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30 August 2023
Section Feasts and Weekdays was refreshed. There a story A book about general Ilya Leonidovich Tatishchev appeared


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Priest from Cyprus

Not so long ago our convent hosted a dear and long-awaited visitor, Archpriest Savva Mikhailidis, a priest of the Russian Church of St. Stilian in Cyprus. Father Savva had stayed at our convent nearly one and a half years ago during his visit to Ekaterinburg on pilgrimage to the holy sites of Venerable Simeon of Verkhotury, Holy Royal Passion Bearers, and the Hieromatyr Grand Duchess Elisaveta Feodorovna. We were amazed then at his spiritual openness, simplicity and unselfish love for people.

We were fortunate to see him again. Fr. Savva arrived with a huge bag filled with heavy books and dictionaries in Greek, a present for our sisters-translators. Very energetic, outgoing, and full of love for Russia, it seemed as though he would do anything in his power for our country! During those few days that Fr. Savva stayed with us he visited the holy sights in Merkushino and Verkhotury, and served at the Spassky Monastery in Elizavet village, where he also met our spiritual father Hiegumen Avraam, and gave an interview for the Orthodox radio of the Diocese. Wherever he went he brought light and joy with him, eager to help and to do something good for everyone.

But most of all, the sisters were surprised how Fr. Savva, being a Greek, cared about the rebirth of the Russian shrines! I believe in Russia. I believe in it, perhaps, even more than you do. It is the land that gave birth to St. Serafim of Sarov; this is where Dostoevsky lived! And I see how active the Church is here what I see is not formal parish members but true believers, said Fr. Savva in his speech at the Family and Future of Russia Conference, which was the purpose of his visit to our Diocese. Fr. Savvas report at the Conference was unexpected for many because it is very rare that someone has the courage to touch upon the issues discussed in it.

As one may read in the Lives of Saints, Venerable Vitaly at the age of sixty came from his monastery to Alexandria and took upon himself a special mission to save fallen women. He worked during the day, and in the evening he would go to a house where those women lived. He would give his money to them asking them to abstain from sin and prayed to God for them throughout the night. Through his efforts he was able to convince some of them to get married, some to take monastic vows, and others to remain in the world but earn their food through work. St. Vitaly lived in the 7th Century.

Archpriest Fr. Savva Mikhailidis is imitating the work of St. Vitaly in Cyprus in our time. Several years ago, when Fr. Savva had just been ordained as a priest a troubled Russian girl approached him. I was inexperienced and offered her money but what she needed was spiritual help, says Fr. Savva. Anna (that was her name) did not accept his money but several days later she killed herself. There was no fault of Fr. Savva because the girl had psychological problems for a long time; however, it placed a heavy burden on Fr. Savvas conscience. Several years later a group of young women who worked as exotic dancers came for Confession to Fr. Savva on Holy Friday. He tried to convince them to leave their job but he had nothing to offer them instead. That is when the idea was born of a special retreat for fallen women who wish to leave their trade, where they could stay for some time, rest and come to their senses in order to start a new life. Fr. Savvas retreat is made of two houses standing next to each other. There are 9 young women staying there now, and over 60 stay there in the course of one year. Fr. Savva does not preach sermons in exotic bars. He finds dancers outside near hotels and stores and gives them a booklet You are Not for Sale. He helps those that come to him in word and deed: he finds jobs in Cyprus for some, and helps others to return home buying tickets and arranging travel papers. It has to be mentioned that there are about 7,000 foreign exotic dancers in Cyprus, and most of them are from Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Moldavia. Fr. Savva is aware of the poor economic situation in their home countries and does not forget about them after they leave helping them in any way that he can. He does it with love and compassion! You might think that it is their own choice, says Fr. Savva. It is not true. Very often (in 40% of those cases) they are put in difficult situation. They are morally broken After some tears they get used to the money and find excuses for themselves, saying that they need money to study, to buy an apartment, and to have a decent living. Fr. Savva says that those women, who come to Cyprus as waitresses or dancers from the former USSR for the first time are often deceived by the recruiters and come without any idea of what kind of work they will have to do.

Fr. Savvas retreat has a unique collection of personal stories of many young women, who described their fall in detail. Those stories contain tears, spiritual pain, remorse or sweeping self-condemnation. Victims of pernicious deceit, they regret what happened to them very deeply, and they deserve only sympathy and compassion, but never the contempt or humiliation that the world traditionally treats them with!

Fr. Savvas report at the Conference, International Trade of Russian Women and its Impact on Russian Family and Russian Society, was devoted to this particular problem. The statistics shown in his report are impressive. According to the data of the US Department of State over 100,000 women from the former USSR have become victims of international body traders. The actual numbers must be much higher since according to the International Immigration Service in Europe alone over 500,000 women from different countries every year become victims of international body trade. Considering that most of those 500,000 come from Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Moldavia, and adding that to the number of those who are involved in prostitution outside of Europe (in Asia, North America and other regions) the actual number will exceed 1,000,000.

Id like to underscore that one of the most important conditions for success in the struggle with this business in Russia would be the atmosphere of compassion towards all the victims of prostitution regardless of whether they are guilty or innocent, said Fr. Savva. The clue to this problem is not in separating the victims into the innocent and the voluntary but identifying the reasons that create armies of prostitutes out of women and children, and finding the ways to remove those reasons.

Such was the subject of the report of Archpriest Savva Mikhailidisnat at the Conference in Ekaterinburg, and such is his feat (podvig). Dear Father, God gave him to us in order to teach us to love, say the inhabitants of his unusual retreat.

When the grace of consolation acts through the mysterious experience of Christ and His guidance, - said St. Ignatius (Brianchaninov), a well known Russian ascetic writer of the 19th century, - then a Christian will judge neither Jew, neither pagan, nor a manifest sinner; but shall yearn with quiet sinless love towards all. By the purity of his mind, he shall understand that ever since the coming of Christ the dignity, value and praise of human race is in Christ and not in the natural virtues of men. Can I judge those who now fall into manifest sin, when Christ has already redeemed their sins, past, present and future, when they have forgiveness and salvation in Christ, which they cannot lose unless they completely reject Christ Holy ascetics always remembered the words of Christ, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. (Matthew 25:40). The Saints never considered if one deserved respect or not; they paid no attention to the multitude and how obvious ones sins were; all their attention was focused so that they would not loose the idea that their neighbor is an image of God, and that Christ takes our actions towards others as if they were done onto Him When all of us, by the Grace of God, learn this idea it will become a source of love for everyone. There is only one reason for this love Jesus Christ, who is loved and venerated in every person. As Apostle James said in his Epistle, Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins. These are the words one can apply to a priest from Cyprus, Fr. Savva Mikhailidis.

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