07/19/2011, 00.00
RUSSIA

In Italy the Orthodox pray in empty Catholic churches

by Nina Achmatova
Moscow Patriarchate: our people growing abroad also with the help of the Catholic Church, who host us in its facilities. Number of Orthodox churches built abroad are now over 400.
Moscow (AsiaNews) - The Catholic parishes in Italy often left empty are hosting religious services of the Russian Orthodox Church, which still does not have sufficient facilities of its own abroad, according to Archbishop Mark of Yegorievsk, head of the foreign institutions of the Patriarchate of Moscow. "Catholic churches, that have no parishioners - the bishop said in an interview on the website of the Russian Church - are often put at our disposal and the appearance of so many faithful is due to the help of the Catholic Church, which offers us its facilities for worship. "

Mark explains that the Russian Orthodox Church has 400 parishes in 52 countries, but stresses that not all communities have their own church. "For example, in Italy there are 49 parishes, but only some have a church." He adds: "The divine services may be celebrated in different places - he adds - but it is important to build churches".

The Moscow Patriarchate has undertaken a real campaign of expansion at home and abroad. In the Russian capital, in April, the mayor Sergei Sobianin gave the green light to build 200 new churches. The project, recalls the religious information website Portalcredo.ru, is meeting with great resistance from civil society, concerned with defending the secularism in a State in which the Church has become one of its greatest allies. According to data from the Patriarchate, the proportion between the number of churches and Orthodox believers in Moscow is one church for every 35 thousand inhabitants and in some quarters even every 150 thousand or 200 thousand inhabitants. The aim is to give every believer a church within walking distance from home. "Two hundred new churches can not solve the problem of insufficient places of worship (destroyed under Soviet atheism, ed) - Kirill said - but the situation will change, because we will have the opportunity to work among the people."

For the State the support of the Church, within the confines of the Federation, is of great help in the perspective of combating social ills such as alcoholism, ethnic violence and abortion. Abroad, however, the Patriarchate - according to some analysts - is one of the Kremlin’s tools to restore its geopolitical influence in the territories of the former USSR and beyond. According to Mark himself, an Orthodox church is going to be opened in Cyprus and another is scheduled in Madrid, while a large Orthodox spiritual center will be built at the foot of the Eiffel tower in Paris. Meanwhile, a growing number of Orthodox churches will be built in Thailand and also in Great Britain - Mark continues – where the number of parishioners is increasing and new communities opening up.

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