02/13/2014, 00.00
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'Russian Palestine,' Moscow's plan for a Holy Land near home

Prompted by the Moscow Patriarchate, Russia's Culture Ministry wants to develop a tourist cluster near the New Jerusalem Monastery in Istra. For Patriarch Kirill, the new hub will, among other things, draw "people who are interested not so much in church life, but in architecture and in visits to the Russian Palestine".

Moscow (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Russia's Culture Ministry has set up an organising committee to develop 'Russian Palestine,' a tourist cluster near the New Jerusalem Monastery, in Istra, some 60 km from Moscow, Interfax reports.

New Jerusalem is one of the most important centres for Orthodox spirituality. Commissioned by then Patriarch Nikon in the 17th century, the monastery served not only as the residence of the Orthodox primate, but also as a spiritual hub for Russian Christianity.

The patriarch gave orders to the builders to seek their inspiration in Jerusalem; hence the monastery's name. Its main building is the Cathedral of the Resurrection, similar to the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem.

Closed down during the Soviet period, heavily damaged by the Nazi invasion, the monastery was restored through Russian government funds in 2009.

The government and the Moscow Patriarchate want to turn the area near the monastery into a complex for religious tourism.

"The project is aimed at creating a unified pilgrim, tourist and social infrastructure," the Ministry's press service said.

The organising committee chaired by Deputy Culture Minister Alla Manilova discussed the matter in a recent meeting with the aim of building a tourist complex near the New Jerusalem Monastery in Istra, Moscow Region, as part of the Russian Federation tourism development plan for 2011-2018.

Back in November, Moscow Patriarch Kirill had already suggested that more facilities should be built around the monastery with the Holy Land as their theme.

For the patriarch, it would "wonderful if the visitors' program includes not only visits to churches and participation in divine services and visits to restored sites, but also sights for people who are interested not so much in church life, but in architecture and in visits to the Russian Palestine."

At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, the term 'Russian Palestine' referred to the scores of churches, hostels, monasteries, schools and hospitals built by the Russians in the Holy Land for both pilgrims and Arab residents.

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