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Relics of the New Martyr the Grand Duchess Elizabeth are coming home to England

On the feast day of the holy Prophet Elisha, Saturday 27 June, the ROCOR Archbishop of Great Britain and Ireland, Archbishop Mark, is bringing holy relics of the Royal Martyr Elizabeth, the Grand Duchess, to England.

He is bringing them from their resting place in Jerusalem to the Russian Orthodox Cathedral at Ennismore Gardens in London. The meeting of the relics will take place at 10.00 am and the divine liturgy, concelebrated by the main Russian hierarchs in Western Europe, Archbishop Mark, Bishop Elisey and hopefully Archbishop Innocent, will follow. After the liturgy a moleben or service of intercession will take place in front of the relics. At 4.00 pm a concert of Georgian Orthodox music will be given by the Georgian Patriarchal choir from Tbilisi. The day will end with the Vigil Service for the Feast of All the Saints of Great Britain and Ireland. This all witnesses to the catholicity of the Orthodox Church.

We remind readers how in 1918 Abbess Elizabeth was exiled to Ekaterinburg and then to Alapayevsk, where together with others she was martyred by the Bolsheviks on 18 July 1918. The martyrs were first herded into the forest and then pushed into an abandoned mineshaft, into which grenades were hurled. An eyewitness heard the victims singing Church hymns from the mineshaft even after the grenades had been thrown in. The last thing that Abbess Elizabeth did as she lay dying in the mineshaft was to bandage the wounds of another of the martyrs with her handkerchief. Later, the White Army recaptured the area, recovered her relics and recorded the account of the eyewitness. Her relics were first taken by the White Army to China and placed in the Church of St Seraphim of Sarov in Beijing. From here they were taken to Jerusalem and placed in the Church of St Mary Magdalene, which she and her murdered husband had helped to build.

Thus, on this historic day, holy relics of the favourite grand-daughter of Queen Victoria, the Grand Duchess Elizabeth, martyred ninety-one years ago, at last return to the land where she spent so much time as a child. It is the one hundred and forty-fifth anniversary of her birth. Thus, another story turns full circle. The Russian Orthodox pilgrimage which made saints of two Anglo-German princesses, Elizabeth and her sister, the future Tsarina Alexandra, becomes an English pilgrimage. And this on the very eve of the day when the native faithful celebrate the feast of all the saints of these islands. Yet another struggle that the faithful have fought all these long decades thus comes to fruition before our very eyes and within our own lifetimes. Glory to God for all things!

Archpriest Andrew Phillips

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