The Foundation of St Andrew the First-called reported to our Interfax-Religion correspondent that more than 50,000 Byelorussians came to venerate the relics of St Aleksandr Nevsky. The relics were brought from Russia to Byelorussia by the Foundation, which is organising their tour throughout the country. Local clergy said that more than 32,000 faithful came to Minsk from 29 to 31 May to bow before the relics.
At the St Evfrosinia church, where the ark with the relics was, the line of people waiting to enter extended some 300 metres (@1,000 feet) out from the entrance. Moliebens and akafists were served unceasingly before the relics throughout the day and night. Believers came from Minsk and all the surrounding towns to pay respect to the relics, including the members of local sisterhoods of mercy and Orthodox brotherhoods. Soldiers, Cossacks, and cadets formed an honour guard outside the church.
On Saturday, 31 May, the relics were brought to St Nicholas Cathedral in Bobruisk, where hundreds of believers, mounted Cossacks, and clergy were waiting. Just as it was in Minsk, the cathedral stayed open throughout the night, such was the immensity of the crowd waiting to venerate the relics. On Sunday, a military band played a concert on the cathedral square in honour of St Aleksandr Nevsky.
Next, the people of Gomel met the relics with reverence and solemnity. From the city gates to the centre of town, the relics were borne in procession, with military cadets in full-dress uniform escorting it. The local authorities and clergy met a delegation from the Foundation of St Andrew at the World War II Memorial, after which, the relics were taken to the Cathedral of Ss Peter and Paul. Again, throughout the night, moliebens and the akafist and canon to St Aleksandr Nevsky were served before the relics as pilgrims from Gomel and the surrounding region bowed before the ark. On the next day, the bishops conducted a religious procession around the cathedral, in which several thousand people participated. In total, some 14,000 believers venerated the relics in Gomel.
On 2 June, the relics were brought to Orsha. The relics were met by clergy, soldiers, Cossacks, “Rusichi” boy scouts, monks, nuns, members of local sisterhoods of mercy, and hundreds of believers from Orsha and pilgrims from Vitebsk and Polotsk. A 2-kilometre-long religious procession with the relics walked from the city limits to the town centre, whilst soldiers bore aloft a large icon of St Aleksandr Nevsky. Many townspeople made the sign of the cross, others bowed low to the tarmac, whilst others observed the procession from their windows. Archbishop Dmitri of Vitebsk and Orha, met the delegation of the Foundation of St Andrew at St Mikhail church. Vladyki Dmitri noted the historical connection of St Aleksandr with this locality, for his wife was the grand-niece of St Evfrosinia of Polotsk, the heavenly patroness of Byelorussia. Throughout Byelorussia there are some 30 parishes dedicated to St Aleksandr Nevsky.
4 June 2008