Thousands in procession for the return of St. Isaac's Church to the Moscow Patriarchate

The building had been seized in 1917 and used as a museum. Spokesman for Patriarch Kirill: The church "should first of all be a place of prayer." Opponents: Giving the management to the Church risks opening the path to "wild provincialism". Putin among the opponents. Kirill: A sign of reconciliation.


St. Petersburg (AsiaNews) - At least 10 thousand people marched two days ago in a procession with crosses and banners to defend the transfer of St. Isaac's Church to the Moscow Patriarchate. The procession follows intense debates and protests opposing the restitution of those eager to keep the church as a museum under State care.

Fr. Alexander Volkov, of the Patriarchate press office pointed out that the presence of so many people in the procession means that "many are not indifferent to the fate of the Cathedral of St. Isaac, which should first of all be a place of prayer, like any other Christian building ".

Last January, the St. Petersburg municipal council announced the decision to transfer the management of the Cathedral of St. Isaac to the Russian Orthodox Church for 49 years, while on the condition the museum contents remained within.

The decision sparked strong opposition. An online petition against the transfer collected more than 200 thousand signatures in a short space of time. In addition there were several protests with a few thousand marchers. Opponents fear that the management handed over to the Church will lead to a deterioration of the museum and accuse the Orthodox Church of wanting to hurt the cultural vitality of the city with "wild provincialism".

St. Isaac's, built in the 18th century, has spectacular architecture with statues and paintings by artists from all over Europe and a golden dome that has become almost a symbol of the former imperial capital city. In 1917, with the rise of Bolshevik power, the church was turned into a museum. Even after the fall of communism, it remained such, although the Orthodox Church had the right to two daily celebrations inside.

But a 2010 law required the return of religious property to the Church. This is why the Orthodox Patriarchate has called for the restitution of the Cathedral of St. Isaac, having already obtained the management of the Smolny Cathedral on the Neva, and a year ago that of the Church of St. Samson.

According to unconfirmed reports, President Vladimir Putin does not agree to the transfer. Days ago, Patriarch Kirill sent a message to the faithful, emphasizing that St. Isaac Church must become "a symbol of reconciliation for our people", in the very year in which we celebrate the centenary of the Russian revolution.