Moscow, May 21, 2017
A piece of the relics of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, brought today from Bari, Italy, have been delivered to Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral, where they were ceremoniously greeted by His Holiness Patriarch Kirill, in concert with his brother bishops, hundreds of clergy, and thousands of faithful, reports RIA-Novosti.
The event is a great joy for all faithful Russians, who have a great love and veneration for St. Nicholas. It is also a momentous occasion in that this is the first time that any part of the relics of St. Nicholas kept in Bari have left the cathedral in the 930 years they have been there. St. Nicholas reposed on December 6, 343, his relics being interred in Myra in Asia Minor, where they remained until 1087, when Italian sailors seized his relics in the confusion following Emperor Romanus IV’s defeat at the Battle of Manzikert at the hands of Alp Arslan of the Seljuk Turks. His relics arrived to Bari on May 9, 1087, where they remain to this day.
The delivery of the reliquary was marked by the festive ringing of the bells of all of the capital’s more than 600 churches, including those of Christ the Savior Cathedral, and beginning with the rarely-used Ivan the Great bell tower in the Kremlin.
Hundreds of clergy formed a corridor through which Pat. Kirill exited the church to proceed to the bus on which the piece of the relics of St. Nicholas were brought from Moscow’s Vnukovo Airport. Four bishops had the blessing of carrying the 40-pound, gold leaf-covered reliquary, in which was placed a rib of St. Nicholas, into the church.
The cathedral, which can hold 10,000 believers, was filled to capacity with Orthodox faithful from around Russia, and from neighboring countries where the faithful also have a great love and respect for the great Myra hierarch.
The patriarch spoke of the immense veneration among the people for St. Nicholas. “The hierarch and wonderworker Nicholas, from the point of view of the veneration of the people in Rus’, was and remains the first saint. In practically every house both in the past, and in many Orthodox homes today, there are certain to be three icons: of the Savior, of the Mother of God, and of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker,” the primate said.
Such veneration is due to the many miracles that St. Nicholas has worked in people’s lives, and in the life of the entire nation. He has delivered “the Fatherland and our people from many historical catastrophes… This is why the Russian flock is filled with such great love for the hierarch and wonderworker Nicholas. This is why he is perceived in our minds as a Russian saint, although he was never in Rus’, and is connected with our country neither by nationality nor culture,” Pat. Kirill continued.
He went on to emphasize that the presence of St. Nicholas is so necessary today, “so that our people would not only preserve faith, but so that the great and timeless Divine truth would not depart from the life of modern man.”
The transfer of the relics was preceded by an Orthodox Divine Liturgy served in the crypt chapel in Bari, Italy where they are kept under the altar. Met. Hilarion (Alfeyev) led the Liturgy attended by Russian pilgrims and citizens of Bari.
“Our entire Russian people have frozen in anticipation of the relics today,” the metropolitan stated.
A left rib, carefully removed by medical examiners, was placed in a reliquary and closed with a special lock, and secured with sealing wax. A special agreement on transferring the relics was signed by Met. Hilarion and Catholic Archbishop Francesco Cacucci of Bari.
Upon arrival in Moscow, the relics were greeted on the tarmac at the airport by clergy and the honor guard. Metropolitan Arseny of Istra served a moleben to St. Nicholas on the ramp. The faithful greeted the relics in the airport with flowers and icons, reading prayers and Akathists to the great saint.