CONSTANTINOPLE: December 2, 2005

A Pilgrimage of the Russian Church Abroad Visits the Holy Sites of Old Constantinople

A group of pilgrims from the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia left Paris (see previous report) for a trip to visit the old city of Constantinople. Here they visited the Church of Holy Great Martyr Irene, where the II Ecumenical Council was held; the great Hagia Sofia Cathedral, built by Emperor Justinian; the Monastery of St John the Baptist of Studius; the Convent of the Life-Giving Spring at the Zoodochos Pege, where the pilgrims sensed the salvific grace of the Most-Blessed Virgin; the Church of the Panagia of Blachernae, where the first Akathist to the Mother of God was read and where She revealed Her veil to St Andrew, fool-for-Christ; the cave of St Demetrius of Salonika, the podvoriya [representative offices] of the Monasteries of St Panteleimon, St Andrew and St Elias of Mt Athos; and the Patriarchal Cathedral of Holy Martyr George the Victorious in Phanar, where the pilgrims were received by His All-Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I. The Patriarch blessed them to venerate the holy sites of Constantinople and the Holy Mountain.

At the Church of St George, the pilgrims venerated a piece of the whipping-post used during the trial of our Savior, the holy relics of Great Martyr Euthemius the All-Praised, which abide in an ancient Russian crypt built with the blessing of Metropolitan Anthony (Vadkovsky, +1912); the relics of Empress Theophania, Martyr of Salomonius, mother of the Martyrs of Maccabee; and the relics of St John Chrysostom and St Gregory the Theologian. During their discussion with the Patriarch, which was held in a warm, gregarious atmosphere, the participants touched upon various church matters. In particular, the Patriarch recalled Metropolitans Anastassy, Philaret and Vitaly, the late Archimandrite Amvrosy (Pogodin), and inquired about the health of His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus and the archpastors and pastors of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia whom His All-Holiness knew personally. Attending the meeting were the members of the Synod of the Constantinople Patriarchate, Their Eminences Metropolitan Meliton and Metropolitan Emmanuel, and the Secretary of their Synod, Archimandrite Elpidiphoros.

At the podvorie of St Panteleimon Monastery, where the miracle-working copy of the Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God is kept, the pilgrims were warmly greeted by the Rector, Hieromonk Timothy, who told them about the history and current situation of the Russian Orthodox Christians seeking salvation here. The pilgrims' itinerary throughout Constantinople included not only visits to holy sites but also meetings with Russian Orthodox residents in this ancient city.