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ST. PETERSBURG, July 13. /TASS/. The relics of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker have been delivered from Moscow to the city of St. Petersburg on Thursday morning, the St. Petersburg Metropolitan’s office told TASS.
Later in the day, access to the relics will be open to pilgrims.
"A welcome ceremony for the relics of St. Nicholas will take place at the St. Alexander Nevsky Lavra," said Natalya Rodomanova, the head of the communications department of the metropolitan’s office. "Access to the relics at the Holy Trinity Cathedral will be open at 16:00 local time (13:00 GMT)," she added. "On July 28, a farewell ceremony is going to be held as the relics of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker will be sent back to the Italian city of Bari," Rodomanov said.
The ark will be put on display at the Holy Trinity Cathedral of the St. Alexander Nevsky Lavra. According to a TASS correspondent, believers have started to gather near the monastery. According to the organizers’ estimates, several thousand people have already arrived.
An agreement on the ‘translation’ of St. Nicholas’s relics from Italy to Russia was reached during the historic meeting between the Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia, Kirill, and Pope Francis, which took place in the Cuban capital of Havana on February 12.
A fragment of the relics was retrieved from a sealed tomb located in the lower church of the basilica in Bari, Italy. The relics were placed there 930 years ago and covered by a marble slab weighing more than 30 tonnes. No one ever removed the slab during all this time.
A special charted jet delivered the relics to Moscow on May 21.
The relics were on display in the Russian capital on May 22 - July 12. According to the Moscow authorities, nearly two million pilgrims venerated the relics over this period.
The relics of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker are not the first ones brought to Russia from overseas.
In 2003, Orthodox Christians in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus had an opportunity to pay homage to the relics of St. Andrew, brought from St. Panteleimon Monastery located in Mount Athos. In Moscow, more than 170,000 believers came to see the relics.
Over 7,000,000 believers in Russian and other CIS countries paid homage to the relics of Yelizaveta the righteous martyr and Varvara the nun, brought from Jerusalem’s Church of Mary Magdalene in 2004.
In 2011, one of the major Christian sacred things, a part of the Cincture of the Theotokos (Blessed Virgin Mary) was delivered to Russia. The relics, which were taken out of the Vatopedi monastery on Mount Athos for the first time ever, were on display for 39 days, allowing more than 3,000,000 to pay homage.
In 2014, the Gift of the Magi was brought to Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. Within a month’s time, over a million paid homage to the relics.