Adi Roche has been awarded the highest honour of the Belarusian Orthodox Church in recognition of her work on behalf of people affected there by the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl in 1986.
Chief executive of Chernobyl Children International (CCI), she has been presented, virtually, with the medal of St Kirill Turovskiy by the head of the Belarusian Orthodox Church, Bishop Veniamin, Metropolitan of Minsk and Zaslavl, Patriarchal Exarch of All Belarus.
This was in recognition of all the humanitarian work she and Irish volunteers have done for the people of that country, particularly the children, over the past 25 years.
In addition, a new "St Patrick's Chapel" has been opened at Vesnova in Belarus to honour the Irish volunteers with the CCI.The chapel, in the grounds of Vesnova Children's Mental Institution, includes a specially commissioned icon of St Patrick and is the first of its kind dedicated to the people of Ireland in Belarus.
It is also understood to mark a significant development in relations between the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern/Russian Orthodox Church.
After several delays and setbacks due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the chapel was finally opened last Friday, with a special opening ceremony to mark the occasion and at which Ms Roche was presented with the medal of St Kirill Turovskiy.
Speaking on behalf of the CCI, Ms Roche said it was honoured that the people of Vesnova had chosen to name their chapel “after the patron saint of Ireland, St Patrick” who was “a noble, courageous, and humble man who cared very much for the welfare and health of Irish men, women, and children.”
She said: “The people in Vesnova are our dear friends and neighbours, and so we share with them in loving friendship and care our dear Irish saint, St Patrick, that he may intercede for them with God to bless them and protect them, to encourage them, to safeguard them and to inspire them, so that many joys and blessings may come their way and that he too will console them in all their trials and sorrows.”