Russia and the Belt of the Mother of God

Today is the last Friday of the Rugby World Cup down here in New Zealand and the weather has turned it on! It is a beautiful spring day, just perfect for the end of year party going on outside my window here at Law School and for the third place final tonight between Wales and Australia.  Hopefully the great weather will continue until Sunday night and we see a great final between New Zealand and France.  (Interestingly, the semi-final and final match ups are all the same this year as they were the last time NZ hosted the Rugby World Cup in 1987.  Let’s hope that the coincidental nature continues until the final on Sunday…)
In non-rugby news (apparently there is some) St Petersburg and Vladimir Putin have welcomed the Belt of the Mother of God, an Orthodox relic that is believed to be the belt of the Virgin Mary.  The relic has been loaned to Russia for the first time from its home on Mount Athos in Greece and is believed to have the power to boost fertility.  For a country that has shrunk by 2.2 million people since 2002, the importance of fertility is well appreciated, hence the relic being welcomed by Russia’s Prime Minister as well as by hundreds when it arrived in the country on Thursday. 
The relic is going on a month long tour across Russia and the Orthodox Church is hoping that it will help more Russian women become mothers.  According to the Associated Press “the influential Russian Orthodox Church is actively promoting motherhood to help the government curtail a population decline.”  I’m sure it is also promoting motherhood for more natural and theological reasons than just the good of the country, but anyway.  In some cities, it is planned to take the relic to pregnancy centres that counsel women contemplating an abortion – a move that will be sure to prove controversial I’m sure.  But another recognition at the highest levels of the Russian state that their declining fertility is a problem and that that they are not above asking the supernatural for help!  


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