2006-03-31 16:38:00

The first Russian Orthodox church to be built in Rome crowned with a cupola and a cross

Rome, March 31, Interfax - The cross and cupola of the Russian Orthodox church under construction in Rome have been consecrated and elevated on Friday in the Italian capital city. The church is dedicated to the Holy Protomartyr Catherine.

The solemn ceremony was led by Bishop Mark of Yegoryevsk, vice-chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations. Present at the ceremony was Russian Ambassador to Italy Aleksey Meshkov.

Addressing the congregation, the bishop described the event as historic. ‘The Russian church stands near St. Peter’s, and this symbolizes the common witness of the Orthodox and Catholic Churches before the challenges of our time, as our Churches through their temples in the Eternal City assert the eternal values of Christianity,’ Bishop Mark said in an interview to Interfax.

He also pointed to the fact that the cross was elevated to the cupola of the Russian church at the end of the Week of the Adoration of the Cross. ‘In every Orthodox church today, the cross is taken away to the sanctuary, while here it is elevated!’ he noted.

The need to build a first ever Orthodox church in the Eternal City, where many suffered martyrdom, was dictated first of all by the strength of the Russian Orthodox flock in Rome.

The church is being built on the Janiculum in the immediate vicinity of St. Peter’s. St. Catherine, to whom the church is dedicated, is equally venerated by the Orthodox and the Catholics.

An attempt to build an Orthodox church in Rome was made as far back as the late 19th-early 20th century on the initiative of the rector of the Russian embassy church and with the support of the imperial family. But at that time this plan was prevented from execution by the 1917 Revolution.

At the turn of the century, the idea of the construction of a church was put forward by the Orthodox public and was blessed by Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia.