After the Divine Liturgy in the Sretensky Monastery His Holiness Patriarch Alexy met Russian sailors released from detention in Nigeria

On 28 December 2005, the commemoration day of the holy confessor Hilarion (Troitsky), the Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church celebrated the Divine Liturgy in the Sretensky Monastery cathedral church where the saint’s venerable relics repose.

His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia also celebrated a prayer service at the shrine with the relics of St.Hilarion. Praying were the Russian sailors who just returned from Nigeria where they were detained for two years and were released by Nigerian court’s ruling.

Russian citizens – members of the crew of a Greek tanker ‘African Pride’ sailed under the flag of Panama were detained in Lagos on 8 October 2003 and accused in the illegal export of raw oil. At first the condition of detention were tolerable, but after the taker’s owners had hijacked it, the Russians were removed to the strict-regime prison, and their condition worsened drastically.

His Holiness Patriarch Alexy had repeatedly come forward in defense of the Russian sailors. For instance, the Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church sent a letter to the Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo requesting him to alleviate the conditions of detention and got a reply that gave hope for the release of our compatriots.

‘We are happy to welcome them at the Divine service in the Sretensky Monastery today’, His Holiness Patriarch Alexy said after the prayer service. – First of all, we should thank God for the release of our compatriots, as they were threatened with life imprisonment or even death penalty.’

His Holiness the Patriarch talked with the Russian sailors during a tea party in the Sretensky Monastery refectory. Also present were Archbishop Arseny of Istra and Veniamin of Vladivostok and Primorje, State Duma deputy Vladimir Vassilev and head of the Union of Armenians in Russia Ara Abramian who have exerted invaluable help for bringing the tanker crew to the homeland.