10/25/2021, 09.31
RUSSIA
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Moscow Catholics want their church back

by Vladimir Rozanskij

They are protesting the sale of the Church of Sts. Peter and Paul. In 2017, the archbishopric won partial restitution of the complex. Curia accused of wanting to sell the adjoining buildings to pay its debts and not i norder to buy the historic place of worship.

 

 

Moscow (AsiaNews) - Muscovite Catholics have posted an open letter  on Facebook addressed to Archbishop Paolo Pezzi and all local church authorities, up to the apostolic nuncio Giovanni D'Aniello, to protest the sale of the Church of Saints Peter and Paul. It is the main historic Catholic church in the capital; the complex of buildings, used by private individuals for commercial activities, had been requested by Catholics since the 1990s, and was finally partially returned in 2017. However, the Moscow curia has put it up for sale for purposes yet to be fully ascertained.

The church of Sts. Peter and Paul is located in the center of Moscow, about a hundred meters from the one dedicated to St. Louis of the French, which was returned to France in 1992 and now hosts celebrations of many communities. With the letter of October 20, local Catholics are asking to be allowed to return to the premises of the historic church, built in the mid 1800s thanks in part to the efforts of holy men such as the German doctor Friedrich Haass, founder of the Russian public hospitals of the modern era,  for whom the beatification process is underway.

The restitution process concerns four buildings, which according to Russian laws must be returned to Catholics. The 2017 decision concerned the secondary parts of the complex, which could be sold to obtain the former church building proper, now privately owned. The local curia had been engaged since 2016 in a civil lawsuit to obtain the right to purchase the main building, which ended on April 2, 2021, giving the church the right to redeem the entire church complex. Since then there has been controversy within the Catholic community, accusing the church authorities of wanting to sell off the buildings regained after so many sacrifices and prayers of all parishioners.

Now a further trial is about to begin involving the Moscow Catholic archbishopric, headed by Msgr. Pezzi, other officials of the curia and the firm hired for the restitution procedure, the agreement with which is contested by the Catholic hierarchy of the capital. In the meantime, parishioners and priests have already been admitted to some of the premises of the historic Moscow church, but the risk is of an internal scandal between the curia and the firms involved in the affair.

The parish administrator, Msgr. Igor Kovalevsky, resigned immediately after the decree of restitution of the buildings, considering his mission concluded. He too published on Facebook his version of events, and his disagreement with the archbishop on the solutions of the affair. In fact, Muscovite Catholics feel abandoned, since the only two churches officially open in Moscow are the one "of the French" and the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception "of the Poles," built in 1914 for the Polish community and immediately closed by the Soviets, then regained with difficulty in the 90s. There are other Catholic communities in Moscow, but without official headquarters, confined to private homes and premises.

The archbishopric has promised to handle the matter with the utmost transparency, but Moscow Catholics now complain of serious lack of information. There is talk of a sale of the lateral rooms of the complex for a sum close to 5 million euros, in order to buy the central building of the church, but with the suspicion that this sum will be used to fill the general debts of the curia, which for years has received little subsidy from abroad. The vicar general, Msgr. Kirill Gorbunov, issued statements defending the intentions of the curia, noting that "more discretion was needed on the matter."

The problem in reality seems to be precisely the lack of information from the archiepiscopal curia, which gives rise to suspicions and very resentful comments from local Catholics, who wish to be involved in decisions on the properties under discussion. The issue concerns the full expression of the "religious renaissance" of Russian Catholics, which began 30 years ago with enthusiasm, and is now confined in enclosures too narrow for the potential of the Catholic community in Moscow, and in Russia as a whole.

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