be defeated. Sometimes one life is not enough to witness its ruin; sometimes we become living witnesses of the victory of good."

The next day, 12 July, the patriarch celebrated a solemn liturgy in the cathedral of St Peter and Paul in St Petersburg, the site of the founding of the "northern capital" on the feast day of the of the Princes of Apostles.

The cathedral also serves as a resting place of Romanov, in particular of the family of the last Tsar, Nicholas II, who was canonised in 2000 as a martyr of faith by the violence of revolutionary atheism.

The tsar and his family were executed in Ekaterinburg in July 1918, and their remains were moved to St Petersburg after the canonisation. Here they are still being examined by a special commission to determine their full authenticity.

The feast day of Saints Peter and Paul falls on 12 July according to the Orthodox calendar, 29 June for the other Churches. This year was celebrated with particular solemnity since, according to tradition, it is considered the 1,950th anniversary of their martyrdom in the year 67 AD during the first Nero's first persecution.

The event ended with "fasting of St Peter ", the longest after Lent and one of the four great Orthodox fasts (the others being for the Dormition and Christmas).

With it, the Russian Orthodox Church also renews its bond with the first heralds of the Gospel, and with its vocation as a "new people" called to re-establish Christianity in the whole world.

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