01 October 2008, 14:30
Naples Archbishop handed over St. Januarius's relics to Alexy II (updated)
Moscow, October 1, Interfax – Archbishop of Naples Crescenzio Cardinal Sepe, who is visiting Russia, has handed over to Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia a reliquary with a particle of St. Januarius's relics on Wednesday.
A 19th century cross containing part of the relics from the St. Januarius' skull was handed to the Patriarch in a ceremony at his residence in St. Daniel monastery in Moscow.
Cardinal Sepe said the relics would hopefully "symbolize a link between the martyrdom of St. Januarius and the numerous new martyrs of the Russian Orthodox Church and will serve the purpose of deepening relations on the basis of our Churches' common martyrdom," he said.
Alexy II thanked the Cardinal for the gift and said that St. Januarius was a martyr of "one and undivided Church."
St. Januarius is revered in Russia today as "a symbol of good relations between our Churches," Alexy II said.
The Russian Patriarch also thanked the Archbishop of Naples for the transfer of a church in Naples to the local community of the Moscow Patriarchate in October 2007 and welcomed the decision by the Catholic hierarchs in Naples "to respond to the needs of our believers."
The positions of the Orthodox and Catholic Churches coincided on many pressing issues, including the understanding of human rights, family ethics and role of traditional values in public life, Alexy II said.
Cardinal Sepe visits Russia as a guest of the Russian Orthodox Church. On the eve, he met with Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad who approved of the cardinal’s active participation in giving a church construction in downtown Naples to the Russian community in October 2007.
Cardinal Sepe and representatives of the Roman Catholic Church accompanying him stressed they hoped for cooperation with the Russian Church as it had great spiritual and intellectual potential in promoting traditional Christian values in Europe, the Moscow Patriarchate official website has reported.
Holy Martyr Januarius Bishop of Benevento, whose relics will be handed over to the Patriarch today, was tortured and died as a martyr in sulfuric mines near Solfatara volcano in 305 where he came to visit Christians imprisoned under Emperor Diocletian. His relics were preserved in catacombs and then transferred to Benevento and Montevergine Abbey. They were placed in the Naples Cathedral named after him in 1497.
His head and two vessels with his blood collected by a pious widow when the bishop was martyred are kept in the luxurious cathedral chapel. Dried blood of the Naples patron becomes liquid thrice a year on September 19 when the saint is commemorated, on December 16, when Naples residents celebrate anniversary of their miraculous deliverance from Mt. Vesuvius eruption in 1631, and on Saturday before May 1 on the day when relics of the saint were transferred to Naples.
Residents of Naples believe that when the saint’s blood liquefies, it is a good sign and the city will live another peaceful year. When the miracle doesn’t happen, residents wait for the trials to come. Thus, when the blood did not become liquid in 1631, epidemic of plague affected Naples. The miracle did not happen before the earthquake in South Italy in 1976.
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