TEL AVIV, May 4 (Itar-Tass) - A plane carrying the Holy Fire that ignited in Jerusalem earlier in the day has left Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport and headed to Moscow.
Travelling aboard the plane is a delegation of Russia’s Apostle Andrew the First Called Fund, which is led by its Head Vladimir Yakunin and Bishop Feofilakt of Dmitrov.
The plane will arrive at Moscow’s Vnukovo-1 Airport at 22:30, whereupon the lamp will be taken to the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. Candles lit from the Holy Fire will then travel to the dioceses of the Russian Orthodox Church in Minsk, Riga, Tashkent, Bishkek, Tallinn, Baku, Derbent, St. Petersburg, Barnaul, Belgiorod, Volgograd, Voronezh, Yekaterinburg, Irkutsk, Kemerovo, Kostroma, Krasnoyarsk, Kursk, Lipetsk, Magadan, Murmansk, Nizhny Novgorod, Novosibirsk, Orel, Perm, Ryazan, Pskov, Saratov, Stavropol, Tambov, Tula, Cheboksary, Yaroslavl, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, Rostov-on-Don, Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, Yakutsk, and other cities. The Holy Fire will also be taken this year to Milan, Venice, Verona, and Merano.
The Holy Fire ignited after the prayer delivered by Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem. Israeli policemen made sure there was no fraud and the patriarch had no “earthly” sources of fire.
The Holy Fire has been descending on the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem on the eve of Orthodox Easter for more than 1,500 years. The first accounts of this miracle, which symbolises the resurrection of Christ, date back to the 4th century A.D.
It is believed that the year in which the Holy Fire does not descend will become the last year in the history of mankind.
The fire miraculously ignites during the prayer delivered by the patriarch of Jerusalem and All Palestine at the Sepulchre. The patriarch then passes the fire over to believers who use it to light 33 candles tied together, one candle for each year of Christ's life. The pilgrims wash their faces and heads with the holy fire, for it does not burn in the first few minutes after the descent. The believers also light lampions and oil lamps in order to take the holy fire, which has been miraculously appearing for 990 years at the Sepulchre on the eve of Orthodox Easter, to their homes.
The Russian delegation is expected to bring the fire in a secure lamp by a special flight in time for the overnight Easter service at Moscow's Christ the Saviour Cathedral to be led by Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia.
The delegation has been bringing the Holy Fire from Jerusalem to Moscow for the tenth consecutive year. “A small program launched by the organization in 2003 has become a beautiful Orthodox tradition. Our delegation, which includes generals, admirals, politicians and culture workers, represents the whole of Russia. To us this mission is a great responsibility, Yakunin said.
He met with Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem on Friday, May 3.
The Holy Fire was for the first time taken from Jerusalem to Moscow in 1992.