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Russian Church views transfer of St Isaac's cathedral as re-establishing justice

January 27, 2017, 2:13 UTC+3 MOSCOW

The cathedral’s compound is owned by the city authorities and is on the list of UNESCO world heritage sites

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St Petersburg's iconic Cathedral of St Isaac

St Petersburg's iconic Cathedral of St Isaac

© Alexander Demyanchuik/TASS

MOSCOW, January 27. /TASS/. Russian Orthodox Church officials believe transfer of St Petersburg's majestic Cathedral of St Isaac to it will mean re-establishment of historical justice, Alexander Shchipkov, first deputy chairman of Moscow Patriarchate's department for communications between the Church and society said on Thursday at a roundtable in the State Duma.

"Beside the purely legal aspect of the situation, which presupposes compliance with the 2010 federal law on transfer of properties destined for religious purposes from government ownership to religious organizations, the case in hand is re-establishment of historical justice and a transfer of the crucial religious site in St Petersburg to believers," Shchipkov said.

The city government of St Petersburg said earlier this month Governor Georgy Poltavchenko had reached agreement with the Russian Orthodox metropolitan diocese of St Petersburg and Ladoga on December 30, 2016, on the transfer of the St Isaac’s to the administrative realm of the Church for a period of 49 years.

The cathedral’s compound is owned by the city authorities but it enjoys protection of the federal agencies of state power and UNESCO placed it in 1986 on the list of world heritage sites.

The decision caused a highly mixed public reaction. A signup campaign is underway at present to launch a petition for its revoking. Also, deputies of the city legislature have filed a query for it with the federal prosecutorial agencies and have warned of possible lawsuits.

The cathedral designed that was consecrated in the name of St Isaac of Dalmatia took forty years to build - from 1818 through to 1958. Because of impressive costs of its maintenance, it belonged to the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Imperial Russia before the revolution of 1917.

The Bolshevik authorities turned it into a museum in 1928. Church services on special occasions resumed there in 1990 and became daily ones over time.

Museum officials say liturgies in the St Isaac’s including the major Christmas service and the special remembrance services for the victims the Russian A-321 jet crash over the Sinai Peninsula had an attendance of about 18,000 people in 2016.

At the same time, about 3.9 million tourists visited the cathedral.

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