Moscow, low-key consecration of Victory Cathedral; Catholics denied another church
by Vladimir Rozanskij

The church, which contained Stalin's mosaic and Putin's fresco, was consecrated almost in silence. Putin is also absent. The Kirov church, seized by the Bolsheviks, transformed into a veterinary clinic, has been confirmed as an orchestra hall.


Moscow (AsiaNews) - In Russia crippled by the Covid-19 virus, yesterday the patriarch of Moscow Kirill (Gundjaev) consecrated, somewhat surprisingly, the much-discussed Victory Cathedral in Moscow's "Patriot" park.

The ceremony had been announced for June 22, but perhaps Kirill wanted to distance himself from the parades in preparation for the 24th. Vladimir Putin's absence from the liturgy of consecration was also understood as a form of "distancing" from ecclesiastical hierarchies. In the quarantine phase, bishops, monks and priests have been subject to criticism from political leadership and from a large part of the population, for their unsteady behavior on how to deal with the pandemic.

President Putin focuses on the parade for the 75th anniversary of the Victory Day, which will certainly be held in Moscow, but not in other cities: mayors and regional governors fear further spreads of the virus that continues to claim victims, with new positive cases at the rate of 8-9 thousand per day. The mayor of Moscow himself, Sergei Sobjanin, advised citizens of the capital not to attend the parade.

Meanwhile, deaths continue among the Orthodox clergy. In the Kursk region in southern Russia, the priest Aleksandr Maskanov died of the coronavirus (photo 2). Other deaths had occurred in the diocese in the past few weeks. Father Aleksandr, 52, was parish priest of the church of St. George martyr in the village of Maloe Soldatskoe and - as reported by the diocesan declaration - “was a zealous pastor, who loved his parishioners and whose affection was equally reciprocated by all". A few days earlier, the 54-year-old bishop of Zheleznogorsk, Venjamin (Korolev, photo 1), who came from the monastery of Our Lady of the Sign in the city of Kursk, also died. He had important roles in the inter-ecclesial dialogue of the Moscow Patriarchate.

A church for the orchestra

Meanwhile, Catholics were definitively refused the return of their church in the city of Kirov (northeastern European Russia). For years, Kirov Catholics have asked for the restitution of the church of Alexander and the Sacred Heart of Jesus (photo 3), the most important of the historic Catholic churches in the Vjatka region. The arbitration court, on final appeal, refused to give the church back to the faithful, to make it available to the local chamber orchestra, which has used it since Soviet times. "Unfortunately the miracle did not happen," said Jan Chebotarev, a lawyer and human rights activist who followed the case on behalf of the Catholic community. The reasons for the refusal have not yet been made public.

The rather eclectic style church was built in 1903, after several attempts by the Kirov Catholics to obtain a place of worship, and was dedicated to Tsar Alexander III, who died a few years earlier, thanks to which concessions had been obtained for the construction. The building enjoys the status of "object of cultural heritage of the Russian people" at the regional level. Local Catholics come from families of Polish origin, but also from other ethnic backgrounds, deported at the end of the 19th century, but also sheltered in Kirov during the First World War. The church had been closed in 1933, transforming it into a veterinary clinic. In 1937, the exarch for the Eastern Rite Catholics, Blessed Leonid Fedorov, died in Kirov after years of concentration camps and confinement. The last pastor of the church, Father Franzisk Budris, was shot in 1938.

The local community will therefore be forced to continue gathering in a room adapted for the celebrations, and perhaps will be given the church for Christmas and Easter, as has happened on previous occasions, but without guarantees, having to overcome the opposition of the orchestra leaders each time.

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