Voices from Russia

Monday, 30 June 2008

O God, Preserve Guus! Yesterday, Prayers were raised in Russian Parishes for our Footballers

Guus Hiddink (1946- ), the Dutch coach of Team Russia, the “Guus” referred to in the title. By the way, parents have named their little sons “Guus” with no peep of protest from any priest. We should learn from that.

The sociologists at the research centre of the website superJob.ru estimate that the number of Russians who are actively following the Russian National Football team at Euro 2008 has risen from 68 percent to 92 percent. The clergy and laity of the Russian Orthodox Church did not stand aloof. On the eves of the matches that our side played, moliebens were served and the names of the players were intoned in the prayers. The next morning, after the victories, many parishes held public moliebens of thanksgiving. However, our priests did not go as far in supporting our boys as did the clergy in Germany, where, several times a day, they hold “football services”.

The present European championship did not pass without its quota of mysticism, both on the playing field and beyond it. The players created miracles and they mostly explained them in terms of fan support. However, these fans did not only cheer on their favourites with shouts and singing from the terraces, they also sent up fervent prayers for their side.

The pastors of the two largest Protestant parishes in Berlin, the Cathedral Church and the Kaiser Wilhelm Church, decided to carry out “football services” for the entire duration of Euro 2008. The Catholic bishops of Austria and Switzerland organised the distribution of SMS messages with scriptural quotations and statements of the pope concerning sport, and also messages from trainers and athletes concerning religion.

If these activities on the part of Western churchmen are nothing new, then, perhaps, we saw for the first time an upsurge of support for our players from the Russian Orthodox Church, beginning with the patriarch himself. After placing a wreath at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier on 22 June, His Holiness said, “Today’s grief, connected with the anniversary of the beginning of World War II, is mitigated by the happiness over yesterday’s victory of our Russian team” (that is, when we smashed the Dutch).

As the match with the Spaniards neared, the more zealously our pastors prayed for our football players. We heard that the Spanish fans intended to conduct a voodoo witchcraft ritual using a doll of our player Ignashevich (with his number “4” on its breast) with four pins thrust into its heart. The manufacturer of the doll even stated, “This gives 100 percent success. Prick it in order to be the champions”.

The reply of the Russian Orthodox Church was massive and instantaneous. In thousands of churches, prayers were raised for the victory of the Russian footballers.

“Most of our parishioners are praying for the success of the Russian footballers. Many priests, as, for example, I do, are serving moliebens”, stated Fr Vladimir Zaitsev, the rector of St Innocent of Moscow parish in Yekaterinburg. “If God grants us the victory, tomorrow morning we shall serve a molieben of thanksgiving. Of course, this must be done in the proper spirit, and we should serve one at the conclusion of the championship, no matter who wins, for all are worthy of appreciation”. In Sakhalin, there were prayers raised for our team, “the evening before the semi-final match there shall be a public molieben served at the Cathedral of the Annunciation for the victory of our footballers”, reported Fr Viktor Gorbach. According to Fr Viktor, Bishop Daniil Dorovskikh is in Moscow, attending the Archpastoral Council, but, he plans to follow the game on TV.

However, it is rightly said, “Hope in God, but, don’t make a mistake”. The chief trainer of the Italian team, Roberto Donadoni, received a message on the eve of the game with the Spaniards from the Vatican, stating that masses of special intention had been served for the success of his team. Prayers on the behalf of the Italian team were also raised in several monasteries.

It did not help.

27 June 2008

Mikhail Pozdnyaev

Novoye Izvestiya (New Proceedings)

Quoted in Interfax-Religion


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