Russia to take ownership of Orthodox church in Rome

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin ordered the Foreign Ministry to carry through formalities for the Russian state to take ownership of a Russian Orthodox church compound that is under construction in Rome and to hand the compound over to the Moscow Patriarchate for unpaid use, the government said.

The history of the St. Catherine church compound goes back to the 19th century, when a proposal was put forward for building an Orthodox church in the Italian capital.

After the Italian authorities gave permission for the project and a land plot was bought for the future church, last Russian tsar Nicholas II ordered in 1913 that donations be collected throughout Russia for building the church.

However, the 1917 Bolshevik revolution thwarted the plan.

In the 1990s, the Russian Foreign Ministry came up with an initiative to revive it. The idea received the blessing of then head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Alexy II.

May 2004 saw the emergence of a fund for building the compound.

The fund was headed by the present head of Russian Church, Patriarch Kirill, who then was Metropolitan of Smolensk and Kaliningrad and headed the Department for External Church Relations.

The fund's members included ballet dancers Andris and Ilze Liyepa, soccer player Andrey Shevchenko, President of Vneshtorgbank (the present VTB) Andrey Kostin and Russian Ambassador to Italy Alexey Meshkov.

In December 2007, Metropolitan Kirill consecrated one of the churches on the compound, the church of St. Constantine and St. Helen.

Source: Interfax religion