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Russian Priest Feels Closer to God in Serenity of Antarctica

Posted by addisethiopia on March 7, 2015

RussianChurchAntarctica

KING GEORGE ISLAND, Antarctica — Sophrony Kirilov pulls hard on the strings of the heavy Russian bells from inside the world’s southernmost Eastern Orthodox church, calling to Mass anybody wanting to pray on this remote Antarctic island.

The 38-year-old Russian priest is clad in a loose black robe and a vest dotted with patches of penguins and seals, marking his four years of service at the bottom of the world. Although he often misses his family and the dark winters are hard, Kirilov says there is no place he feels closer to God than in this frigid land.

“In the world there’s no tranquility and silence. But here, it’s quiet enough,” Kirilov said inside the Holy Trinity Church.

The small wooden building is perched precariously on a rocky hill above a smattering of prefabricated houses for scientists and service workers who call this frozen continent home, at least part of the year. Kirilov, who also works as a carpenter and mason at the Russian Bellinghausen base, says his passion for Antarctica is deeply connected to his love for the lonely building.

Russian priests here rotate in for yearlong stints, primarily to celebrate Mass for the workers on the Russian base, who number between 15 and 30 at a time. The priests also welcome any of the island’s other inhabitants, about 100 in winter when temperatures can plunge to -13 Fahrenheit (-25 Celsius), and 500 in the still-chilly summer months.

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