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The Abbot of Valaam monastery: we opened for pilgrims

The Valaam monastery is one of the first was closed to pilgrims and tourists because of the coronavirus pandemic this spring. And on Thursday Balaam, his main Transfiguration Cathedral and the Central manor again opened its doors to visitors to the island. About whether the pilgrims to get to the worship service, where volunteers are in quarantine and what gastronomic innovations is preparing a "Northern Athos" this year – told RIA Novosti Abbot of Valaam monastery Bishop Trinity Pankraty. Interviewed Artem Budyonny.

Balaam is only available for organized groups of pilgrims and tourists, regardless of how they are on a cruise ship or monastic Navy. They can now visit the Central manor, where the main monastery Church - Holy Transfiguration Cathedral and the monasteries. But individual pilgrims and tourists with tents the entrance to the island is closed for now.

In June on the island there were only tourists passing through lake Ladoga cruise ships. They were available in the Western part of the archipelago: the tour "Sketes of Valaam", "Skalistyy coast", and in the Central manor conducted tours only by water (ships docked in the monastery Bay). Tours on cruise ships are expensive, and most of the money goes to tour operators.

So we resumed a more cheap and popular tours of the monastic service "Valaam pilgrim." Our fleet goes from Sortavala and Priozersk. This is faster than cruise: in summer, when the lake go "Meteors", the road from St. Petersburg to Valaam in the Priozersk takes only three hours.

But now on sale only day trips because we don't have the opportunity to take pilgrims and tourists in the monastery hotel. New "Winter hotel" has not yet been put into operation, and all other hotels are "visual observation" all arriving by Balaam, in addition to tourists and local residents. Workers, volunteers, employees of the monastery, the brethren of 10-15 days are on isolation, then pass the tests for coronavirus and only then they are allowed to communicate with the living in the monastery. This is done as a precaution.

The island is like an ocean liner. If here comes a sick man, we all quickly become infected. And among the monks - a lot of people from "risk groups": elderly, chronic diseases. So almost immediately after the beginning of the epidemic – March 17 - we were closed for pilgrims, tourists and workers, and imposed a quarantine for those who come. Restrictions are not touched only local residents and those who work on the island shifts: energy, police, fire. We also set up additional sanitation of ships, and the paramedics arriving measured temperature. And these measures proved to be effective.

During the epidemic on the island had no cases of infection with coronavirus.

- Tourists and pilgrims to be isolated and to pass tests for coronavirus is not necessary. They come without spending the night and most of the time on the air. In the temples they will go in disguise, organized groups with a guide. Tour groups are small – no more than 20 people – in accordance with the rules that are adopted in Karelia. Following the recommendations of the regional Rospotrebnadzor, we also sanitize all the surfaces in the temples, the refectory, the monastic courts, so gloves the pilgrims wear is not necessary.

Unfortunately, the pilgrims won't be able to get to worship, confession and communion, and venerate the relics and icons.

Pilgrims will be able to come to the island when the conditions improve and CPS will remove all restrictions. We follow the rules that have been adopted in the Republic of Karelia. Projections do not suddenly be the "second wave" of the epidemic...

This year's festival, "Illuminator" will not. This is impossible: how are we going to invite foreigners? This year not even the visit of Patriarch Kirill (held annually in day of memory of Saint Sergius and Saint Herman of Valaam – ed.).

Now for the remaining time of the pilgrimage season, it is necessary to restore what we had before the plague. Months of a pandemic, normal life in the monastery was disrupted. On the one hand, the good: we stayed in solitude, prayer. On the other hand, we cannot completely abandon the pilgrimage, visitors, guests, depriving people of the opportunity to visit Valaam.

Therefore, as soon as the situation allowed, we opened for pilgrims.

There is no such threat. The very geography of the island imposes restrictions on the flow of tourists. Technically more than five big ships at the same time to stand at the dock can't. Annually the island is visited by 100-120 thousand tourists and pilgrims – and this number does not change. Small fluctuations are, but it depends on the economic situation in the country. For example, we noticed that in 2019, the flow of tourists has decreased.

The main innovation we have the aid repaired "Winter hotel". Now this is a modern hotel with room amenities. It will be equipped with a spiritual education center, Museum of contemporary icons, icon painting workshop, where they will give master classes for beginners, will also open the singing school, conference room. Now comes the furnishing of the building: put the furniture and equipment. I hope in September to open it.

We will regulate this issue. In the "Winter hotel" will be available rooms for people with different incomes.

You can also come to volunteer – then accommodation and food will be at the expense of the monastery. The number of volunteers increases, we are preparing for them more places, to improve the conditions of stay. They live in the workhouse, now there is: there is a very good hostel with showers and other amenities.

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Volunteers – often young people - to learn about Orthodoxy, some are baptized. Of the time they are free, can participate in worship. We give them tours, meetings, and lectures. They meet, then there are Orthodox family.

Five or six days a week volunteers work: help in the garden, on the farm.

Exotic there, but the farm is not for her. First and foremost, we cultivate what is necessary for farm feed. In the greenhouses we grow greens, cucumbers, tomatoes - on the table of the brethren. We have a garden – apples and other fruits. Father Gregory – Armenian – grown outdoors grapes. In good years eat. Comfort raised pineapples.

Dairy products, eggs, fish – all of our. The bread we bake ourselves, too. However, monastic products tourists in the dining room are not fed, because not enough at all. But the same Valaam cheese and fish can be bought in shops on the island.

Recently, thanks to the help of benefactors, we have restored a trout farm. Before the fish was on the table of the brethren or sold on the island. The next stage – refining. We want to put smoked and salted trout (packaged in compliance with sanitary norms) in Petersburg or Moscow.

Still working on a reconstruction of the apiary. The first honey was in 2019. After a few years, I think, will be a big apiary, and will begin the implementation of: honey in small batches, most likely, will go to the metochion of the Valaam monastery in Moscow and St. Petersburg. I have personally been involved in this business because I love the life of bees, it resembles a monastery doing their own thing, there is mutual support, hierarchy, joint work.