Vladimir Yakunin: the Holy Fire will come to Russia despite any crises and terrorist attacks!
«IN JERUSALEM THEY CUT OFF OUR WIRE»
—Vladimir Ivanovich, on April 30th you are getting ready to bring the Holy Fire to Russia from the Holy Land once again. Has it become more difficult to organize the delivery following more frequent terrorist attacks in the region and the war that is being waged nearby.
—It used to be a tradition to deliver the Fire long time ago, but then they did it throughout a year on foot, by ships, by carriages. Today it is possible to organize delivery on the same day. The goal of the programme «Pray for Peace for Jerusalem» was not only about bringing the Holy Fire. Based on biblical texts, on the fact that it is the centre of three religions, we sincerely believe that the peace on the Holy Land would facilitate the peace in the whole world. From the moment the project was created we established good contacts in Jerusalem, in Israel — not only with church bishops but with the police as well. The project is already 13 years old, we feel much more confident, that they trust us. When we only started there were difficulties of different kind. For example, a TV cable was suddenly cut off... Today nothing like that happens. Everybody admitted that we are not doing that for self-promotion; we are pilgrims and we sincerely want to have peace in this land. As for current difficulties, unfortunately Israel and Palestine have never been a haven.
— Is it likely to stop the tradition in case of hard financial or terrorist situation?
—The Holy Fire gives people hope. It means it will come to all the Orthodox countries and Orthodox churches no matter what.
—It is different every time. I believe it is important to take part in every trip personally as there appear a lot of technical issues. They know each of our names there but it is more comfortable when you are right there and bear the whole responsibility.
NOW THE RELICS FROM OUR COUNTRY CAN BE SEEN IN THE WEST
—In April we delivered the relics of Saint Luke (Voino-Yasenetsky) from Crimea to Greece, with a one-day stop in Moscow. For less than 24 hours over 50,000 people came to worship the relics. The same intense interest was seen in Greece. Is it peculiar specifically for Orthodox countries? Is it possible to see something like that in the West?
—We didn’t organize any information campaign in Moscow. People learnt and came by themselves. It proves ones again that people are looking for ways to support their faith. It is difficult for me to say whether there is such a reaction in the West. We know that many churches there are empty and get closed, turned into entertaining facilities. But at the same time plenty of people come to hear the Pope’s sermon. When we brought the Belt of Blessed Virgin Mary we saw the same thing — a lot of people wanted very much to be part of this event. Perhaps it looks different in the West. But anyway, people are seeking for God, for Faith.
—Do you have plans for other great projects similar to delivery of the Belt of Blessed Virgin Mary and the Cross of Andrew the First-Called?
—We treat these projects with sensitivity as they cannot be implemented without the blessing from Patriarch Kirill. That is why we are trying not to spread information. We decided to bring the relics of Saint Luke to Patras because he is treated as reverend saint in Greece. His Holiness once said that relics are often brought to Russia from abroad but we have our own relics that are revered sacred things. That caused the creation of this project. Time will show if there will be something else. We don’t speak about it in advance.
Фото: Mihail Frolov
40,000 CHILDREN WERE SAVED
—When Patriarch was speaking in State Duma and the Federation Council he called for legislative way to stop abortions and used your programme «Sanctity of Motherhood» as a good example. What result do you have today?
—We already signed cooperation agreements with 24 regions of Russia. For 10 years of the project’s activity about 40,000 babies were born. We were among the first who offered to have a psychologist at women’s consultation clinics, who would not push but meet and talk and try to find out the reason for an abortion. There is also another side of the story — where is a man in this situation? That is how another programme called «Fathers of Russia» was created. Responsible fatherhood is not less important than responsible motherhood.
«DOCTORS WERE BROUGHT TO KURILS AND THE JAPANESE FUND DISSOLVED ITSELF»
—A delegation of the best doctors is heading again for Kurils during the Easter time as part of your programme «Frontiers of Russia». This is an important geopolitical region from medical point of view. Is it abandoned?
—When we began our work there were some draft letters and documents circulating among the authorities related to the possibility to let go of these territories. We believed that our goal is to do our best helping the state, President, for our land steeped in blood to stay Russian. That is why the project called «Frontiers of Russia» was launched. It was not only our initiative. The winner of our Prize «Faith and Fidelity», entrepreneur Alexander Verkhovsky did a lot: for instance, in order to revive fishing production on Iturup and provide people with job he built a school, an indoor court; they took part in state programme for construction of a takeoff runway. Our programme didn’t just help bring doctors there (at the time the situation with medicine was really poor there; today it’s completely different conditions: public funds were used to build a wonderful medical centre; there is an all-weather airport, working places), it is an example of successful activity of community and the state though no papers were signed on the way. Few people know that there was the Fund of «Northern Territories» in Japan and seven years ago it announced about its voluntary dissolution. When the programme was established, when the public funds were growing, they wrote that the goals of their Fund appeared to be hard to achieve! And the supplies covered everything — from pencils to slippers. There is still a standing request for expeditions; we select those who go there during their own vacation days under the auspices of «Hydrostroy» and with our support.
«THEY DID NOT BELIEVE US THAT THE ICONS ON THE KREMLIN TOWERS SURVIVED»
—Next year the Foundation will celebrate 25th anniversary. What was special about these years?
—I will never forget the delivery of the Belt of Blessed Virgin Mary. The attention, people standing in line for 26 hours proved once again that there is a great demand in our society for blessed things, for faith. Just like it happened when we brought the Cross of Andrew the First-Called for the 1025th anniversary of introduction of Christianity to Russia. And again we saw the significance and consistency of historical past and future. That is what President was talking about: about the civilizational identity.
When one is walking along the Red Square one can see icons on Spasskaya and Nikolskaya Towers of the Kremlin. Guides tell about the miraculous return of the icons. And it took us several years to persuade heads of certain state departments to get permission for analysis of the icon-cases on the Kremlin Towers. The procedures were strictly confidential, they didn’t believe us that the icons could still be there. When you come to Kulikovo Field you can be proud of your own contribution to the restoration of the monument-column to Dmitry Donskoy. Monuments to great compatriots, who remained unheralded, have been erected in many towns of Russia. When you drive along Bolshaya Ordynka Street you can enjoy the Convent of Martha and Mary. And it was so difficult to persuade the Mayor of Moscow to begin the restoration of the place...