November 23 2011
**I am posting this story not to pass judgment on whether I believe the relic is actually Our Lady’s cincture or to promote the kissing of relics, which I personally would discourage, but to show how many eager devotees of Our Lady there are in Moscow. Such a nice story. :)
Tens of thousands of Russians queued on ice-covered pavements in freezing temperatures to see and kiss a newly arrived relic of the Virgin Mary in the country’s largest Orthodox cathedral.
The Virgin Mary’s Cincture, a belt that Christians believe was worn by Jesus’s mother, was brought to Russia last month from Mount Athos, a monastic community in Greece.
Russian Orthodox believers cross themselves as they line up to kiss the relic in Moscow (AP)
Kissing the relic, which is encased in an ornamental box, is believed to help barren women conceive and heal other ailments.
The line of people, mostly women, waiting to enter the golden-domed Christ the Saviour Cathedral stretched for 2.5 miles (4km) along the Moscow River despite temperatures which dropped to below minus 5C (23F).
Police officers announced through megaphones that it would take worshippers 24 hours to get to the relic as the queue swelled to tens of thousands.
Hundreds of buses brought pilgrims from other Russian cities. Some 150 buses were parked along the embankment with their engines running so the faithful could get warm as they waited. The city provided free tea and food and put up portable toilets.
Some 1,500 police officers were deployed to prevent people from pushing in.
Traffic in central Moscow has been snarled up since the relic first went on display on Saturday. By this afternoon, as many as 300,000 people had seen the relic, which will remain on display until Sunday.
The St Andrew’s Foundation, which brought the relic to Russia, said it was viewed by two million people in 14 other cities before arriving in Moscow.
The Russian Orthodox Church withered under eight decades of Soviet rule, but has enjoyed a resurgence over the past two decades. Russians adopted Christianity in 989 from Byzantine Greeks, and the Russian Orthodox Church has maintained close ties with Greek clergy and monasteries.