Patriarch Kirill Received an Unusual Request From a Man Imprisoned for Life

250 years ago, Empress Catherine II issued a decree on the construction of the Butyrsky prison castle in the north of Moscow. Today it is Detention Center # 2, known as Butyrka Prison. Since 2005, the prisoners of Butyrka have been cared for by Archpriest Konstantin Kobelev. He spoke about the most memorable incident in his years of service in the prison Church of the Intercession.


This story happened in 2018. On April 8, right on the first day of Easter, the Patriarch visited Butyrka. I'll tell you more about that day, but first about the story that happened then, which I remember forever.

After visiting our prison church, Patriarch Kirill wished to go into some cells in order to learn more about the needs of the prisoners. It is striking that one of those with whom he met was a life sentence.

I would like to draw your attention to the following: Butyrskaya prison is a pre-trial detention center, people are here during the investigation and trial, and after the verdict they are awaiting further redistribution. Prisoners are not held here for life. Alexander - that is the name of that prisoner - was convicted several years ago, and was sent to us for a while as a witness in another case. And it is to him that His Holiness comes in!

There was a Bible on the table in Alexander's cell. His Holiness sat down at his table and began to converse with him.

“I have a small request,” the prisoner suddenly turned to the Patriarch. - So that life prisoners have the opportunity to go to church to pray, at least on some big church holidays.

And Patriarch Kirill replied:

- It is a legitimate requirement of a believer, regardless of whether he is free or imprisoned, to be able to come to church and pray. We will figure out how to do this, taking into account the requirements and rules of correctional institutions.

And imagine: the very next day we were able to meet Alexander in our prison church! The temple had just been painted, and Alexander saw something that almost no one had seen yet: many faces of the 236 new martyrs who passed through Butyrka, depicted on the walls of the church.

I confessed him. He was a member of an organized crime group, on whose account there were many crimes. He is serving his life sentence on Ognenny Island: one of the special regime correctional colonies for life prisoners in Russia is located there.

All his life Alexander was an unbeliever, but due to ineffable Divine love he ended up in a cell with a man who had already come to God. They talked a lot, and yet Alexander had remained adamant in his atheism.

One day a prisoner received news of his sister's illness: doctors discovered she had a brain tumor and left almost no chance of life. Then his cellmate said: I will pray. Surprisingly, the operation, which at first was refused at all, was successful. Outwardly, Alexander did not show in any way what impression this event made on him.

After a while, the sad news came again: the disease returned. And his friend began to pray again. And again a miracle happened - my sister is still alive.

When the guys in the cell got the happy news, Alexander confessed: "I also prayed . . . "

I have always noticed how prisoners come to the temple and how they leave, how their faces change! And this time the same thing happened. This desire of a life imprisoned person to pray in the temple impressed me especially strongly. How impressed was the amazing coincidence of circumstances - after all, had not a meeting with the Patriarch, his wish might not have come true. It seems to me that this meeting is evidence of the Lord's forgiveness of the sins of the condemned.

Soon Alexander was taken away from Butyrka and I never met him again. But I often remember him, because after this incident it became possible for the guests of the sixth corridor to visit the temple - those sentenced to life imprisonment.

The mercy of God, shown by the condemned Lord, makes an indelible impression on the priest, who learns about their fate. This is the best remedy for burnout, because such meetings once again reveal the meaning of prison ministry and inspire to carry it. I believe that such an experience is useful for every pastor - to visit hospitals and prisons in order to understand His Holiness, who visits such places, considering it very important.

In general, for Butyrka, the arrival of the Patriarch became a landmark event, one might say, historical, for which we have been preparing for a long time. Ten years ago, a new head of the prison, Sergei Veniaminovich Telyatnikov, was appointed to us, who at the first meeting asked me: what needs to be done so that the Patriarch comes to us? I passed the question to Vladyka and received the answer that for this it is important to completely restore the temple, paint it, and make an iconostasis. And the head of the prison set himself such a task.

Preparations for the restoration of the temple have been going on since the early 90s - at that time Father Gleb Kaleda served here. Seriously, the restoration of the prison Church of the Intercession was undertaken in 2011, and only by the arrival of the Patriarch the work was completed.

On the day when His Holiness visited us, the tradition of 100 years ago was revived: then on big holidays many people were present at church services in prisons, and part of the people could watch the service from the windows of the buildings. And this time the prisoners also lined up on the temple square, and some stood at the windows - for this they were allowed to leave the cells into the corridor, and from there they listened to what His Holiness was saying. Seeing them, the Patriarch came closer to the building and said: "When you are released and come to my service, come to me and remind me that we communicated with you on this day."

And finally, one more dear memory for me about that Easter spring day in 2018. His Holiness then visited not only Alexander, but went into several more cells - and soon someone's stay in the pre-trial detention center was replaced by house arrest. The patriarch also talked with people in the church and blessed a married couple for the wedding, where the husband is a prisoner, and this couple soon had a child. That is, each meeting led to its own little miracle!

Source: (Russian)

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