CAIRO: June 26, 2007
The All-Diaspora Youth Pilgrimage "In the Footsteps of Moses" Begins
Clergymen together with over 100 young pilgrims from all the dioceses of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, headed by His Grace Bishop Peter, Administrator of the Diocese of Chicago and Mid-America, visited the churches and holy and historic sites of Cairo.
At the Monastery of Holy Great Martyr, Victory-bearer and Wonderworker George (Alexandrian Patriarchate), His Grace performed a moleben before the tomb of the saint, which the pilgrims then venerated. Archimandrite Nifon, the Monastery's Abbot, welcomed Vladyka Peter and the pilgrims. In the 30's AD, the Romans built a great fortress here. This is where, in 303, St George was imprisoned and endured martyrdom for Christ. The fortress was later destroyed, and later in the 4 th century, a monastery dedicated to St George was built here. The main church of the monastery is a grand edifice, the main portion of which is the rebuilt fortress itself. There are four stories in the fortress-church, two of which have over the years sunk into the earth. The uppermost church holds one of the main relics of the monastery, the miracle-working Icon of St George from the 4 th century, which is revered by even Muslims. It may be that this is because when the church burned in 1904, only this icon remained unharmed. Everything else in the church was destroyed: the iconostasis, the liturgical items and vestments.
In addition to the relics of St George, the church holds another important relic: a part of the Holy Life-Giving Cross of the Lord. The next floor down holds another church in which there is a column to which the Great Martyr was bound during torture; the iron chains, arrows, knouts and spiked wheels which tortured the saint are all here. There is an icon which depicts the sufferings endured by the saint. The young pilgrims piously venerated the horrible instruments of torture. They viewed these instruments with horror, while for St George, they evoked bliss, for they brought him closer to Christ. And how much pain the martyr suffered! For the torturers did not intend to kill him right away, they aimed to weaken him physically, morally and psychologically, so that he would falter and renounce Christ. But he endured the pain and ultimate death consciously, for the sake of the Lord.
The second floor houses a church dedicated to the Mother of God, for the Holy Family lived not far from here at one time. Vladyka Peter served a pannikhida over the graves of Russians buried in the monastery.
The young pilgrims venerated the relics of Apostle Mark in the local Coptic church. He had traveled here to preach the Gospel. Christianity was widespread in Egypt in the first centuries, and by 284, it was the center of Christianity and possessed the authority to decide Church-wide matters.
The pilgrims also prayed at other sites connected with the sojourn of the Holy Family, and visited the local museum. After dinner, His Grace had a discussion with the youth, after which they all read evening prayers.