7-12 November 2018 with the blessing of his Holiness Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia Kirill and at the invitation of the Patriarch of the Coptic Tawadros II Egypt was visited by a delegation of monks of the Russian Orthodox Church with the purpose of pilgrimage to the places associated with the history of the emergence and flowering of Christian monasticism in the early centuries of our era, as well as exploring the modern life of both male and female monasteries of the Coptic Church, according to patriarhiei.
The visit took place in the context of the development of dialogue between Russian Orthodox Church and the Coptic Church in the framework of the relevant bilateral Commission.
The delegation was headed by the Bishop of Lida and Smarhon, porphyry, Chairman of the Synodal Department for monasteries and monasticism of the Belarusian Exarchate. It also includes: abbess Juliana (Kaleda), abbess of the convent of the monastery of Moscow, Deputy Chairman of the Synodal Department for monasteries of the Moscow Patriarchate; Archimandrite Bartholomew (Smith), Abbot of the Nikolo-Ugreshsky monastery; abbess Quiz (Perminova), abbess of the Nativity monastery in Moscow; abbess Domnica (Korobeinikova), abbess Novosibirskogo the Alexander Nevsky monastery of Ekaterinburg; abbess Elisabeth (Pozdnyakova), abbess of the Marfo-Mariinsky monastery in Moscow; the hegumen Mikhey (Baranovsky), the Governor Zosimo-Savvatievo monastery Novogrudok eparchy; hieromonk Ermogen (Korchukov), economy Zaikonospassky monastery in Moscow; hieromonk Stefan (Igumnov), DECR Secretary for inter-Christian relations, resident of the Zaikonospassky monastery; nun Alexander (Kobalenko), abbess of a hierarchal farmstead Leeds diocese; the nuns of the convent of the monastery of the nun of St. Sergius (Ghazaryan), the nun Varvara (Ruban) and the nun Emilia (Zvereva). During the visit the delegation was accompanied by the representative of the Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia to the Patriarch of Alexandria and all Africa the priest Viktor Kulaga, and the bishops and clergy of the Coptic Church.
Stay of the delegation from Russia to the land of Egypt began in Cairo. Pilgrims from Russia visited the historic Christian center of the city — the Church of the martyrs Sergius and Bacchus, under which is the grotto where, according to legend, once stopped, the Holy Family, the Cathedral Orthodox Church of Alexandria in Cairo, bearing the name of St. George Coptic convent IV-X centuries — the monasteries of saints of St. George (Mar girgis), Theodore (Amir Tadros) and mercury Philopator (Abu Seifen), a famous Coptic “Hanging Church” (Muallaqa).
The delegation was received by the vicar of his Beatitude Patriarch of Alexandria and all Africa Theodore II Theodore Bishop of Babylon, who taught guests the blessing of His Beatitude for the coming pilgrimage. Head of the delegation of Bishop of Lida and Smarhon, porphyry asked Bishop Theodore to convey to the Primate of the Orthodox Church of Alexandria fraternal greetings of his Holiness Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia Kirill.
In the next two days, the pilgrims from Russia visited the monastery in the Eastern (Arabian) desert monasteries of the saints Paul of Thebes and Anthony the Great. In the monastery of St. Paul, they venerated the honourable relics of the founder of the monastery, talked with the Abbot and brethren of the monastery. November 10, Bishop porphyry, and the members of the delegation in Holy orders celebrated the divine Liturgy in the cave-cell, where once lived the monk Paul of Thebes.
On the same day, the pilgrims from Russia arrived in the monastery of St. Anthony the Great — the first monastery in the Christian world (founded in the early IV century); it was built near the cave in which lived the founder of monasticism. This monastery has long been one of the places of pilgrimage. In the XIX century it was visited by the head of the Russian ecclesiastical mission in Jerusalem Archimandrite Porfiry (Uspensky), the autograph of which is preserved on one of the walls of the main monastery Church. In the monastery there are the relics of St. Anthony the Great and many other shrines. The delegation of the Russian Orthodox Church visited on the mountain near the monastery the cell of St Anthony, where the founder of monasticism, spent in prayer and fasting 35 years of his ascetic life. Nearby for many years had worked his loyal disciple Paul Proprety. Later their example was followed by a host of monks, with the result that this area was called “the Mountain of cells”.
