December 1, 2010

Apostle Andrew Relics Settle in Kazakhstan

November 30, 2010
RIA Novosti

Today the Russian Orthodox Dormition Cathedral in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, received a priceless gift from the Vatican, the relics of the apostle St. Andrew the First-Called. This Christian relic has been brought to the republic a few times in the past, but this time it is here to stay. This event is even more symbolic because the 30th of November is the saint’s remembrance day in the Russian Orthodox Church.

According to legend, St. Andrew the First-Called was one of Jesus Christ’s first and most devoted disciples. Russian manuscripts describe him as a Christian missionary in Ancient Russia. The apostle was also considered the patron saint of Russia and Scotland. Legends say that the apostle, like Jesus Christ, was a martyr for his faith, he was crucified by Greek pagans on a diagonal cross which was later called the cross of St. Andrew. At present, the Apostle Andrew is venerated by both the Catholic and the Russian Orthodox Church. In Russia, one of the highest state awards bears his name, the Order of St. Andrew the First-Called. Incidentally, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev has been awarded this Order.

The Apostle Andrew’s relics were kept in the Italian city of Amalfi for many years and the issue of taking part of them to a cathedral in Kazakhstan has been debated for a long time. Pope Benedict XVI took this decision due to the fact that a diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church was formed in Kazakhstan in 2010. The donation of the Apostle Andrew’s reliquary became a special gift of the Catholic Church to the newly-formed diocese.

The priceless gift is also referred to as a sign of developing the interconfessional dialogue and mutual understanding between the two Christian Churches. Many experts believe that the donation of the relics can become an important step towards a meeting of the heads of the Roman Catholic and the Russian Orthodox Church, very much looked forward to in the world. However, the Moscow Patriarchate, while not denying the possibility of such a meeting some time in the future, prefers not to rush the events. Ilarion, the Metropolitan of Volokolamsk and the head of the Department of international religious ties of the Russian Orthodox Church, says the following:

“Every day brings us closer to the meeting of the Pope and the Patriarch. We do not know when it will happen and we are not preparing for it. The work we are doing today in order to improve our relations with the Catholic Church is aimed at improving the general atmosphere of our relations and at achieving a higher level of mutual understanding. Transfer of any saints’ relics, undoubtedly, favours better relations between our Churches."

From now on, the priceless Christian relic will be kept in the Dormition Cathedral in Astana. This cathedral is one of the largest and newest churches of the young capital of Kazakhstan and of the whole republic. It has an area of over two thousand square metres and is 68 metres high. It is the first large Orthodox church built in Central Asia for the last decade. Up to 4 thousand people can pray in the cathedral simultaneously. The cathedral was consecrated by the head of the Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill in January 2010 when the Patriarch paid a pastoral visit to Kazakhstan.