Iconovirus. Russian parishioners defending themselves from global pandemic by kissing holy relics
In Kazan Cathedral in St. Petersburg in Russia, despite the danger of the coronavirus epidemic, thousands of people have been gathering for several days. The holy relics of John the Baptist were brought here from Jerusalem – and people go not only to bow to them, but to venerate them and take communion from one spoon for all.
Clerics assure people that there is no risk of infection. On the contrary, they say, faith protects.
On the first day of worship, March 10, the Kazan Cathedral was filled with believers, eager to stick their lips to the glass on the surface of the ark (a small box containing relics). A Novaya Gazeta reporter witnessed the procession.
Men and women, children led by the hand and elderly people in wheelchairs.
“We have faith, understand?”, the old lady in a hand-knitted beret was explaining to me. “Do you think that is dangerous?”
“But will God let us get infected here? He will not.”
“We all partake from one spoon. And there may be tuberculosis, and even AIDS.
“But if you believe that John the Baptist baptized Jesus Christ, then everything will be OK for you.”
“There is no virus,” a young woman said, sitting next to her. “For us, for believers. If you’re afraid, maybe you shouldn’t stand here.”
A volunteer has been standing nearby all this time. He wipes the kissed glass with a cloth – sometimes.
These are the unprecedented safety measures Kazan Cathedral has taken against the coronavirus.
There is a table, on it is a plate: “Consultant on religious issues.”
“What is coronavirus?”, the consultant was surprised to my question.
“Well, listen, that is just stupid.”
According to the consultant, the relics of John the Baptist were brought to believers not contrary to the coronavirus, but precisely because of it.
“Because there is an epidemic, therefore, it is important to come here,” he explained. “After all, the epidemic is also associated with spiritual diseases. We do not die of the coronavirus most people. They commit suicide. Dying from diseases, too, yes. But they were dying before.”
The diocese, the consultant assured me, had not the slightest doubt whether believers needed to kiss the relics during the coronavirus pandemic.
In total, the line in which I counted about 600 people passed in less than half an hour. The relics are put up for worship from eight in the morning until 11 in the evening until from 10 to 17 March.
Simple arithmetic can tell how many believers during this time will leave biological traces on the glass, wiped with a cloth.
On March 16, a dangerous figure was recorded in Russia: immediately 30 new cases of coronavirus disease. Thus, the number of cases rose to 93. Under the supervision in Russia are about 15 thousand. There were no fatal cases.
On March 16, the Russian government announced for the first time since the outbreak of the global coronavirus pandemic some preventive measures.
The schools announced holidays for three weeks and imposed restrictions: no more than 50 people should gather in one room. Also, measures to support the economy were announced. An anti-crisis fund of 300 billion rubles [about $ 3.5 billion] and special sick leave payments for those who were in coronavirus quarantine were created.