Moscow (AsiaNews) - After four years of work the first Russian Orthodox church in the United Arab Emirates has been inaugurated. Built in the city of Sharjah and dedicated to Philip the Apostle, the parish boasts two other firsts, as the Patriarchate of Moscow website reports, it is the only of its kind in the entire Arabian Peninsula and also its five domes are crowned by golden crosses. Often to get permission to build places of worship in Muslim countries Christians are asked to avoid emphasising explicit symbols like the cross.
Designed by architect Yury Kirs, the crosses were produced in Russia before being transported by plane to Sharjah. The blessing before their installation was given by Hegumen Alexander Zarkesher, head of the parish.
Beside the church is a three-storey building with accommodation and a cultural centre. The Patriarchate recalls that the event, "so important to the community in the region" was made possible by the administration of Sharjah and in particular the Sultan bin Mohammed Al-Qasimi, who gave his personal permission to build compound. Then there was an agreement between Moscow and the Patriarch of Antioch, whose canonical jurisdiction includes the Arabian Peninsula: Antioch has allowed the Russian community to be followed by a priest of the Patriarchate of Moscow.The foundation stone was first laid in 2007 by the then Metropolitan of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, the current number one of the Russian Orthodox Church, Kirill. (N.A.)