MOSCOW, February 02, 22:55 /ITAR-TASS/. A total of 430,000 people have worshipped the Gifts of the Magi, a Christian relic taken out of Greece for the first time since the 15th century, in Ukraine over the nine days that the Gifts were displayed there, the organizer of the relic’s trip to Russia, Belarus and Ukraine said Sunday.
“On the evening of January 24, the Gifts of the Magi were solemnly met in the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra. Despite severe frost, 280,000 people came there over five days,” organizing committee spokeswoman Maria Korovina told Itar-Tass.
“Then, on requests from believers, Athos monks allowed to extend the relic’s stay in Ukraine and take it to the Crimea. A total of 50,000 pilgrims came over 1.5 days to worship the relic in Simferopol, and more than 100,000, a third of the city's population, in Sevastopol over 15 hours,” Korovina said.
According to the Gospel of Matthew, Biblical Magi, or Wise Men, were led by the Star of Bethlehem to the place where the baby Jesus was born. They brought Christ gold, which was a gift to kings, frankincense, a sign of veneration, and myrrh, used to anoint the deceased, thus venerating Jesus as King, God and Man.
The Gifts were displayed in Russia on January 7-17, then sent to the Belarusian capital Minsk to be open for veneration until January 24. After that, the relic was taken to Kiev to be displayed in the world-famous Kiev-Pechersk Lavra, or Monastery of the Caves, in the Ukrainian capital. More than 1.5 million of pilgrims have worshipped the relic in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine.
The box with the relic has part of the original Gifts: three gold plates with a thin filigree ornament with beads from a mix of frankincense and myrrh attached to it on a silver thread. The Gifts were kept in the Agiou Pavlou (St. Paul’s) monastery on Mount Athos in Greece since the 15th century.
On Monday, February 3, the relic will be taken for one day to the southern Russian city of Volgograd, where two suicide bombings killed 34 people and injured more than 70 others in attacks on a railway terminal and a trolleybus on December 29 and 30, 2013.