Moscow: Thousands of worshipers began lining up in Moscow on Monday, May 22 to see the relic of St. Nicholas, which had been kept in Bari, Italy, for more than 900 years.
Though the Cathedral of Christ the Savior was to open to the public for the relic’s veneration at 2 p.m., a one-km line formed outside the church since early Monday, Efe news reported.
The relic, a left rib of the patron saint of Russia, Greece and Turkey, was flown out on Sunday, accompanied by the head of foreign affairs of the Moscow Patriarchate, Metropolitan Hilarion, and the Archbishop of Bari, Monsignor Francesco Cacucci.
Bells from Orthodox churches across the city rang to commemorate the relic’s arrival at the cathedral, as St. Nicholas has always been considered the country’s most important saint.
City authorities and a committee from the Russian Orthodox Church expected hundreds of thousands of people to visit the cathedral and see the relic over the next 52 days, after which the rib is to be sent to Saint Petersburg.
The decision to temporarily move the relic to Russia was reached after a historic meeting in February 2016 between Pope Francis and the Patriarch Kirill of Moscow at the airport in Havana, Cuba, which opened a new chapter in the cooperation between the two main Christian Churches after 1,000 years of schism.
On July 12, the rib is to be moved to Saint Petersburg, where it is to remain for two weeks before returning to Bari.