Kremlin joins noisy dispute over St. Petersburg cathedral


Eurasia Daily, 17 February 2017


Patriarch Kirill declared on 17 February that the transfer of St. Isaac's cathedral to the Russian Orthodox Church [RPTs] will be a symbol of the reconciliation of the nation, but a source in the Kremlin at the same time declared that federal authorities did not consent to the transfer of St. Isaac's to the RPTs.


Opening today a session of the Supreme Church Council of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill said that the transfer of St. Isaac's cathedral "in the year of the centennial of the revolutionary events is intended to become a symbol of the reconciliation of our people."


Appealing to the "well intentioned people who are speaking out against the transfer," the primate assured that entrance into the cathedral will become free, and that a museum component will remain a requirement, and that the church will be able to cope with repair and restoration of the monument of architecture.


"While there is completely free entrance, payment for excursion services will be retained and also for viewing the city from the colonnade. According to our calculations, these means will be completely sufficient for ensuring on-going repair and restoration work at the same level as was done in the past ten years," the patriarch emphasized.


At the same time several major news media have reported that federal authorities and President Vladimir Putin personally have not consented to the transfer of St. Isaac's cathedral to the RPTs. An anonymous source, close to the Kremlin, also described how according to the results of a sociological study a majority of St. Petersburgers oppose the transfer of the cathedral to the church and therefore the government is in a sensitive position and most likely "the only possible resolution lies in the sharing of joint use [of the cathedral] by the city and the Russian Orthodox Church."


The press service of Governor Georgy Poltavchenko refused to comment on the report from Moscow.


In the opinion of Maksim Reznik, a deputy of the St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly (from the Party of Growth), harmony within society, of which Patriarch Kirill made mention, existed before the church declared its right to the cathedral. "I do not understand what kind of reconciliation he is talking about now. Who is quarreling with whom? We have never had any problems regarding St. Isaac's cathedral until the church itself created them," Reznik told a correspondent of EADaily.


The deputy also urged a return to the zero option, when the museum "worked normally and the church normally conducted services twice a day."


"The city also can adopted a special law about the cathedral in which St. Isaac's, for example, will be designated a symbol of St. Petersburg with a fixed citywide status. And I do not see in the adoption of a local law any contradictions with federal law," the MP emphasized.


On 19 February, a second procession of the cross will be held at St. Isaac's cathedral (the first was on 12 February), to which the organizers have invited fans of "Zenit."


Members of the organization of fans of "Zenit" of St. Petersburg, the "Nevsky Front," will march as a column with flags and paraphernalia around St. Isaac's, along with priests, public organizations, and activist residents of St. Petersburg. The column will be led by Bishop of Tsarskoe Selo Markell. "The procession of the cross is not a political demonstration or rally; its goal is prayer and the unity of the Orthodox people of our city," the Nevsky Front declared.


In addition to the fans, participants of the International Festival of Orthodox Youth, which is going on these days in the northern capital, will take part in the event. (tr. by PDS, posted 20 February 2017)


Russian original posted on site, 19 February 2017

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