Pilgrimage to Kyiv and Moscow 10 - 21 January 2002

Bishop Seraphim : Report
Pilgrimage to Kyiv, Ukraine and Moscow, Russia
10-21 January, 2002

Participants in this pilgrimage included Bishop Seraphim (Storheim), the Archpriest Dennis Pihach, Olga Jurgens, and four parishioners in Canada. They departed from Canada on 10 January, 2002.

The group assembled in Kyiv on Friday, 11 January, 2002, and they were taken to the Hotel Adria. From there, on Saturday, they travelled to the “Podolia”, or “lower town”, which is Old Kyiv, where they stopped to visit the Parish of Saint Ilia. It was on or near this site that Saint Olga had had constructed a wooden Orthodox Christian Temple in 945, when Kyiv was still a pagan town. It was near there that her grandson Saint Vladimir (Volodymyr) oversaw the baptism of Rus’ beside the Dnieper (Dnipro) River in 988. This restored small stone Temple of Saint Ilia has a baptistery (separate from the Temple) in which there are two fonts, a smaller one for infants, and a larger one for adults. There were many baptisms being served daily in this baptistery. The territory of this Temple is also small. After some conversations with the senior priest, the group travelled to the Flora (Florovsky) Ascension Women’s Monastery. This community became a strong source of support for the canonical Metropolitanate of Kyiv once the post-perestroika schisms began. Protodeacon Serguei Kozowsky addressed the pilgrims with regard to the various charitable works of the Diocese of Kyiv. One of their foci is the needs of terminally ill children. He expressed a need for at least five wheelchairs, in addition to any other possible support. Next, the group visited the Church of Saint Andrew, which was built on a hill in this area. It was constructed with imperial support for use especially on occasions when the Tsar visited Kyiv. The architect was the one who designed “Tsarskoe Selo” near Saint Petersburg, and other famous buildings. The square in front of this Temple is now an open souvenir market, which was formerly the site of the Church of the Tithes.

The group then visited the Cathedral of Saint Sophia which had been founded by Saint Vladimir in 1011, and the construction was completed by his son, Yaroslav the Wise. Although there have been some exterior modifications, especially the exterior of the domes, the Temple is much as it was when it was constructed. The Temple belongs to the state, and it is rented for particular occasions. Bishop Seraphim was permitted to go into the Altar. There, there remains (as in some other old Temples) the old style of presbyteral seating in the High Place. It has several tiers of stone bench-risers on either side, with the stone bishop’s chair elevated in the middle at the top level. Towards the end of the afternoon, the group visited the Kyiv Caves Lavra. They walked about the “Trapeznaya” Temple, and they attended the Saturday evening Vigil at the Dormition Cathedral, which was being rebuilt, and already in use.

On Sunday, everyone participated in the Divine Liturgy at the Dormition Cathedral of the Kyiv Caves Lavra. After lunch at a nearby hotel, the pilgrims were taken to visit the Near Caves. Because of the snow and ice, walking up and down the exterior paths was a precarious adventure.

On Monday, the group made an informal visit to the Monastery of Saint Michael, which faces Saint Sophia’s Cathedral across a square. This monastery was established at about the same time as the cathedral. It was necessary to be discreet during this visit, since this monastery belonged to the Kyivan Patriarchate which was opposed to the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church under the Moscow Patriarchate. Afterwards, the pilgrims visited the Women’s Monastery of the Protection (Pokrovsky). Its beautiful buildings and grounds were hidden from view by high-rise buildings. This monastery had been closed between 1925 and 1942. The monastery has a wonder-working copy of the Wonder-working Icon of the Theotokos of Pochaev. This was followed by an exterior tour of the presidential palace, and then a visit to the small Holy Nativity Temple on the east bank of the Dnieper River. The group experienced warm hospitality and beautiful singing.

Afterwards, they visited the Hospital Church of Saint Cyril and Saint Basil. The Temple is very old, nearly as old as Saint Sophia’s, and there remain some very old frescoes. There is a sizeable complex of buildings which surround the Temple, on the territory of the former Saint Cyril’s Monastery, and there is considerable activity. There is a hospital with 3,000 mental patients, and the community operates a large farm outside the city, the produce of which feeds very many people daily. There are many levels of therapy provided to the people who come to this hospital, and in an authentic Orthodox Christian style.

On Tuesday, the pilgrims visited the Vvedensky (Meeting of the Lord) Monastery (there are both monks and nuns). In the Temple of this monastery is a wonder-working icon of the Theotokos, which duplicated itself by etching on the glass which protected the icon. In the crypt below is the tomb of Saint Dimitra (Egorova), the foundress. Afterwards, the group was taken to a meeting in the Canadian Embassy with Ambassador Robinson, the Canadian representative in Ukraine. This was followed by a visit to the Saint Panteleimon Women’s Monastery (“Feofania”). During the Soviet period, this monastery had been closed, and all the buildings except for the Temple itself were destroyed. The Temple was then transformed into a missile factory because of its accommodating height in the dome. After “perestroika”, the Temple was renovated and it again became a functioning Temple within a renewed monastery, and the rebuilding of other buildings began. Because of its situation in the outskirts of the city, this monastery has enough territory to maintain large orchards and gardens, from which the nuns sustain themselves. Relics of Saint Panteleimon (who is greatly venerated in this monastery) were brought from the Middle East, along with the relics of many other saints.

