07 June 2013, 10:12
Senior Athos monk praises Russia, urges global Orthodox unity
Mount Athos, June 7, Interfax - The abbot of the Vatopedi Monastery on Mount Athos, Archimandrite Ephraim, praised Russia and called for global Orthodox unity.
"Even though it has been nearly a year and a half, our taking the Cincture of the Theotokos to Russia, the main relic of our monastery, is still fresh in our memory," Ephraim said after a prayer service at Vatopedi on Thursday that he co-led with the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill.
Nearly 4 million people, including top Russian leaders, came to see the cincture and partake of its supposed miraculous powers while it was shown in various Russian cities between October 20 and November 28, 2011. It had been brought to Russia by Father Ephraim.
The archimandrite said the crowds that had come to venerate the cincture in Russia "may be considered the largest peaceful assembly of people worldwide in the 20 and 21st centuries."
"Nearly 4 million people kissed the holy cincture, and quite many of them queued for more than 17 hours to do this. Numerous miracles occurred while the holy cincture was [in Russia]. They are still continuing, especially miracles of childbirth. In some of the regions, visiting the relic helped solve demographic problems. Statistics show an inexplicable rise in the birth rate," Fr. Ephraim said.
"We have been able to see the great strength of the Orthodox Russian people. The power of the Church remains great in our days. The Russian Church as the most numerous enjoys great power and influence all over the world. We can never forget the immense support that you gave us at a time of ordeal," he said.
He credited Russia with continual help to Vatopedi and the entire Mount Athos during Ottoman rule and claimed there are special historical ties between Vatopedi and Russia. He mentioned that Vatopedi keeps about 1,500 old Russian icons, which are considered the largest collection of Russian icons outside Russia.
The monastery also keeps letters from Russian emperors stating donations to Vatopedi and asking for relics to be temporarily brought to Russia.
Today "traditional values are questioned and there are more and more crises of various kinds," the abbot said.
"We have reached a point where the entire Orthodox community needs to unify. This is a necessary condition for Orthodoxy to manifest itself as true Divine revelation and the true way of life for everyone. Today Orthodoxy must show its true universal character. Your, Your Holiness, as the leader of the most numerous Orthodox Church, would be able to help achieve this," Fr. Ephraim said.