07/29/2019, 10.09
RUSSIA
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Moscow, Church of Saints Cosmas and Damian, a refuge for opposition protesters

by Vladimir Rozanskij

At least 100 young people have escaped police charges. The sacred place is the meeting point of the most ecumenical and open Orthodox. The priests are almost all disciples of Father Aleksandr Men ’,“ spiritual father ”of dissent against the Soviet regime of the 1960s and 70s. One of them, Fr. Ioann (aka Giovanni Guaita), is an Italian Catholic "convert" to orthodoxy who became a priest. Alexei Navalny hospitalized for a "severe allergic reaction".

Moscow (AsiaNews) - During the protest demonstrations on 27 July, which caused the arrest of over 1000 people and several violent acts by the police, some participants found shelter in a church in the center of Moscow, where they were received by a very singular priest, Fr. Joann, of Italian origin. The protests took place around the central Tverskaya street, where the Municipality of Moscow is located, from which all opposition candidates were excluded from the forthcoming elections.

Right in front of the municipal building stands the monument to Jurij Dolgorukij, the mythical prince who founded Moscow in the 12th century, and behind it is the church of Saints Cosmas and Damian, for years a gathering place for the most ecumenical and open Orthodox. Here in fact the priests are almost all disciples of Father Aleksandr Men ’,“ spiritual father ”of dissent against the Soviet regime of the 1960s and the 70s. One of them, Fr. Ioann (aka Giovanni Guaita), is an Italian Catholic who "converted" to Orthodoxy and became a priest: he was the one who welcomed the protesters fleeing the police, and gave them a heartfelt speech, recorded by journalists from Meduza.

Father Ioann-Giovanni came to Moscow in the late 1980s from his native Sardinia, as a member of a group of Focolarini missionaries, and was struck by Father Men's 'truly "universal" charisma, so much so that he believed it was possible to overcome the fence between Christians of the East and of the West, without waiting for eschatological times. Slavic expert with a very fine cultural background, Fr. John speaks Russian better than the Russians themselves, and he is capable of touching the heart even of those who, like these days, feel betrayed by the leaders of the Russian people.

The demonstration crossed with the churchyard of Cosmas and Damian, "which is open as always," explained Father Giovanni. "We always keep it open, and we always let everyone in", which does not happen in all Orthodox parishes, often rather suspicious of strangers. "It is our duty to welcome everyone, that's why we are a church, there is nothing special about this".

In the sacred place more than 100 people have poured, mostly young people, chased by the special forces of the OMON [police anti-terrorism unit - ed] with batons and smoke rockets. "Someone escaped here in fear, many sought our own protection," continues the Italian-Russian priest, "many have climbed over the side gates, and we have welcomed everyone with love, regardless of political ideas; we proposed to pray for peace, and everyone participated with satisfaction and interest ".

At a certain point the tension dropped, and many came back out, but one group stopped to continue the prayer and talk with Father Ioann. "Fortunately, there is such an active and sensitive youth: it is good when people try to defend their rights", concluded the priest, who really showed the maternal face of the Church for its own people.

Meanwhile, news broke last night that one of the most famous faces of the opposition to Putin, Alexei Navalny, who in recent days had been sentenced to 30 days in prison, was transferredto a hospital for a "severe allergic reaction "the cause of which is unknown".

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