August 27, 2009

Patriarch Kyrill Conducts Memorial Where Thousands Suffered and His Grandfather Was Imprisoned

Solovki, Russia
August 24, 2009

Patriarch Kyrill of Moscow and All Russia conducted a memorial service at the place where prisoners of the Solovki Camp were executed and a prayer service to new martyrs who suffered for faith from the Bolsheviks. The prison, once a monastery, opened in 1922.

8 Metropolitans, 20 Archbishops, 47 bishops and tens of thousands of laity died there. Approximately 95,000 were put to death by firing squad, among whom was Fr. Paul Florensky who was a noted neomartyr of the period.

He visited the Golgotha-Crucifixion Hermitage on the Anzer Island Saturday morning. Once there was a hospital for typhus and disabled prisoners there.

According to witnesses, instead of extending medical help, the sick people were turned out naked to the frost and left in the ice wind in bell towers to speed up their death. All the prisoners had little clothing to endure the cold and were forced to sleep on concrete floors in the prison.

Having prayerfully commemorated the Solovki victims near the worship cross not far from the communal grave, Patriarch Kirill walked to the top of the Golgotha Mountain and looked at the tombs of prisoners located at its slopes. The Patriarch also saw a cross-shaped birch that had grown there.

Addressing the hermits, the Patriarch said this place was marked “with great human sufferings and great spiritual heroism.” He called what happened here "a great sin".

Furthermore, the Patriarch revealed that he possesses records which show that his grandfather was imprisoned for 30 days in a cell here on The Mount of Axes (Sekirnaya). "My grandfather was tortured here, his hunger was fearsome. It was a miracle of God that my grandfather after all these tortures remained alive", said the Patriarch to reporters. "For me its very personal," he said. It should be noted that the Patriarch's grandfather, Basil Gundyayev, over a period of 30-40 years changed prisons 46 times and after his imprisonment was ordained to the priesthood.

“The Lord Himself chose this deserted island, so that His death and Resurrection were specially commemorated here, the Lord Himself chose this place for people to take incomparable sufferings and torments. We believe that these sufferings and torments have strengthened power of the Church as the Church grows with Divine power rather than with human one,” Patriarch Kyrill said.