Father Cyril Shahzad from Sargodha, Pakistan visited the Russian Old-believer church communities of the Yaroslavl-Kostroma dioceseas part of his pilgrimage trip to Russia.
With the blessing of His Grace Vikentiy, bishop of the Yaroslavl-Kostroma and Nizhny Novgorod-Vladimir diocese, the diocesan administration organized for father Cyril to visit Yaroslavl and partake in the church’s feast-day of the icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Vladimir. The feast-day was honored with a solemn service.
Co-serving with bishop Vikentiy were father Anatoly Poteryaev, the rector of the Yaroslavl church, father Vasily Terentyev (Kostroma), father Ilya Tiunov (Vologda), and father Cyril Shahzad (Sargodha, Pakistan).
After the church service, bishop Vikentiy said a sermon, in which he highlighted the apostolic ministry of father Cyril. The father’s selfless service in Pakistan, a country dominated by a different religion, reminds us of the feat of the apostles who preached the Word of God, despite the difficulties that awaited them. Bishop Vikentiy said of father Cyril, “He is like an apostle, who brings the light of the true and saving faith to the people.”
Father Cyril gifted father Anatoliy with an Old-believer calendar in Urdu. He also passed on his congratulations on the feast-day on behalf of the Old-believers in Pakistan and spoke about the life of the Old-believers’ church community in Pakistan.
The Sunday liturgical service with bishop Vikentiy continued in Durasovo, in the Kostroma oblast. During the liturgy, father Cyril read the ektenia in English and following the reading of the day’s Gospel in Old Church Slavonic, read the day’s Gospel in his own native language – Urdu. Also with the blessing of bishop Vikentiy, the left choir sang the prayer “Our Father” in English.
“I have come again to visit you in Durasovo,” father Cyril said in a speech to the parishioners of Durasovo, “and again I feel the friendly, family-like Christian atmosphere, even though I am quite far from home. Our parishioners in Pakistan pass on their warm regards to you and pray for the flourishing of the Church of Christ on Russian soil and also ask to remember us in your prayers. We live in a difficult society, so your prayers and support are very important to us.”
In honor of father Cyril’s 40th birthday in January, bishop Vikentiy presented him with priestly and diaconal vestments. Father Cyril answered with gratitude, “the Lord takes care of every Christian and sends help at the right time. Thanks to the new vestments according to God’s Providence, the Lord will send a new minister to our community”.
Bishop Vikentiy also noted how the Lord sends miracles to those in Pakistan who believe in Him – many people who come to pray for health receive healing. “These miracles are the result of a sincere faith in God’s help, and faith in Jesus Christ, that He is the Savior”, Bishop Vikentiy added.
On July 11, in the administration building of the Yaroslavl-Kostroma diocese, students of the Archaeographic Laboratory of the History Department of the Moscow State University, who have been studying the Kostroma and Yaroslavl Old-believers since 2015, heard first-hand about the Old-believer Orthodox mission of Pakistan.
Father Cyril told the students about the successes of the development of the Old Orthodox Church in Pakistan, about the formation of Orthodoxy and about his ministry to the Church of Christ in a country dominated by a non-Christian faith.
“True faith, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ should be among my parishioners. This faith should be the one that was followed by the apostles and which the Old-believer Orthodox Christians preserved,” said Father Cyril during the discussion.
On the feast-day of the holy apostles Peter and Paul, father Cyril prayed in Strelnikovo, where a cross procession around the church is traditionally held. After the service, bishop Vikentiy emphasized in his sermon the significance of the feast-day of the apostles for the Church.
Next, father Cyril will be participating in the cross procession in Bolshoye Murashkino in the Nizhny Novgorod oblast.