04/16/2020, 09.46
RUSSIA
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Moscow, Orthodox Easter in the time of coronavirus

by Vladimir Rozanskij

Easter Sunday will be April 19th. Meanwhile, virus-positive cases (25 thousand) and deaths (200) are growing. In Moscow, 15 priests are infected, including some collaborators of the patriarch. Criticism of Kirill, isolated in a residence outside Moscow, in the village of Peredelkino. In Russia efforts are being made to stream the liturgy. Special prayers to bless the Easter Cakes (kulichy), other desserts and colored eggs at home.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - Russia is facing a dramatic increase in coronavirus infections during Holy Week. Under the liturgical calendar of the Orthodox Church, Easter Sunday falls on April 19th. The infected reached the figure of 25 thousand people; there are 200 dead. In the last 24 hours alone, 3388 new cases and 30 deaths have occurred. The mayor of Moscow has imposed special permits to travel by car (photo 2) or on public transport, creating endless - and even dangerous - queues in metro stations (photo 3).

Several Orthodox priests have tested positive. Among them, the parish priest of the Muscovite cathedral of the Epiphany in Elokhovo, Father Aleksandr Agejkin, a cleric very close to Patriarch Kirill. As a result, all of the patriarchate staff have been placed under observation.

In Moscow alone, 14 other priests are infected and 21 under observation; checks are also taking place in monasteries throughout the capital.

The virus has also spread among the monks of the Kiev Caves monastery (the first monastery of ancient Rus'), 90 of which tested positive, several were hospitalized in intensive care, and a strong impression. two monks are deceased.

After long hesitating to invite the faithful to stay away from the churches, the patriarch of Moscow Kirill (Gundjaev) is currently in solitary confinement in a residence outside Moscow, in the village of Peredelkino, where the dachas of the high officials are located.

On Holy Wednesday he celebrated the last Lenten "liturgy of the pre-sanctified", before the Easter Triduum, in the chapel of his residence. His absence from Moscow is causing several discontent, further undermining his sliding popularity, already undermined by a past as a Soviet official and "ecclesiastical oligarch" of the Yeltsyn years, and the conflicts in recent years with the Putin administration and various branches within the Orthodox hierarchy.

The discontent eased somewhat when the patriarch noted that in recent days he had carried out the procession by car to bless the streets of Moscow, with the beloved Icon of Our Lady of Tenderness that belonged to St. Seraphim of Sarov. The icon was exposed to the overflowing crowds who participated in the canonization ceremony of the Russian "Saint Francis" in 1903, accompanying it on the 600 kilometers of the pilgrimage from Diveevo, Serafim's burial place, to Moscow. The sacred image had been hidden in the Soviet years, and given back to the patriarch in 1991, after the end of the USSR, as a symbol of the country's religious revival.

In the meantime, the faithful try to organize themselves to find forms of participation, even "virtually", at Easter celebrations, given the almost impossibility of going to church; in the churches which will remain open anyway, the udalenka signs, the protective "distancing" from the infection (the Orthodox attend the services while standing) have been laid on the ground. In some churches special YouTube channels have been organized to transmit the liturgies at a distance, and special sites to prayers for the dead during the services (photo 1).

In fact, for many Russians, more than the presence at the liturgies (which have an average participation of 2-3% of the population), traditional observances and folklore have greater value: above all, the blessing of the kulichy, the Easter cake (photo 4), the reason why in reality many people go to church on these occasions. The patriarchate has published instructions on the official website to perform the blessing at home together with that of the colored eggs and the ricotta, walnut and raisin cake called Paskha, singing the Easter announcement three times "Christ is Risen - Truly He is Risen" and proceeding with sprinkling. The website also has some additional prayers to solemnize the domestic blessing.

An initiative of the Orthodox magazine Foma, which invites people to light the Easter candles at their window, is becoming very popular on social networks (#oknaPaskhi, “Easter window - see https://www.instagram.com/p/B_AcWg7gp3_/).

In fact, the Easter procession in which everyone lights a candle singing " Christ is risen!" before entering the church for the actual liturgy is a very popular rite. Almost everyone participates in this initial procession, although few stop at church. The patriarchate press office praised this initiative, but advised not to use dangerous candles with an open flame, preferring lamps or electric lights.

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