On Wednesday, the pilgrimage group travelled from Kyiv to Moscow. They were accommodated at the Danilov Hotel, adjoining the Danilovsky Monastery. After having settled, the pilgrims were given a tour of the Danilovsky Monastery complex, the official Patriarchal Residence, and the Holy Synod Building. Afterwards, all took lunch together with Archimandrite Aleksy, the abbot of the monastery. After the lunch, they visited the monastery’s bookstore and icon store. This was followed by a visit to the Donskoy Monastery, where they venerated the relics of Saint Patriarch Tikhon (Belavin) of Moscow. Afterwards, they took dinner together with Archimandrite Agafador, the abbot of the monastery.

On Thursday, the pilgrims travelled to Sergiev Posad and the Holy Trinity-Saint Sergius Lavra, to the north of Moscow. The group visited the monastery’s Temples, venerated the relics of Saint Sergius, of Saint Innocent (Veniaminov) and of many other saints. They had the blessing to meet with the abbot, Archbishop Evgeny (Reshetnikov), over lunch. On returning to Moscow, they were given a “VIP” tour of Christ the Saviour Cathedral and its many auxiliary halls and rooms. They also visited the museum and the bookstore. Afterwards, they visited the Sofrino Church Goods Store nearby.

On Friday, the pilgrims were given a tour of the Moscow Kremlin territory, including the several large Temples, the Dormition Cathedral, the Armoury, and the Diamond Fund. After lunch at a nearby restaurant, they visited the Kazan Cathedral, the Resurrection Gate, Manezhnaya Square, the GUM department store, Red Square, and the “Saint Basil’s Cathedral” complex. This complex is so named because it was built over the grave of Saint Basil, the Fool-for-Christ. It is only called a cathedral because it is a large structure. However, inside the one whole structure, the central (not large) Temple of the Protection of the Theotokos (over which is the highest of the nine cupolas) is surrounded by eight other smaller Temples (each with its own, smaller, cupola). Some describe it as a labyrinth, and it was once used prominently on the Sunday of the Entrance of Christ to Jerusalem. The original wooden Temple (which was also a complex) was named for the Holy Trinity. Tsar Ivan IV had the present building constructed as a memorial of a military victory in the Russo-Kazan War (1552). After a brief rest, the pilgrims participated in the Vigil of the Feast of the Theophany at the Epiphany (Elokhovo) Cathedral which was presided by Patriarch Aleksey II (Ridiger).

On Saturday, 19 January, the pilgrims participated in the Divine Liturgy at the Epiphany Cathedral. Bishop Seraphim and Father Dennis Pihach served with Patriarch Aleksey II and other bishops. Afterwards, the patriarch served the Great Blessing of Waters. He blessed a large container of water within the cathedral, and also several very large vats of water which were outside, under a shelter. This was followed by a dinner provided by the cathedral’s long-time rector, the Protopresbyter Matthew Stadniuk, and the likewise long-time starosta Nikolai Simeonovich Kapchuk. There was a very long line of faithful people waiting with pails and other containers outside the cathedral in order to receive the blessed Theophany Water. The pilgrims then journeyed to the Novospassky Monastery where they were given a general tour. After a brief rest, they attended the Vigil for Sunday at the Sretensky Monastery near the Kremlin on Lubyanka Street. The monastery is beside the Lubyanka headquarters of the FSB (Federal Security Service), formerly the KGB. On the territory of the monastery, a large and unknown number of people repose buried beneath the ground. This has prompted the monks to pray constantly for their souls. On a mound over this territory where many had been shot stood a Cross, where the monks pray for the souls of those who perished. Within the former KGB headquarters, there has been re-opened the Church of Sophia the Divine Wisdom. This Temple is open to the public.

On Sunday, 20 January, the pilgrims attended the Divine Liturgy at the OCA’s Representation Church of Saint Catherine in the Fields. Bishop Seraphim and Father Dennis Pihach served there together with Archimandrite Nicholas (Iuhos). After this, the pilgrims were taken to the nearby Tretyakov Gallery. They were taken to visit the many historical icons which are kept safely in the gallery, and they then went to the Church of Saint Nicholas in Tolmatch : the heart and origin of the gallery. There, they venerated the Vladimir Icon of the Theotokos, and they met with the rector of the Temple, Father Rumyantsev. They then returned to the hotel to prepare for departure.

On Monday, 21 January the pilgrims departed for Canada via Frankfurt.