Russia's Last Czar to Be Sainted

Nicholas II and family part of 1,100 canonized for martyrdom by communists.

After eight years of debate, which at times threatened to split the Russian Orthodox Church, the Council of Bishops yesterday unanimously approved the canonization of Czar Nicholas II, his wife Alexandra and their five children—Alexei, Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia.The canonizations will take place on Sunday August 20, in Moscow's newly reconstructed Cathedral of Christ the Savior.In a bid to strip the issue of its political connotations, the Council of Bishops decided to canonize the imperial family under a special category—"passion-bearers"—in recognition of the humility with which they accepted death rather than the way in which the imperial family ruled Russia. Many Russians still take a dim view of Czar Nicholas, with some describing him as a weak and impressionable ruler whose ineptitude helped bring about the Bolshevik revolution of 1917. The council also decided to canonize almost 1,100 priests and lay people who were persecuted by the communists. Most of the new saints died in prisons and camps in the 1920s and 1930s. Along with the Romanov saints, they will constitute the Assembly of New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia. More names may be added later.As 146 bishops from across the former Soviet Union deliberated yesterday behind closed doors in a massive hall beneath the cathedral, a group of Ukrainian women gathered outside to pray for the canonization of the czar. The women held a copy of an icon of Nicholas, similar to one that is believed by some Christians to have brought about a string of miraculous healings in Russia and Ukraine earlier this year."At last, we live to see the day when people begin to revere our Father Czar," said Tamara, from Kiev, who declined to give her surname. The group of Ukrainians ...

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Russia's Last Czar to Be Sainted
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August 2000

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