An estimated 30,000 faithful filled the massive Cathedral of Christ the Savior and its adjacent grounds here on Saturday, August 19 as His Holiness, Patriarch ALEKSY II of Moscow and All Russia presided at the Consecration of the reconstructed church.
Considered to be the largest functioning Orthodox church in the world, the Cathedral of Christ the Savior was originally erected in the late 1800s. In the 1930s it was demolished by the Soviet regime, which had intended to build a towering “Palace of Soviets” topped by a statue of Vladimir Lenin. Plans for the edifice were abandoned when it was discovered that the ground could not support such a massive structure, and an outdoor swimming pool was installed in its place. The pool dominated the site until formal reconstruction of the cathedral began in 1996. A team of 3,000 workers labored around the clock to complete the cathedral in just four years.
Joining Patriarch ALEKSY for the five-hour Consecration and Divine Liturgy were nearly every hierarch of the Moscow Patriarchate and delegations from the worlds 15 autocephalous churches and numerous autonomous churches. The Primates of several autocephalous Churches - among them His Holiness, Catholicos-Patriarch ILIA of Georgia; His Holiness, Patriarch PAVLE of Serbia; His Beatitude, Patriarch TEOCTIST of Romania; His Holiness, Patriarch MAKSIM of Bulgaria; His Beatitude, Archbishop CHRYSOSTOMOS of Cyprus; His Beatitude, Archbishop ANASTASIOS of Albania; and His Beatitude, NICHOLAS of the Czech and Slovak Republics - concelebrated at the Consecration. His Eminence, Archbishop HERMAN of Philadelphia and Eastern Pennsylvania and His Grace, Bishop SERAPHIM of Ottawa and Canada headed the delegation representing the Orthodox Church in America, while His Eminence, Archbishop DIMITRIOS of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America headed the delegation representing the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.
Prior to the Consecration Divine Liturgy, numerous processions from many of Moscow’s parishes converged at the massive cathedral, located approximately one mile from the Kremlin. Thousands of faithful unable to enter the church remained on the cathedral grounds, where they were able to hear the Liturgy over loud speakers and view the ceremonies on a large screen which had been erected on the cathedral grounds.
Following the Consecration of the traditional wooden altar table, Patriarch ALEKSY and 208 hierarchs processed around the cathedral with the relics which were later sealed into the table. Responses were sung by three choirs located in the church’s west, north and south galleries.
In addition to numerous hierarchs and clergy, Moscow’s Mayor Yuri Lushkov was present for the Consecration Liturgy together with other representatives of the city government and the Russian Federation. Russian President Putin was not present in light of the disaster which had take place with the sinking of the submarine “Kursk,” although he did host a gathering in the Kremlin for the hierarchs and delegations on Sunday afternoon.
The Consecration celebration began on Friday, August 18, with a solemn convocation in the massive chamber of the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church which forms a part of the cathedral complex. Patriarch ALEKSY opened the convocation, which marked the Russian Orthodox Church’s official celebration of the 2000th Anniversary of the Nativity of Our Lord, Jesus Christ. Greetings were read on behalf of the worlds Orthodox Churches, with Archbishop HERMAN delivering the greetings of His Beatitude, Metropolitan THEODOSIUS, Primate of the Orthodox Church in America, who was unable to participate due to prior commitments. A Millennium concert followed the convocation, after which the All-Night Vigil for the Great Feast of the Transfiguration was celebrated in the cathedrals spacious lower level church.
The celebration continued on Sunday, August 20, with the Glorification of over 1,200 saints who suffered or faced martyrdom during the Soviet era. Prior to the celebration of the Divine Liturgy, a final Memorial for the repose of the souls of those about to be canonized was celebrated. At the time of the Little Entrance of the Divine Liturgy, His Eminence, Metropolitan JUVENALY of Krutitsy read two lengthy Acts of Canonization, during which the various categories of saints were outlined and enumerated. Tsar Nicholas II, Tsarina Alexandra, and their children were glorified as “Passion Bearers” in recognition of the humble manner in which they faced death, while the vast majority of new saints were recognized as martyrs or confessors for the Orthodox Faith. The canonization of the Royal Family, which had generated a degree of controversy in certain circles, was confirmed by the Assembly of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church which had been convened in Moscow during the week preceding the Consecration and Glorification ceremonies. Following the reading of the Acts of Canonization, two separate icons of the newly-glorified saints were placed in the center of the cathedral as the newly composed troparia and other hymns in their honor were sung. Prior to entering the altar, the hierarchs and clergy venerated the icons.
