Bucharest, July 6, 2022
A new feast has been established in the Romanian Orthodox Church, honoring one of the nation’s most beloved saints.
Gathered in Bucharest yesterday, the Holy Synod of the Romanian Church resolved to establish the feast of the transfer of the relics of the St. Demetrius the New to Bucharest, which will be celebrated on July 13 beginning in 2024, reports the Basilica News Agency.
St. Demetrius is the patron saint of the Romanian capital, and his October feast day is one of the most important celebrations for the Romanian Church, with thousands going on pilgrimage to Bucharest annually to celebrate and venerate the saint.
His relics have been protecting Bucharest since July 13, 1774, when they were removed from the village of Basarabov for protection from the fighting of the Russo-Turkish War of 1768-1774.
The Basilica News Agency recounts St. Demetrius’ life and the circumstances under which his relics were relocated to Bucharest:
He was born early in the 13th century to a peasant family in the village of Basarabov, then part of Bulgaria. Even in childhood, he gave himself to fasting and prayer.
Once, walking across a field, he accidentally stepped on a bird’s nest in the grass, killing the young birds. He was so filled with remorse that he went barefoot for three years, winter and summer, in penance. When he was grown he joined a monastery and, after a few years of community life, received a blessing to dwell in a cave near the River Lom.
After many years of solitary struggle, he reposed in his cave. 300 years passed, during which all memory of the simple ascetic was lost. Then, one spring the river flooded the cave and carried off St. Demetrius’ body, which had lain incorrupt in the cave for centuries. The body was carried downstream and buried in gravel. Another 100 years went by, and the saint appeared in a dream to a paralyzed girl, telling her to ask her parents to take her to the riverbank, where she would be healed.
The family, along with many clergy and villagers, went to a spot where some local people had earlier seen an unexplained light. They dug and soon unearthed the still-incorrupt and radiant body of St. Demetrius, by which the girl was instantly healed. A church was built in the village of Basarabov to honour the precious relics, and through the years the saint worked many miracles there.
In 1774, during the Russian-Turkish war, General Peter Saltikov ordered the holy relics taken to Russia so that they would not be desecrated by the Turks. When the relics came to Bucharest, a pious Christian friend of the general begged him not to deprive the country of one of its most precious saints; so the general took only one of the saint’s hands, sending it to the Kiev Caves Lavra. St. Demetrius’ body was placed in the cathedral of Bucharest, where it has been venerated ever since.