Vladimir Putin, on Thursday, travelled to the St. Petersburg airport to meet the relic known as the "Belt of the Virgin Mary. The relic is a highly revered Orthodox piece of antiquity credited with fertility-boosting powers. Clerics said they hoped the relic would help more Russian women become mothers as the influential Russian Orthodox Church is actively promoting motherhood to help the government curtail a population decline.
The relic venerated by believers as the belt of the Virgin Mary arrived on loan from economically ravaged Greece in the northwestern city of Saint Petersburg where hundreds waited patiently to pay their respects.
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Church officials in several cities plan to take the relic, whose full name is the Belt of the Mother of God, to pregnancy centres that counsel women contemplating an abortion, the church said.
'This event is of huge significance especially when it comes to strengthening people's faith,' Father Kirill, a spokesman for the Saint Petersburg diocese, told AFP.
'And the fact that this is such a singular relic helping women is especially important for our city and our country, where the demographic situation leaves much to be desired.'
Russian leaders have called the shrinking population a matter of national security.
The country's latest census released earlier this year shows the country's population has shrunk by another 2.2 million people since 2002 and now stands at 142.9 million.
'It's a serious problem and an important topic for our country,' the head of the church, Patriarch Kirill, said this week.
Tradition of the Belt of the Virgin Mary- source wiki
According to the Sacred Tradition of the Orthodox Church, at the time of Virgin Mary's Dormition, the Theotokos was buried by the Twelve Apostles in Jerusalem. Three days later, Thomas the Apostle, who had been delayed and unable to attend the funeral, arrived and asked to have one last look at the Virgin Mary. When he and the other apostles arrived at Mary's Tomb, they found that her body was missing. According to some accounts, the Virgin Mary appeared at that time and gave her belt (cincture) to the Apostle Thomas.
Traditionally, the cincture was made by the Virgin Mary herself, out of camelhair. It was kept at Jerusalem for many years, until it was translated to Constantinople in the 5th century, together with the Robe of the Virgin Mary, and deposited in the Church of St. Mary at Blachernae. This relic was embroidery with gold thread by the Empress Zoe, the wife of Emperor Leo VI, (in gratitude for a miracleous cure) and, divided into three sections, is presently kept in a silver religuary at the Greek Orthodox Monastery of Vateopedi on Mt. Athos.