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MOSCOW, January 12, /ITAR-TASS/. About 20,000 people are standing in a queue around Moscow’s Christ the Saviour Cathedral to worship one of the biggest Christian relics, the Gifts of the Wise Men to the newborn Jesus, which were delivered from Greece’s Mount Athos to Moscow late on January 6, the Orthodox Christmas Eve, spokeswoman for the organizing committee Maria Korovina told Itar-Tass on Sunday.
According to the spokeswoman, it takes about seven hours to get inside the cathedral. “Access to the Gifts has been organized from the two sides of the shrine, which reduces the time of waiting,” she said.
At the same time she warned believers not to join the queue after six in the evening. “Those who came earlier will not be denied access, of course,” she noted. “Thus, yesterday we closed the cathedral about two in the night. Still, we recommend people to plan their visit on the next morning in order to spare themselves from ten to twelve hours of queuing.” She also noted that on Sunday the cathedral had been opened an hour ahead of the scheduled time - at seven in the morning, since there had been too many believers waiting for the opening.
As many as 26 ambulance cars and specialists from the Moscow psychological assistance service are on duty in the area. About 1,600 policemen are involved in securing law and order. No serious incidents have been reported over the period of the Gifts’ stay in Moscow.
The number of buses where people may get warm or have some rest has been increased to 83. Four field kitchens are working in the vicinity to proved hot meals. Volunteers are serving hot tea and buns. Persons in wheelchairs and mothers with nurselings are allowed to skip the queue.
The Gifts of the Three Kings will be displayed at Moscow’s Christ the Saviour Cathedral till January 13. The cathedral will be open for believers daily from 08:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
On January 14, the shrine with the Gifts of the Magi will be brought to St. Petersburg where it will be accessible for pilgrims at the Novodevichy nunnery till January 17. Later on, the Gifts of the Wise Men will be displayed at the Charity House in Minsk on January 18-24, and at the Kiev Pechersk Lavra in Kiev on January 25-30.
The Gifts the Wise Men of the East, gold, frankincense and myrrh, that are kept at the sacristry of the Agiou Pavlou (St. Paul’s) monastery on Mount Athos in Greece have left Greece for the first time since the 15th century. The gold is in square and triangular plates bearing the finest ornament and measuring 5 by 7 centimeters. The frankincense and myrrh are in dark olive-like balls numbering 70.
The legend has it that shortly before her death, Virgin Mary gave these gifts to two righteous women. Later on, these relics were brought to Byzantium, and after the Turkish conquest in 1453, they were taken to Mount Athos by a Serb nun Mary.
Athos monks believe that the Gifts of The Three Kings have healing power, thus testifying to the Christ's coming to this world.