Vatican City, Jun 21, 2017 / 05:04 am
Common veneration of relics is one of the tools Pope Francis is using to foster ecumenical relations with the Eastern Orthodox Churches.
In May, relics of St. Philip and St. Nicholas were transported to Turkey and Russia, respectively. They have been exposed for the veneration of the Orthodox faithful from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and the Patriarchate of Moscow.
The transportation of the relics of St. Nicholas from the Italian city of Bari to Moscow is particularly noteworthy. It is the first time in 930 years that a part of the body of St. Nicholas has left Bari for veneration abroad.
The novel action comes after a specific request Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of Moscow made to Pope Francis when they met in Havana, Cuba in February 2016.
Pope Francis consented to Patriarch Kirill’s request and forwarded the request to Bari’s Archbishop Francesco Cacucci. The archbishop then started the procedures to move the relics.
In the end, it was possible to detach a small particle of St. Nicholas’ left rib, which the archbishop noted was “close to the saint’s heart.”
Archbishop Cacucci discussed the letter Pope Francis had sent him to about the Patriarch’s request. The archbishop explained that, for Pope Francis, the veneration of relics is “an essential part of the path toward the re-establishment of full communion among all Christians.”
“The common veneration of saints help us to look at the ecumenical dialogue with a light of hope,” he said.
St. Nicholas was one of the most venerated saints in Christianity even before his relics were taken from Myra, Turkey, by 62 sailors from Bari in 1087.
Those sailors made an expedition to Myra to save St. Nicholas’ relics from Muslims who had conquered the city where St. Nicholas had lived and served as a bishop in the fourth century.
This year, St. Nicholas’ relics arrived in Moscow May 22. They were placed in a container specially crafted for the occasion. The relics were then placed in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior of Moscow. Patriarch Kirill himself celebrated a divine liturgy to welcome them.
St. Nicholas' relics will be in Moscow until July 12. They will then move to St. Petersburg for several weeks before returning to Bari July 28.