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July 15, 2020

Saint Raphael and the Uniate Liturgy in Hagia Sophia

According to the revelations of the newly-revealed martyr Saint Raphael, he was in Constantinople as an Archimandrite with his Deacon Nicholas at the time when there was a false union between Emperor Constantine Palaiologos and the Pope of Rome. On December 12, 1452 a Joint-Liturgy took place in Hagia Sophia with Cardinal Isidore (the Pope’s emissary) present. Emperor Constantine was under the illusion, out of his desperation, that the Pope would send help from the West to drive the Ottomans away from the region and prevent them from capturing Constantinople.

Archimandrite Raphael and Deacon Nicholas did not want to be present at this Joint-Liturgy, as participation to them meant a betrayal of the Orthodox faith. This greatly enraged the emperor, so he ordered for them to be temporarily exiled to Aenos. This action is probably what spared them from being in the Queen City on Tuesday May 29, 1453 when it fell to the Ottomans. On the day Constantinople fell, Saints Raphael and Nicholas were in Macedonia. They would eventually go to the island of Lesvos, where nine years later, in April of 1463, they would be martyred.

Prior to his heroic death, however, when help from the West did not arrive, Emperor Constantine realized his tragic mistake and on his last night, inside Hagia Sophia, he asked for forgiveness from God and the people. He received Holy Communion for the last time as an Orthodox Christian, and he eventually fell in battle as a hero and as an ethno-martyr. This is why, after his heroic sacrifice, even Saint Raphael used to refer to him with tears in his eyes as “the holy Emperor Constantine”.