Belgorod, Russia, March 25, 2020
On Sunday, March 22, His Eminence Metropolitan Pavel of Minsk flew over the city in an aerial procession with wonderworking icons, blessing the Belarusian capital from above with holy water.
His Eminence Metropolitan John of Belgorod and Staroosolsk, the diocesan press service reported yesterday, taking several relics and wonderworking icons with him in a helicopter ride around the entire Belgorod Province.
Met. John and the clergy and faithful of the diocese are entreating God daily to deliver them from both spiritual and bodily death in this time of epidemic, as well as for the cessation of panic and fear in society.
Moreover, the faithful asked their hierarch to organize a procession against the coronavirus, but as this is not possible given the current situation, Met. John decided to fly around the borders of the Belgorod Province with a reliquary containing relics of St. James the Persian, the Hieromartyr Charalambos, and Sts. Joasaph and Nikdom of Belgorod, as well the wonderworking Tikhvin Icon of the Mother of God form the Borisov Convent and the wonderworking “Soldier” Icon of St. Nicholas.
Before taking flight, Met. John and the clergy of the diocese served a moleben during a time of disastrous plague. A special prayer was also read to St. Charalampos, who entreated the Lord that there be no famine or pestilence wherever his relics would lie, as Met. John explained.
The route of the aerial procession included all the districts of the province. The total flight time was 3 hours.
Explaining the purpose of the procession, Met. John, stated:
With the blessing of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia and the decision of the Holy Synod, we have adopted rules that protect our parishioners from this virus that threatens all of humanity. But the Church has always had spiritual remedies for curing diseases. Today we will fly around with the relics of St. Joasaph, Bishop of Belgorod, the Wonderworker, Bishop Charalampos and other saints in a procession, but at the same time, on the ground, prayers will be read in the churches of Holy Belgorye. This union of sky and earth is a call for the Lord to show us His mercy. We appeal to the hearts of those people who are isolated. They need help and they will probably learn from the media that such an aerial procession was made in order to stop the epidemic. There are earthly means and scientists are working to create a vaccine to stop the epidemic. We pray for them. But it should be remembered that believers await God’s help.
Met. John also announced that a hotline will soon open, where the clergy will offer spiritual advice and consolation to all in need. It will also be used to collect information about people in need of material assistance.
“It is important not to lose your humanity and to fulfill the commandments of God about love for God and love for your neighbor: Love your neighbor as yourself (Mt. 22:39),” the Belgorod hierarch said. “This commandment assumes that we must follow all instructions in order not to infect our neighbor, and if he himself is infected, then we must do everything to help him.”
This is not the first such procession in Belgorod. Aerial processions were also made in 2010 when terrible fires engulfed Central Russia, and in 2013 during the swine flu epidemic.