Moscow, July 13, 2017
A solemn farewell to the specially-made ark with a piece of the relics of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker was held at Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral today, reports patriarchia.ru. The relic has arrived in St. Petersburg, where it will remain in St. Alexander Nevsky Lavra until July 28.
The reliquary was brought from Moscow to Bari on May 21, marking the first time the relics have ever left Bari, Italy in the 930 years they have been in the Catholic cathedral there. The agreement on bringing the relics to Russia was reached at the meeting of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill with Pope Francis in Havana in February 2016.
1,807,600 pilgrims venerated the holy hierarch in Moscow from May 21 to July 12.
A moleben was celebrated at the relics at 5 AM today in Christ the Savior Cathedral by His Eminence Metropolitan Arseny of Istra, along with a number of Moscow clerics. The service was sung by the choir of Moscow’s Pokrov Monastery, where the relics of the great St. Matrona are kept. The service was attended by Archbishop Sergius of Solnechnogorsk, clergy and monastics of the Russian Church, and many pilgrims, as well as local officials.
Before the moleben, Met. Arseny addressed those gathered, noting the great amount of work that was involved in hosting the relics of St. Nicholas: “It must have been hard all these days for the cathedral employees and volunteers to bear their obedience. It was difficult for all the clergy of the Moscow Diocese, because the veneration for the hierarch was so strong and there were many people who wanted to give him their heart, their love, their warmth, and in exchange ask for protection, his prayerful intercession, and mercy. I hope he has received all our requests, our sighs, all our woes, and will, by the mercy of God, will fulfill all that was asked of him.”
“I think we won’t wait another 1,000 years,” the hierarch continued, “for the saint to arrive in Russia again; if it be in God’s mercy then it will happen much sooner.” Commenting on the value of the saint’s visit for all of Russia, he added, “We have shown our whole society how dear our Christian saints are to us, how dear our religious values are to us, before which not only active believers, but all Christians, bow their knees.”
At the conclusion of the prayer service, the clergy, headed by Met. Arseny, transferred the ark with the relics of St. Nicholas to the steps of the western gate of the cathedral, where it was passed to an honorary motorcade that accompanied the relics to Vnukovo Airport.
At the airport, another moleben was served at the ramp of the plane by Bishop Theophylact of Dmitrov, together with a number of concelebrating clergy, after which an honor guard carried the relics onto the plane. The relics arrived in St. Petersburg at 8:30 AM, with a delegation headed by Abp. Sergius of Solnechnogorsk.
“A welcome ceremony for the relics of St. Nicholas will take place at the St. Alexander Nevsky Lavra,” said Natalya Rodomanova, the head of the communications department of the St. Petersburg metropolitan’s office, according to TASS. “Access to the relics at the Holy Trinity Cathedral will be open at 4:00 PM she added.” “On July 28, a farewell ceremony is going to be held as the relics of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker will be sent back to the Italian city of Bari,” Rodomanova said.
Event organizers estimate that thousands have already gathered outside St. Alexander Nevsky Lavra, waiting their turn to venerate their beloved saint.