01/30/2008, 00.00
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Orthodox too express solidarity after blaze guts ‘Library of the Spirit’

The prestigious ecumenical cultural centre in Moscow was damaged by a fire last week. Some 500 books were lost with damages reaching € 40,000. The Centre’s founder, Father Scalfi talks about receiving many offers to help, including from the Orthodox community. Some associations offer space to house the now homeless library.

Moscow (AsiaNews) – Solidarity and material help are arriving from Russia and around the world to the ‘Library of the Spirit’, an important ecumenical centre in Moscow that was badly damaged in a fire that broke out last week in the building where it is housed. Fr Romano Scalfi, founder of the ‘Russia Cristiana’ Studies Centre, talked to AsiaNews about it. His Centre along with Moscow’s diocesan Caritas and the Orthodox Faculty of Theology of Minsk were instrumental in establishing the library back in 1993.

A fire broke out around 10 pm on 23 January in rooms on top of the library.  The Fire Brigade prevented the blaze from spreading, but the water used to extinguish the flames got into the library through the ceiling.

The library staff with help from neighbours was able to save some equipment, documents and books. But “about 500 books are a total loss and damages are estimated at around € 40,000 (US$ 60,000),” said the Father Scalfi. “But several people have already pledged to help us: the nuncio in Russia, Mgr Antonio Mennini, and our foreign benefactors. We also received expressions of solidarity from the Orthodox community and some associations have offered us hospitality.”

The Saint Filaret Orthodox Centre, which is located nearby, and a neighbourhood library have offered some space so that it can temporarily continue its activities.

The ‘Library of the Spirit’ (Dukovnaja Biblijoteka in Russian) moved to the current larger premises on Pokrovka Street only in 2004.

The Centre buys, translates and publishes books it considers important for ecumenism and is also responsible for their distribution.

Many texts are given away for free to religious organisations, children’s institutions, prisons, cultural centres and to private citizens.

The Centre also promotes cultural initiatives. For instance, three or four times a week it organises crowd-drawing meetings in co-operation with its Orthodox partners on topics that touch upon faith and society.

According to Peter Humeniuk, a Russia expert with the international Catholic pastoral charity ‘Aid to the Church in Need,’ the ‘Library of the Spirit’ plays “an invaluable service in the field of interreligious dialogue. Indeed, it is something of a foundation stone in this field.

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