Letter #24: Update on the Relics of St. Nicholas

May 23, 2017, Tuesday

Link to a moving video on the handing over of the relic of St. Nicholas to the Russian Orthodox in Bari, Italy, on May 21, Sunday
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Followup on the Relics of St. Nicholas

“Almost every day, requests come to us to share the relics of St. Nicholas, and what has happened is clearly the privileged status of our attitude towards the Russian Orthodox Church and personally to you, Your Holiness.” —Roman Catholic Archbishop Francesco Cacucci of Bari, Italy, the custodian of the relics of St. Nicholas, speaking to Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, on Sunday, May 21 in Moscow. He was explaining his decision to allow the relics to go to Russia, saying it represented a conscious decision on the part of the Catholic Church to privilege a request for the relics from the Russian Orthodox Church. Cacucci had journeyed from Bari to Moscow with the relics. The relics will remain in Russia until the end of July.

“This joyful event has become another concrete result of our meeting with Pope Francis of Rome.” —Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill on Sunday, May 21, speaking of the arrival of the relics of St. Nicholas in Moscow, Russia, saying that the decision to have the relics come to Russia was a fruit of the meeting he had on February 12, 2016, in Havana, Cuba, with Pope Francis, the first meeting ever of a Pope with a leader of the Russian Orthodox Church

“In our difficult time when in the field of international relations we see the escalation of conflicts and confrontations, cultural and spiritual cooperation is one of the most effective means for Churches to help overcome enmity among nations.” —Patirarch Kirill, Ibid.

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Russia: St. Nicholas relic in Moscow for the first time (video)

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(Russians gathered outside of Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow on Sunday, May 21, to venerate the relic of St. Nicholas, which arrived in the country that afternoon from Italy)

To see video of the arrival of the relic of St. Nicholas in Moscow, go to these links:

link (the reception of the relic, a rib of St. Nicholas, in Moscow, with procession and chant, on Sunday, May 21, two days ago)

link (the long lines of Russian people waiting to venerate the relic)

link (the relic being loaded on the airplane by Metropolitan Hilarion and flown to Moscow; this is a brief, 6-minute video which shows the entire journey of the relic; in the first part of this video, at about the 1:06 mark, there is a moment when, in private, with no crowd watching, two men venerate the relic, bowing over it and kissing the glass of the case. It is a moving moment…)

The sacred remains of St. Nicholas have never left Italy since 1087, nearly 1,000 years ago.

In February 2016, Pope Francis and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill agreed to send a relic to Russia for a certain period of time.

At 6 p.m. on Sunday, all the churches of the Moscow rang their bells in jubilation at the arrival of the relic of St. Nicholas in the city.

(continued below)

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(continued from above)

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A grand procession accompanied the sacred relic from the airport to Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral, where Patriarch Kirill led a solemn liturgical celebration.

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Russian believers will be able to venerate the relic in Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral until July 12.

Between 13 to 28 July, the relic will be exhibited in the Alexander Nevsky monastery in St Petersburg.

The saint’s remains have been kept in Bari (Italy) since 1087 after they were brought from Myra, in modern-day Turkey. Since then, they have never left Italy.

The relic, a rib, was selected a year ago, on June 19, 2016, and removed from under the altar of the crypt in Bari’s Basilica di San Nicola.

On Sunday morning Russian Orthodox Metropolitan Hilarion celebrated a solemn Mass in the Bari cathedral, in he presence of Bari’s Catholic archbishop, Francesco Cacucci.

At the end of the liturgy, representatives of the Catholic Church handed over the saint’s relic to the Orthodox delegation.

For its safety, the relic was placed in a special ark, which was flown to Moscow on Sunday afternoon, where it was received with full military honors.

Then, at 6:00 pm Moscow time, all the churches in the Russian capital rang their bells to celebrate the event.

In the Russian Orthodox liturgical calendar, the relic arrived on the eve of the May 22 feast day of the “Translation of the relics of St Nicholas the Wonderworker from Myra to Bari.”

The three videos by Russia Today of the relic’s arrival at Christ the Savior Cathedral — mentioned above — are worth viewing.

But there is another video (link here), which shows the very beginning of the journey, in Italy, in the southern coastal city of Bari, in Apulia.

Metropolitan Hilarion is shown in close-ups venerating the relic, as Catholic Italians chant in the background.

One Russian woman is shown with the hint of a tear in her eye.

This video seems to me worth taking the time to watch.

I discern in its images elements of the famous “Russian soul” — a very human soul, aware of all the suffering mortal flesh is heir to, yet marked with, etched by, a longing for the eternal, the holy, which it seems all human beings experience in certain moments of life. It is this duality of emotion, feeling and spirit which makes us human. This awareness of mortality, coupled with this longing for eternity and holiness, is glimpsed in the scenes shown on this video.

The video has registered only 468 views; it has by no means “gone viral.”

So it is almost “hidden” from the world, in terms of how many people have seen it.

In a sense, it is almost a “secret” video — just a few hundred people in the world have seen it.

I think it is worth taking 6 minutes to view it, for the insight it gives into the transfer of these relics, and into the spiritual hunger that is shaping Russia today so powerfully…

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To Visit the Relics of St. Nicholas…

If you would like to travel to Russia in July to venerate the relics of St. Nicholas, and to visit with leaders and ordinary members of the Russian Orthodox Church, and also of the Roman Catholic Church in Russia, please write for more information by return email…

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Remarks by Patriarch Kirill

Here is a report on a May 22 meeting between the Catholic delegation bringing the relics from Italy, and the Russian Orthodox leadership receiving the relics in Moscow.

