From the Greek Reporter:
The shrine with the Cross of St Andrew the First-Called has arrived in St Petersburg.
The relic has opened the festivities marking the 1025th anniversary of the Baptism of Rus due to take place on the territory of three states – Russia, Ukraine and Belarus.
The “Baptism of Rus” refers to the moment in 988 when Grand Prince Vladimir ordered the mass baptism of the people of Kiev. As of 13 July, “65,000″ people had queued to see it.
The cross has been brought to Russia by the Foundation of St. Andrew the First-Called, and the Foundation’s chair, Vladimir Yakunin (a close ally of Vladimir Putin), travelled to Patras in Greece to oversee the the relic’s transportation (pictures here). Two years ago, Yakunin arranged for a relic believed to be the Virgin Mary’s belt (or girdle) to visit Russia from Mt Athos for the first time.
St Andrew’s association with Kiev and Russia is outlined in a scholarly book on the Valaam Monastery by Kati Parppei. She writes that an association of Andrew with the east was developed in Constantinople as a counter-balance to Rome’s association with St Peter, although it only received official church support from 1204 (the year when Constantinople was attacked by Crusaders). The idea then spread to ecclesiastical circles in Syria, Georgia, and Kiev: “a worthy founder, preferably an apostle, gave [Kiev] the legacy and authority of a true Christians principality”.
Andrew was subsequently linked to Novgorod, thus linking the city to first century Christianity rather than Christianization via Constantinople, and then to Moscow, legitimizing Muscovite rule. In the sixteenth century, Andrew came to be seen as having prophesied “the Christianization of the whole Russian land”.
The cross will be Russia from 11 to 25 July, followed by three days in Kiev. A commentator to the website of the Religious Information Service of Ukraine caustically notes:
Isn’t it sad that when the Kyivan Church celebrates its 1025th anniversary, the Holy cross of its founder will spend 4 times as long in Moscow and area than in Kyiv where St. Andrew stood and prophesied. How typically Russian.
Currently, the Orthodox Church in Ukraine is divided between an independent “Kyivan Patriarchate” and churches in union with the Moscow Patriarchate. Last month, Patriarch Filaret mocked the fact that Russia was beginning celebrations with a procession of the relics of Prince Vladimir beginning in Vladivostok:
This is the twisting of history. We are celebrating an event that occurred in 988 in Kyiv. Moscow did not exist as a city, let alone the capital of a state, at the time. Even the Russian Empire celebrated the 900th anniversary of baptism in Kyiv, not in Moscow or Petersburg. So why do they begin to mark this date in Vladivostok? Because Russia cannot possibly drop the fixed idea of the so-called Russian World (they have also drawn the Russian Orthodox Church in there).
A Ukrainian government-sponsored interdenominational commemoration will take place on 27 July; Patriarch of Moscow Kirill has apparently confirmed that he will not attend if Filaret is present. Kirill recently emphasised “the countries of historical Rus, including Russia, Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus” in conversation with the President of Greece.
After Kiev, the cross will move on to Minsk. According to the Belarusian Telegraph Agency, “the relic will be on display in the Apostle Andrew Church and the Church of All Saints.” Kirill enjoys a close relationship of mutual admiration with Belarus president (and “Europe’s last dictator”) Alexander Lukashenko.
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