November 11, the pilgrims arrived in located between Alexandria and Cairo Nitrian desert (Wadi EN-Natroun) is the Motherland of Christian monasticism, the place of heroic deeds of the first Christian monks of the events described in the Egyptian Patericon. In a remote part of the desert, were hermits of kellia, and behind them — the area with the first Christian cenobitic monasteries, called the Hermitage. Over time, this name became a household word.
The first monastery, which was visited by a delegation from Russia nitrian desert, was the monastery of the Romans (al-Baramus), founded around 335, the monk Makarios the Great, and named in memory of the lived here at the beginning of this great ascetic sons of the Roman Emperor Valentinian — Maxime and Domizia. This monastery, which today is home to over one hundred monks, is the oldest in the Sands of the nitrian desert. At the monastery, the pilgrims venerated the Holy relics of the once lived in it of the desert fathers monk Paphnutius the Great, Moses Murin and others. The members of the delegation visited the convent grounds, the most notable structure which is characteristic of the Coptic monastic settlements of the medieval citadel, which served monks for defense against many in the past the attacks of the nomads. He also held a fellowship of pilgrims, with the Abbot and brethren of the monastery.
Then the pilgrims visited the monastery of the Syrians (as-Suriani), founded in the late IV century and named in memory of the stay once the local limits of the monks of Syria. The most famous of them was St. Ephrem the Syrian, who came here in order to meet the venerable Paisius the Great. In the monastery you can see it’s a fruit is still a tree that grew out of stuck in the land of the staff of St. Ephraim, — a living testimony of the meeting of two great ascetics. Pilgrims from Russia also saw the cell where praying monk paisios, and the frescoes of the V century. Held meetings with the Abbot and brethren of the monastery, which today has about two hundred and fifty people. The inhabitants had Russian pilgrims a warm welcome and told about the peculiarities of the Charter of the monastery. Here traditionally had a strong tradition of seclusion. In V-VII centuries all the brethren were scattered for their cells in the desert and going to the monastery only on Sundays and public services. This practice is partially preserved and today: today the monastery has ten anchorites, and in the Charter not provided for total meals on weekdays.
The delegation from Russia went to the monastery of St. Macarius the Great — the second of which he founded monasteries, reckoned its history 360 today and having about one hundred and forty inhabitants. It was here that the monk Makarii took a blissful death, which took place on the eve of the profound spiritual meaning of the Holy farewell with the brethren, described in his life. In this monastery until now kept his Holy relics and the relics of lived here the monk Arsenius the Great, Paphnutius the Great, poemen the Great, and John fencing, parts of the relics of the prophets Elisha and John the Baptist of the Lord, which is worshipped by pilgrims from Russia.
In the evening the delegation arrived in the monastery the venerable Paisius the Great (Anba Bishoi), founded about the year 357. The role of the monastery in the life of Egyptian Christianity was always significant: in the IV century it was worked up to 5 000 people, and since the monastic doing here is not interrupted. Today this monastery has a special status: its walls came many bishops of the Coptic Church, including its present head his Holiness Tawadros II. Here is one of the administrative buildings of the Coptic Patriarchate.
On 12 November, having performed the divine Liturgy in one of the temples of the monastery of St. Paisius, the delegation from Russia arrived in Cairo to meet with his Holiness Patriarch Tawadros II.
His Holiness warmly welcomed the guests, noting that the exchange of delegations of monks is an important part of bilateral relations. The Primate of the Coptic Church recalled that early activation of these relations on the modern stage began in the course of his meetings in Moscow with Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia Kirill. The Bishop of Leeds porphyry gave to his Holiness Patriarch Tawadros the greeting from the Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church and noted that the relics of the first centuries, staying in the land of Egypt, are of great importance for the whole Christian world. They are a storehouse of spiritual wisdom and never interrupt the tradition of monastic life. From the face of the female part of the delegation of his Holiness Patriarch Tawadros was welcomed by abbess Juliana, who warmly thanked the Coptic side for their delegations from Russia cordial reception and for the opportunity to venerate the great shrines associated with the era of the birth of Christian monasticism.
The delegation then toured the Cathedral of the Coptic Patriarchate, named after the Holy Apostle and Evangelist Mark, bowed and buried in the crypt of the Cathedral of his honest relics.
On the same day late in the evening the delegation left for Moscow.