2006-05-18 13:10:00

The first Orthodox church to be blessed in Rome

Moscow, May 18, Interfax - The first Orthodox church in the capital of Italy will be solemnly blessed on Friday, May 19.

The head of the Moscow Patriarchate department for external church relations Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad currently on a visit in Rome will perform the Office of the Lesser Blessing of the church. An official delegation of the Moscow government headed by Mayor Yury Luzhkov will take part in the ceremony. The choir of the Moscow Sretensky monastery is expected to sing.

The Russian orthodox church of St. Catherine the Great Martyr was built at the Russian Embassy in Italy on the Gianiculum Hill not far from the St. Peterís Basilica. The construction was licensed in June 2002 with the Embassyís assistance, and the works began in summer 2003. The cross and the domes were blessed and installed later in March 2006.

The necessity of the construction of the first Orthodox church in the Eternal City where many martyrs had shed their blood is explained by the presence of numerous Russian orthodox believers in Rome.

The idea to build an Orthodox church in the capital of Italy first appeared in the 19th century, but the Revolution impeded the project.

The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs took the initiative in constructing the church in the early 1990s. Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russian blessed the initiative. A special foundation for the construction of the church headed by Metropolitan Kirill was set up in May 2004.

Both the Orthodox and the Catholics worship St. Catherine to whom the church is dedicated.