Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill on Wednesday served mass at Russia’s Bellingshausen Antarctic station on Waterloo Island and raised a prayer for the entire world. It was the last leg of the Patriarch's Latin American tour that included a meeting with Pope Francis in Cuba, ending a Christianity schism of almost a thousand years.
Here, at the top of the world… When I blessed water in Antarctica today I was thinking about the entire planet below and prayed for this God’s creation, he said after the service which took place in the small wooden Holy Trinity Church, the only acting Orthodox church in Antarctica.
There are such places in the world that require no words as the very site has a special spiritual energetics. And this spiritual energetics is especially felt during a prayer. This is such place. Maybe because people here are working in a very harsh environment, or maybe because they raise sincere prayers in this church, because they have strong faith, the Patriarch said.
The Patriarch presented an icon of St. Prince Vladimir, the Baptizer of Russia as a gift to the church. The service was attended by Russian polar explorers and invited members of expeditions of other countries, including Chile.
Patriarch Kirill flew to Antarctica from Punta Arenas in the extreme south of Chile.
”The night before the patriarch arrived in Punta Arenas from Asuncion (Paraguay) to depart for Antarctica today at the invitation of Russian polar explorers. There he will serve the first Divine Liturgy in the only permanent cathedral in Antarctica - the Orthodox Holy Trinity Church at Russia’s Bellingshausen Station on Waterloo Island, the patriarch’s spokesman Father Alexander Volkov has said.
This is a historic event in the life of the Russian Orthodoxy indicating that the Russian Orthodox Church administers worship on all continents..
Before flying to Chile and after meeting with Francis and Cuban leaders in Havana, the Patriarch spent several days in Paraguay, a country which has strong historical links with the Russian people.
Kiril who arrived in Asunción with a delegation of 150 people, including the Orthodox Church chancellor Hilarion, bishops, priests, members of a choir and officers from Russia's Secret Service, underlined the strong cultural, education, art and defense links between the two countries.
Paraguay is particularly grateful to a Russian general who was crucial during its Chaco war with Bolivia in the early thirties. There's great distance between our countries but at some point that distance was overcome by some people who had to leave the motherland and found in Paraguay their second home”, said the Patriarch.
Kiril at the airport was received with full head of state honors and was met by several cabinet ministers, top officials from the Catholic church and Orthodox church, members of the Russian community.
The Patriarch held mass at a local Orthodox church in downtown Asuncion, visited the Russian cemetery and was later invited to the Military Center, at the Bronze Room which honors the Paraguayan and Russian military who defended the Paraguayan Chaco during the 1932/35 war.
An estimated seventy Russian military died in combat with General Ivan Belaieff playing a key role in surveying the battle territory, organizing forces and logistics. He is honored in Paraguay as one of the founders of the country’s modern land forces.