01/20/2021, 09.44
RUSSIA
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Putin plunges into frozen water for the feast of Baptism

by Vladimir Rozanskij

The Russian president wanted to support the tradition, in a quasi-challenge to his opponents. Lavrov: Russian Orthodox culture attacked by the US and the Patriarch of Constantinople. Metropolitan Ilarion had advised against swimming in icy waters. In Moscow 3 thousand faithful immersed themselves; 15 thousand in St. Petersburg. In the Pacific Ocean, at minus 20 degrees, 500 sailors and people from Vladivostok took the plunge. Patriarch Kirill: The Holy Spirit does not transform man into superman, but opens the possibility for man to enter into communion with God.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - Despite fears related to the pandemic, yesterday, January 19, the "extreme" rite of immersion in icy waters was held in many Russian Orthodox churches, through the cross openings (the kupely, "baptismal fonts") hewn into the ice covered basins.

President Vladimir Putin wanted to set a good example, as in past years (photo 1). In one of the more than 200 kupely prepared in the Moscow province (photo 2), near his dacha-bunker, he made the "regenerative" walk of Theophany in swimming shorts, as if to accept the "sporting challenge" of the opponent Alexei Navalny, whose return seems to question his authority.

The liturgical feast was in fact a new occasion to reaffirm the particularity of Russian society in the face of those who would like to "destroy" it, as Foreign Minister Sergej Lavrov once again stated. Glorifying Russian religious culture, Lavrov stated that a plan is underway to ruin the purity of his Orthodoxy, particularly with the complicity of the patriarchate of Constantinople, to which the Americans have allegedly offered a lot of funding to provoke a schism with the Russians. A member of the Synodal Commission for the Liturgy, the proto-deacon and history professor Vladimir Vasilik, has speculated that even the Ural schismatic starets, Sergy Romanov, is in fact an American agent, committed to dividing the Russian Church from within.

The statements of national-religious pride are often accompanied by the rites of Baptism, which only in Russia are associated with the harshest winter, so much so that they are called "the frosts of Baptism". This year, the "bold" gesture of devotion takes on an even more symbolic value, to affirm the power of faith against physical weaknesses and virus attacks (photo 4).

In fact, some hierarchs such as Metropolitan Ilarion (Alfeev) have warned that it was not worth putting already weakened health in this difficult period at further risk, and in many areas, especially the northernmost ones, sacred immersions were suspended by order of the local bishops.

The health authorities have also issued recommendations contrary to the rite. Those who decided to undergo it were reminded to “eat abundantly first, do not abuse alcohol, do not stay in the water for more than a minute; whoever dives must get vaccinated one week before or one week after”. The dives in the kupely were carried out "respecting social distancing". This has increased the difficulty of having to wait longer in line in the freezing cold.

Patriarch Kirill limited himself to celebrating the baptismal liturgy in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow, recalling that "the Holy Spirit does not transform man into superman, but opens the possibility for man to enter into communion with God and rely on His power, to obtain salvation”.

Even in Moscow, however, seven kupelys were prepared, where over 3 thousand faithful immersed themselves. The devotion of the Petersburgers is much more intense, where almost 15 thousand faithful have flocked to the kupely citizens. The greatest example of "extreme devotion" was offered by 500 sailors stationed in the Gulf of Amur, near the coast of Japan near the city of Vladivostok. A local parish priest, Father Oleg, blessed the frozen waters (-20 degrees) of the shores of the Pacific Ocean (photo 3), and the entire fleet then dived behind Vice-Admiral Sergej Rekish, followed by members of their families and Vladivostok inhabitants, in the kupel prepared thanks to a system of pulleys and bridges.

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