The Millennium concert and fireworks display slated to conclude the Consecration and Glorification celebrations were cancelled out of respect for the 118 seamen who had lost their lives in the “Kursk” disaster.
In addition to participating in the Consecration and Glorification celebrations, the OCA delegation, which also included Protopresbyter Robert Kondratick, OCA Chancellor; Protopresbyter Daniel Hubiak, OCA Representative in Moscow; the Very Rev. Leonid Kishkovsky, Assistant to the Chancellor for Inter-Church Relations and Ecumenical Witness; the Very Rev. John Matusiak, Director of the OCA Office of Communications; Archdeacon Zacchaeus, Chicago, IL; and Mr. Alexis Liberovsky, OCA Archivist, visited the Monastery of the Holy Trinity and Saint Sergius in Sergiev Posad on Monday, August 21, together with Archbishop DIMITRIOS of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and two other hierarchs representing the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, His Eminence, Metropolitan KONSTANTINOS of Derkon and His Eminence, Metropolitan KYRILLOS of Seleucia. Members of the two delegations were warmly greeted by His Grace, Archbishop EVGENII, Rector of the Moscow Theological Academy and Seminary, and were afforded the opportunity to venerate the relics of Saint SERGIUS of Radonezh, founder of the Monastery; Saint INNOCENT Veniaminov, first ruling Orthodox Bishop of North America and Metropolitan of Moscow; and numerous other saints.
On Monday evening, the OCA delegation hosted a reception for representatives of various other delegations. Presiding at the reception was Archbishop DIMITRIOS, Archbishop HERMAN, and His Eminence, Metropolitan SERGEI of Solnechnogorsk. Among the guest hierarchs from other autocephalous churches were His Eminence, Metropolitan JOHN of Korce of the Albanian Orthodox Church; Metropolitans KONSTANTINOS and KYRILLOS of the Ecumenical Patriarchate; and others. After the invocation by Archbishop DIMITRIOS and opening remarks by Archbishop HERMAN, Metropolitan SERGEI spoke fondly of the close ties between the Church of Russia and the Orthodox Church in America. Metropolitan SERGEI especially noted the numerous forms of assistance the OCA has offered the Russian Orthodox Church, especially during the 1990s, when the Church of Russia sought to rebuild after seven decades of communist repression. He especially noted the ongoing humanitarian aid which the OCA has offered and continues to offer. Deputy United States Ambassador to Russia George Krohl represented Ambassador James Collins, who was unable to attend the reception. His Eminence, Archbishop MARK, who oversees the Patriarchal parishes in Canada and the United States, was also present at the reception. Archbishop MARK, together with Bishop SAVA, head of the Moscow Patriarchates Military Chaplaincy, served as hosts for the OCA delegation and accompanied its members throughout their visit.
Before returning to the United States, Archbishop HERMAN, Bishop SERAPHIM, and Fathers Kondratick and Kishkovsky participated in several meetings with representatives of the Moscow Patriarchate, including His Eminence, Metropolitan KYRILL of Smolensk, to discuss matters of mutual interest and concern, including the establishment of a Moscow Patriarchate Representation Church in Canada. On their last day in Moscow, the OCA representatives also attended a two-hour meeting with Patriarch ALEKSY.
Members of the OCA delegation returned to North America on Thursday, August 24.
A complete report on the cathedral Consecration and the Glorification ceremonies is featured, together with photos, on the OCA web site at http://www.oca.org and in the October-November issue of The Orthodox Church newspaper.