Moscow, Russian Federation. There were housands of people lined up for hours in Moscow to worship the relics of Saint Nicholas, believed by Orthodox Christians to have miraculous powers for good.
After Saint Nicholas remains were sent to Russia on loan from their permanent home in Italy. The line of people to see the relics stretched for several kilometers from the cathedral along the embankment of the Moscow river.
Saint Nicholas, who lived in the fourth century in what is modern-day Turkey, is one of the most revered saints in Russian Orthodoxy. Numerous churches and cathedrals bear his name in Russia, and Nikolai is a popular name in the country.
“I want to touch the relics, to ask for health for my children, for my relatives,” said one woman in the line, who gave her name as Natalia and said she was from Ukraine. “I want health and peace on earth. Nothing else.”
The loan was agreed during last year’s historic meeting between Russian Patriarch Kirill and Roman Catholic Pope Francis. It was the first time a pontiff and head of the Russian Orthodox church had met since the Eastern and Western branches of Christianity split apart nearly 1,000 years ago.
The remains of Saint Nicholas had never previously left the Italian city of Bari in the 930 years since they were brought there. After arriving by plane on Sunday, they were installed in Moscow’s gold-domed Christ the Saviour Cathedral, and put on public display.
Under Vladimir Putin, the Orthodox Church has re-emerged as a strong force in Russian moral, spiritual and community life for millions of Russians.