The Relics of St. Nicolas of Myra Visit Moscow

June 02, 2017
Source: fsspx.news

The relics of St. Nicolas of Myra left the Italian city of Bari – for the first time in 930 years – to be received in Moscow in the cathedral of Christ the Savior on May 21, stirring up a veritable religious frenzy.

The relics of St. Nicolas of Myra left the Italian city of Bari – for the first time in 930 years – to be received in Moscow in the cathedral of Christ the Savior on May 21, stirring up a veritable religious frenzy.

One of the saint’s ribs is exposed in the cathedral of Christ the Savior and has already been venerated by over 50,000 pilgrims since May 22. They did not hesitate to wait in lines that stretched several miles along the quays of the Moskva in order to touch and kiss the reliquary that holds the left rib – “the closest one to the heart” the Russians point out piously – of one of the most venerated saints in Russia.

Upon its arrival in the Russian capital, the relic was welcomed at the airport with military honors. President Vladimir Putin – who publicly came to venerate St. Nicolas’ rib – expressed in the name of all of Russia his deep gratitude “to the pope and to the Holy See for this decision they made at the patriarch’s request,” and spoke of the “very important” role of the Catholic Church in “bringing peoples closer together”. A singular homage to Vatican diplomacy that at the instigation of the cardinal Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, has made special efforts to intensify the Holy See’s relations with Russia and clear the minefield with the autocephalous “Orthodox” Church.

The agreement for the relics to travel to Russia was reached during the Russian Patriarch Cyril’s meeting of with Pope Francis on July 12, 2016: the relics will be transferred to St. Petersburg, then returned to their home in Bari at the end of the month of July.

“Although he never came to our country and never knew our culture, he was by our side throughout the difficult and bloody history our people has lived through,” declared the patriarch Cyril – head of the Russian “Orthodox” Church – as he bowed down over the reliquary. “St. Nicholas, pray for the unity of the Eastern and Western Christian Church,” he concluded.

In Russia, the devotion to St. Nicholas dates back to the 11th and 12th centuries; at the time it was mostly practiced by the aristocratic circles of medieval Russian society. The devotion became more popular after the social relations in eastern Europe changed, when the values of the nobles were transmitted to the bourgeois circles.

These social layers saw this devotion as something very prestigious. Later, thanks to the diversity and the diffusion of the hagiographical texts of the 15th and 16th centuries, that began an oral tradition, the devotion to St. Nicolas spread and penetrated the other Russian social groups.

At the time of the political and economic evolutions of the 17th and 18th centuries, this veneration became profoundly anchored in the popular culture and became a symbol of Russia, made all the stronger by the names of the czars, seen as a way of showing their attachment to their people.