11/13/2020, 10.21
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Moscow, the 'Orthodox Vatican' will not be built

by Vladimir Rozanskij

The project desired by Patriarch Kirill, of a new, large seat of the patriarchate in Sergiev Posad, 70 km from Moscow, has been cancelled from the zoning plans in recent days. The reasons: perhaps the cost is too high (1.5 billion euros); or perhaps Moscow's break with the other autocephalous Orthodox Churches, due to Ukraine.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - Two days ago, on November 11, the project to build the new seat of the patriarchate of Moscow in the Lavra of the Holy Trinity of St. Sergius in Sergiev Posad was definitively rejected. For some years now there has been talk of this project, called the "Orthodox Vatican". The news has been carefully hidden from the Russian press, and its rejection is attributed to the difficulties created by the Covid-19 pandemic, but in all probability it depends on the misunderstandings between the Russian presidency of Vladimir Putin and the Kirill (Gundjaev) patriarchate.

Plans for the transfer of the administrative offices of the Moscow Patriarchate to Sergiev Posad, gutting and rebuilding the entire center of the town 70 km from Moscow, have been openly discussed since 2019. The urban renovation project, expected by 2025, provided for the occupation of about one third of the city, including civil administrative buildings. The total cost of the operation was estimated at around 140 billion rubles (about one and a half billion euros). Protoierej Leonid Kalinin, who proposed the project on behalf of the patriarchate, referred to the new spiritual centre with the title of "capital of Orthodoxy".

At the end of August 2020, the Russian Environment Ministry had made it known that it was in favour of the project, a sign that people have continued to believe in the project even during this difficult year of the pandemic. But on November 5, the new project of the “General plan for the city district of Sergiev Posad” was approved, in which no construction of patriarchal buildings is envisaged not only by 2025, but at least until 2040.

The official reason for the cancellation of the patriarchal project has not been disclosed. Certainly the high price of the project does not suit the critical situation of public finances created by the pandemic. Some commentators dare to speculate that President Putin has tired of covering the foreign policy defeats of Patriarch Kirill with state money. In the last two years these defeats include the rupture of relations with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, due to the recognition of the Church. Ukrainian autocephalous.

In fact, the patriarchal project envisaged 13 institutional seats reserved for the various autocephalous Orthodox Churches, starting with that of Constantinople. They would have occupied an area of ​​13,100 square meters. Now, however, in addition to the "primatial" see represented by Bartholomew (Archontonis), the Hellenic Church of Athens has also broken off relations with Moscow, presided over by Archbishop Ieronimos (Liapis), the patriarchate of Alexandria of Egypt of Theodoros (Choreutakis) , and the Church of Cyprus led by Archbishop Chrysostomos II (Englistriotis). It is likely that other Churches will also agree to recognize Metropolitan Epifanyj (Dumenko) of Kiev. In this way, the planned locations in Sergiev Posad would remain largely empty.

Without the representatives of the other Orthodox Churches, the "Muscovite papacy" could not have any credibility, and Kirill will have to wait for more favourable circumstances to proclaim his primacy over Orthodoxy, perhaps with the help of Russian anti-Covid vaccines that will soon be launched on the international market, Putin permitting.

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