Thousands demonstrate in St. Petersburg dispute


Interfax-Religiia, 20 February 2017


Patriarch of Moscow and all-Rus Kirill thanked participants in the procession of the cross in support of the transfer of St. Isaac's to the church, which was held yesterday in St. Petersburg, priest Alexander Volkov, the patriarch's press secretary, told an Interfax-Religiia correspondent on Monday.


"His Holiness Patriarch Kirill thanks all who assembled yesterday for the service and procession of the cross in St. Isaac's cathedral of the 'northern capital.' The ceremonial worship service with the subsequent procession gathered, according to various estimates, from 8 to 12 thousand persons," Father Alexander said.


In his opinion, such a large procession "testifies that Patriarch Kirill's call about the necessity of overcoming divisions because of the topic of the transfer of St. Isaac's was heard by many."


The multi-thousand procession of the cross, which drew not only St. Petersburgers but also guests from various countries, showed that "very many people are not indifferent to the subsequent fate of St. Isaac's cathedral, which should primarily be a place of prayer, like any church building," the head of the patriarchal press service noted.


He expressed the hope that in the near future an ever greater number of St. Petersburgers who are among the well meaning critics of the transfer of the cathedral will heed the words of the patriarch and "those politically inspired speeches that we hear now will not find support among the city's citizens."


In January the government of St. Petersburg announced the decision to transfer St. Isaac's cathedral to the Russian Orthodox Church for 49 years of free use while retaining the museum educational functions. The building of St. Isaac's remains city property.


Opponents of the transfer of the cathedral tried to challenge Smolny's decision, but the lawsuits were not accepted for consideration. A petition on the Internet against the transfer of St. Isaac's cathedral collected more than 200,000 persons. In addition, several protest demonstrations occurred in St. Petersburg.


On 17 February, a highly placed federal official declared on condition of anonymity that a consensus on this topic is being achieved for sharing the use of the cathedral by secular authorities and the church, while by one of the possible options St. Isaac's would be guaranteed the status of a museum with a staff of employees. (tr. by PDS, posted 20 February 2017)

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