2017-02-20 10:54:00

Russian Church accuses opponents of St. Isaac's Cathedral handover of attempting to "rock the boat"

Moscow, February 20, Interfax - The head of the Synodal Department for External Church Relations, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, drew a parallel between protests against handover to the Church of the St. Isaac's Cathedral in St. Petersburg and Russian revolutions.

"What we see now is how, once again, attempts are being made to rock our boat, using most ordinary and insignificant incidents. For instance, this ongoing polemic around the St. Isaac's Cathedral. One would think, what is there to talk about? Yet another cathedral being given back to the Church. Why make it such a global scandal? Because there are people who want to rock the boat," the metropolitan said, speaking of the lessons of the revolution, on the Church and the World program on the Rossiya-24 TV channel.

These people "are playing their liberal song, like a barrel organ, to show that everything is bad in our country, that we have clericalization going on, that the Church is seizing all positions," he said.

"But, excuse me, was it not the same thing 100 years ago? Didn't Comrade Lenin send in the same proclamations to us from Switzerland? And let's see how all this ended," the hierarch said.

"We must not let anyone rock our country from within and encroach on our traditional Christian religious values, because such an encroachment risks turning into a tragedy for the entire country and the entire nation," he said.

The Church representative urged to appreciate the peace and accord "that many generations of our ancestors had worked so hard to achieve," adding that "we must not let anyone encroach on our fundamental values."

In January the government of St. Petersburg announced the decision to hand over the St. Isaac's Cathedral to the Russian Orthodox Church for a 49-year free use, while retaining the cathedral's museum and educational role. The St. Icaac's building will remain a property of the city.

Opponents of the handover tried to challenge the decision but had their lawsuits rejected. An online petition gathered over 200,000 signatures. Several protests were held in St. Petersburg.

On February 17, a high-ranking federal official, who spoke on conditions of anonymity, said that a consensus on this issue was being reached, provided the cathedral is used jointly by the secular authorities and the Church, with one option involving it continuing to operate as a museum and retaining the staff.

The Moscow Patriarchate declined to comment on the idea. "We not prepared yet to discuss a proposal made by an anonymous source," the Patriarchate's chief lawyer Hegumenia Ksenia (Chernega) told Interfax-Religion.