The 80 th anniversary of the founding of Holy Protection of the Mother of God Russian Orthodox Church in Zurich, Switzerland, was celebrated on October 19-20, 2013. The festive all-night vigil was headed by His Eminence Archbishop Michael of Geneva and Western Europe. Sunday Liturgy was celebrated in the oldest churchein the city known as Wasserkirche, which contains a crypt with the stone used in the martyric beheadings of SS Felix and Regula during the reign of Diocletian. These saints are the patron saints of Zurich.
Concelebrating with Vladyka Michael at Divine Liturgy—which drew not only the parishioners but also numerous guests from all over Switzerland and Germany—was His Grace Bishop Philaret of Novo-Kakhovsk and Genich in Ukraine.
During the great entrance, Priest Peter Sturm was awarded the rank of Protopriest for his many years of service at the parish. Archbishop Michael noted during the ceremony that this high rank was earned by the selflessness, love and meekness of the priest, who is highly esteemed by all of his parishioners. Earlier, during the reading of the hours, Reader Nikolai Bankul, the choir director, was elevated to the rank of subdeacon, while acolyte Michel (Mishko) Senic was ordained a reader.
After Liturgy, the hierarchs and clergymen led a moleben before the icon of the Protection of the Most-Holy Mother of God. In his sermon, Vladyka Michael discussed the history of this feast day, its broad popularity in Russia, and also the intercession of the Mother of God on behalf of all Christians. The Most-Holy Virgin, covers with her veil all those who appeal to her, especially members of the Cossack nation, for whom the Protection of the Mother of God is a great military holiday. Eighty years ago it was also chosen as its feast day by the local parishioners.
Archbishop Michael also welcomed Bishop Philaret, who in return expressed his genuine joy from the Liturgical communion, and remarked on the importance of the parish community here. It was founded by the first wave of Russian émigrés, which now brings together not only Orthodox Russians, but Serbs, Bulgarians, as well as many Swiss people of various backgrounds who attend Divine Liturgy, uniting around the Chalice of Christ.
After the singing of Many Years to the clergy and parishioners, Eternal Memory was sung to all the late clerics, founders of the parish and subsequent parishioners. Archbishop Michael then blessed the long-time warden of the parish, Maria Alexandrovna Bankul, with an icon of the Savior Not-Painted-By-Hands, expressing his gratitude for her services.
The celebrations continued at a formal luncheon at the guild house Zunfthaus zur Waag. The event included a concert of Russian and other European classical music. Toasts were raised to the hierarchs, guests, and to Protopriest Michel Zeman of the neighboring Resurrection Parish of the Moscow Patriarchate.
The joyful celebration gathered together many former parishioners who had since moved to different cities.
Fr Peter thanked everyone in his speech and pointed out the milestones in the life of the parish entrusted to his care. Holy Protection Parish was founded in the autumn of 1933 by the early immigrants from Russia. Lacking any significant funds, their first challenge was to preserve their identity as Russians, which they did by establishing a Russian parish. A building was then purchased to house Holy Protection Parish, where the local Russian Orthodox Christians always found a haven; these included such eminent figures as Anatoly Krasnov-Levitin, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, military leaders and professors, as well as hundreds of devout believers who left their mark in the history of the parish.
Over the decades, various pastors led their ministry here: Protopriest David Chubov, Protopriest Alexander Kargon, who tended to the faith of the early generation, and gave knowledge of and love for their homeland to the younger generations under the slogan “For Rus, for the Faith!” (This is the slogan of the National Organization of Vityazi, or knights; Fr Alexander formed a division of Vityaz youths in Lyons, where he conducted divine services in French—ed.) Their selfless labors were edifying for their contemporaries, who even now continue to work to the benefit of the Church and Holy Orthodoxy in the most populous city of the Swiss Confederacy.
May the Veil of the Mother of God continue to protect the Russian Orthodox community of Zurich for another 80 years!
Subdeacon Vladimir Svistun