25 January 2012, 17:17
Orthodox religious center in Bari finally handed over to Russian Church
Moscow, January 25, Interfax - The municipal authorities of Bari, Italy, handed the documents on the transfer of the Orthodox religious center, including St. Nicholas Cathedral, to head of the Moscow Patriarchate Administration for Foreign Institutions Archbishop Mark of Yegoryevsk, in a ceremony attended by Russian Ambassador to Italy Alexey Meshkov and Bari Mayor Michele Emiliano, the Moscow Patriarchate's website reported.
Archbishop Mark conducted a Divine Liturgy service at the St. Nicholas Cathedral and familiarized himself with the progress of the religious center's restoration, proposing a number of measures to advance the beginning of its activities, particularly reception of pilgrims and the organization of exhibitions.
The center, which occupies an area of 8,000 square meters, includes the cathedral and a hospice.
In April 2008, the Italian government finalized all domestic procedures as part of the transfer of the Cathedral to Russia. A document confirming the hand-over was signed in Rome on November 13, 2008.
The religious center was established at the initiative of Grand Duchess Yelizaveta Fyodorovna of Russia to accept Russian pilgrims coming to Bari to worship St. Nicholas. It was built from the design of Russian architect Alexey Shchusev and supported by donations from religious people, including Russian Emperor Nicolas II, in 1913-1917.
The work was not completed because of World War I. Russian emigrants, who were members of the Russian Palestinian Society, passed all church buildings to the municipality of Bari in 1937, because they lacked the funds to maintain the church.
Bari authorities gave some church buildings back to Russia in late 1990s; however, the church remained in control of the municipality.