08 April 2020, 18:48
Russia to seek return of Alexander Metochion in Jerusalem in court - Stepashin
Moscow, April 8, Interfax - The temporary ban on giving Russia the rights to the Alexander Metochion, which was imposed by the Jerusalem District Court, will not affect Russia's plans to make the metochion its property again, head of the Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society (IOPS) Sergey Stepashin said.
"There is a position of Russia, there is an agreement between the top officials of the states, but unfortunately, they have not heard us yet. Therefore, we are starting litigation. Let's see how independent and just the court of the state of Israel is," Stepashin told Interfax on Wednesday.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has discussed the issue of transferring the metochion to Russia with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu more than once, and it happened again before the Russian president's visit in January, he said. "The government of Israel promised to get to the bottom of the situation, but they're still working on it," Stepashin said.
According to his information, the issue was recently addressed in a conversation between Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Chernyshenko and Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Zeev Elkin.
The Alexander Metochion was once purchased by Emperor Alexander II, and it belonged to the historical IOPS, Stepashin said. "Why is this metochion valuable? Besides the fact that it really is a worshipful place, there is also a house church there; it is also the threshold of the Judgment Gate, a place through which Jesus was led to the Calvary. One could probably say that it is the third most important holy place of the entire Christian, not just Orthodox, world," he said.
Several years ago, the IOPS collected and filed with the Israeli Justice Ministry the documents necessary for registering the Alexander Metochion as Russia's property. The documents were expected to be issued on March 1.
"They once took over the entire metochion after the Khrushchev deal [the so-called orange deal, in which the Soviet government sold Russia's historical property in the Holy Land to Israel], a person called Worontsow-Hoffmann, the man who registered the Orthodox Palestinian Society in Munich. I wonder why Munich represents Russian Orthodoxy. Our American friends have also joined in; there is a new society there, too, a Palestinian Orthodox [society] has been registered in New York," Stepashin said.
Not long before Russia's registration of the metochion, they filed a lawsuit seeking the reversal of the registration, he said. "In actual fact, I can say as a professional lawyer that there is no subject for trial there, because we haven't taken any actions, but we've asked the Israeli Justice Ministry to review our documents and make a decision. It's most likely that the lawsuit was filed by Mr. Worontsow-Hoffmann and the company against the Israeli Justice Ministry. It will be interesting to see how it will all end, bearing in mind that there are no documents confirming that they own this property, despite the fact that they have been the masters there for 90 years," Stepashin said.