SOMETHING has to be done to reverse Russia’s shrinking population – described here as “a matter of national security” – and religious and political leaders, including Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, are hoping that the Belt of the Virgin Mary will solve the problem.
In October Putin travelled to St Petersburg airport to receive the relic, AKA The Belt of the Mother of God, which arrived from Greece. The relic is a highly revered Orthodox piece of antiquity credited with fertility-boosting powers, and clerics said they hoped it would help more Russian women become mothers.
The influential Russian Orthodox Church is actively promoting motherhood to help the government curtail a population decline, and church officials in several cities took the thing to pregnancy centres that counsel women contemplating an abortion.
Father Kirill, a spokesman for the Saint Petersburg diocese said:
This event is of huge significance especially when it comes to strengthening people’s faith.
Well, the belt has now reached Moscow, and according to The New York Times, thousand are braving the cold to venerate the belt. As of yesterday, 285,000 believers had seen the relic at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, which has been open around the clock.
The benefactor of the St Andrew the First-Called Foundation, which is responsible for the belt being in Russia, is Vladimir Yakunin, President of the Russian Railroads, who is close to Putin. At a news conference Yakunin said the belt — usually kept at the Vatopedi Monastery on the Mount Athos peninsula in northern Greece, where ironically women are not permitted — was known for promoting fertility.
The belt of the Most Holy Virgin Mary possesses miraculous power. It helps women and helps in childbirth. In our demographic situation, this is … important.