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200 new Orthodox churches in Moscow causes public stir

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  • Bill Samsonoff
    http://rbth.ru/society/2013/03/26/200_new_orthodox_churches_in_moscow_causes_public_stir_24285.html 200 new Orthodox churches in Moscow causes public stir
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 26, 2013

      200 new Orthodox churches in Moscow causes public stir
      March 26, 2013 Anna Vasilieva, Kommersant-Dengi

      The Russian Orthodox Church is going full-speed ahead with its plan to
      build 200 new churches in Moscow, despite complaints from non-believers
      and members of other religious groups.

      As part of the 200 Churches Program approved by the Russian Orthodox
      Church two years ago, eight new churches have already been built in five
      districts of Moscow. Thirteen more are under construction, and the
      documentation for a future 36 churches has been completed.

      Patriarch Kirill announced in the summer of 2010 that the Russian
      Orthodox Church would need to build at least 200 new churches. He based
      his argument on the numbers: If, in Russia overall, there is one church
      for every 11,000--13,000 residents, then, in Moscow, (where there are
      only 650 churches and chapels) every place of worship must accommodate
      two or three times as many people.

      Many see the realization of the 200 Churches Program as the ideological
      expansion of the Russian Orthodox Church; even some Orthodox believers
      are disturbed by it.

      Most disgruntled of all by this program are people who live in the
      districts where the new churches are being built or will be built. In
      principle, they are not against this sort of construction, but they say
      that more thought should be put into choosing the sites --- parks and
      squares should be left untouched.

      Meanwhile, many Muscovites cannot understand why new Orthodox churches
      have to be built at all. They say that the churches near them are
      largely deserted, even during important Orthodox holidays. In their
      opinion, it would be far more logical for the Russian Orthodox Church to
      spend its money on shelters for the homeless.

      The Russian Orthodox Church insists that the program's naysayers are a
      small minority. Philip Gril, leader of a movement that supports building
      new Orthodox churches, noted that "under Soviet rule, some 1,000
      churches in Moscow were destroyed; so today's construction of 200 new
      churches is a partial restitution of debts to the Church."

      The trickiest aspect of implementing the 200 Churches Program is the
      privileged position that municipal authorities have accorded the
      interests of the Orthodox Church. Despite statements to the effect that
      Moscow is a multi-denominational city, other religious groups have few
      churches of their own. The Catholic Church has two churches and 12
      parishes. The Jewish faith has five synagogues; Muslims have four
      mosques and Lutherans have three churches.

      Experts agree that the question of building new mosques is most pressing
      of all. Some 2 million Muslims live in Moscow. Last year, the United
      Center of Muslim Organizations in Russia finally received permission to
      build a new mosque. However, residents of the district in which the
      construction was planned came out against the project and it was dropped.

      Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin believes that "two-thirds of the Muslims
      who go to the city's mosques have no registration papers, therefore, it
      is not yet a fact that Moscow needs to build more mosques."

      The Moscow population mostly approves of such conclusions. Experts, on
      the other hand, say that the numbers of Muslims in Moscow will not
      diminish due to the lack of mosques. Meanwhile, relations between the
      different nationalities are becoming worse and worse with every passing

      "Muscovites have become hostages to their phobias with respect to
      Muslims," said Abdul-Vakhed Niyazov, president of the Islamic Cultural
      Center of Russia, in response to an earlier, unsuccessful bid to build a
      mosque in the Moscow district of Mitino.

      Other religious groups are also dissatisfied. The Federation of Jewish
      Communities of Russia has informed the municipal authorities many times
      of the need to build several more synagogues in addition to the existing
      five. No new synagogues are being built, even though Russian President
      Vladimir Putin opened the world's largest museum of Jewish history in 2012.

      Small religious sects, too, have their complaints. Krishna worshippers,
      for example, have been trying for almost a decade to replace the loss of
      the building which, since 1991, had been their only temple in Moscow. It
      was razed in 2004. Despite the active support of foreign politicians and
      cultural leaders, construction of a new Krishna temple has yet to begin.

      As for the construction of Orthodox churches, residents' protests have
      not gone entirely unheard. So far, at 19 hearings concerning the 200
      Churches Program, the protesters have managed to win negative decisions.
      Meanwhile, the municipal authorities have given the Russian Orthodox
      Church twice as many new sites from which to choose.

      /The article is abridged and first published in Russian in
      Kommersant-Dengi magazine <http://www.kommersant.ru/doc/2140608>. /

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