Patriarch Kirill meets with the Italian delegation accompanying the relics of St. Nicholas

May 22, 2017 – His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia met with the Catholic Archbishop of Bari, Mons. Francesco Cacucci, and the Italian delegation who brought the shrine with a part of the honorable relics of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, Archbishop of Myra in Lycia, from Bari to Moscow. The meeting took place at the Supreme Church Council Hall at the Cathedral Church of Christ the Savior.

(In Moscow on May 22, Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church receives the delegation of Catholics who accompanied the relic of St. Nicholas from Bari, Italy, on May 21 — the first time a relic of St. Nicholas has left Bari in almost 1,000 years. Nearest to the photographer, with his back to us, on the lower right, is Father Hyacinthe Destivelle, a French Dominican who is the Vatican’s chief official in charge of religious dialogue with the Russian Orthodox)

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The Italian delegation included Archbishop Celestino Migliore, apostolic nuncio to Russia; Mons. Andrea Palmieri, vice-president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (PCPCU); Mons. Angelo Romita, director of the Bari-Bitonto diocesan office to ecumenism; Rev. P. Ciro Capotosto, rector of the Basilica of St. Nicholas; Rev. P. Hyacinthe Destivelle, PCPCU (Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity) staff member; Dr. Michele Emiliano, governor of Puglia; Dr. Antonio De Caro, Mayor of Bari; and Prof. Francesco Introna, director of the Department of Medicine, University of Bari.

The Russian Orthodox Church was represented by Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, Archbishop Sergiy of Solnechnogorsk, head of the Moscow Patriarchate administrative secretariat; Bishop Antoniy of Bogorodsk, head of the Moscow Patriarchate office for the institutions abroad; Archpriest Mikhail Ryazantsev, ecclesiarch of the Church of Christ the Savior; Archpriest Andrey Boitsov, rector of the St. Nicholas patriarchal metochion in Bari; Hieromonk Stephan (Igumnov), DECR secretary for inter-Christian relations. There were also Mr. V. Suchkov, head of the Moscow municipal department for ethnic policy and interreligious relations; and Mr. I. Kuzmin, head of the department for external economic and international relations.

“This joyful event has become another concrete result of our meeting with Pope Francis of Rome, which dealt with matters concerning bilateral relations between our two Churches, as well as Orthodox-Catholic cooperation in the most burning issues of today,” Patriarch Kirill said, welcoming the guests, “The Joint Statement says that ‘in the contemporary world, Catholics and Orthodox are called to work together fraternally in proclaiming the Good News of salvation, to testify together to the moral dignity and authentic freedom of the person, ‘so that the world may believe’ (Jn 17:21)’. Without any doubt, the brining to Russia of the relics of the great man of God who is venerated in East and West is a vivid example of our common witness to the Christian faith.”

According to His Holiness, “in our difficult time when in the field of international relations we see the escalation of conflicts and confrontations, cultural and spiritual cooperation is one of the most effective means for Churches to help overcome enmity among nations.

“Russia and Italy have a tremendous cultural legacy, His Holiness continued, ‘this legacy was formed primarily by the Christian faith of our nations, and by no means should we lose today this foundation of our cultural dialogue… In this connection, I would like to remind you of the great interest our society showed in the exhibition in Moscow, which presented exhibits from the treasury of the Vatican Museum, including canvasses on Biblical and Christian themes. A great number of people who visited that exhibition also bear witness to our spiritual and cultural community.”

Speaking about the cooperation between the Russian Church and the Roman Catholic Church in Italy, Patriarch Kirill pointed to the pastoral care for Russian compatriots living in the Apennines taken in over 60 parishes of the Moscow Patriarchate and expressed hope for the development of their relations with appropriate institutions of the Catholic Church. In this connection, His Holiness made a special mention of the constructive cooperation established by the diocese of Bari and the Pontifical Basilica with the St. Nicholas Patriarchal Representation in Bari which was handed over to the Russian Orthodox Church in 2008.

His Holiness expressed profound gratitude to Dr. Michele Emiliano for assistance in this important work when he was Mayor of Bari in 2008. Patriarch Kirill also thanked the present mayor of the city, Dr. Antonio de Caro for having created favourable conditions for Orthodox pilgrims who come to venerate the relics of St. Nicholas.

As His Holiness said, the bringing of the shrine to Moscow became possible thanks to the participation of the diocese of Bari and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. An important role was played by Italian specialists led by Prof. Introna, who solved the difficult problem of extracting a part of the relics of the saint from the sarcophagus.

“I believe all our common efforts made with the participation of the Russian Orthodox Church and Metropolitan Hilarion’s department for external church relations and his colleagues have been crowned with a remarkable result, as the relics are in Moscow today. And already now tens of thousands of people are standing in line to venerate the shrine,” His Holiness concluded.

In his response, Archbishop Francesco Cacucci of Bari-Bitonto noted that the relics of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker “belong not only to the city of Bari, but also constitute the legacy of the entire Christendom.” He described the Havana meeting as “one of the unique events since the division of the Churches, the so-called 1053 Great Schism.”

“Almost every day, requests come to us to share the relics of St. Nicholas, and what has happened is clearly the privileged status of our attitude towards the Russian Orthodox Church and personally to you, Your Holiness,” the archbishop stated.

In conclusion of the meeting Patriarch Kirill presented Archbishop Francesco Cacucci with a patriarchal cross.

Then, at the Throne-Hall, Patriarch Kirill presented Italian delegation members with the Russian Orthodox Church awards in recognition of their efforts to bring the relics of St. Nicholas to Russia.

His Holiness asked Archbishop Cacucci to convey to Pope Francis an old icon of St. Nicholas and commemorative medals associated with his ministry.

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2018-04-21T07:59:03+00:00 May 29th, 2017|Categories: The Moynihan Letters|
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