Italy begins procedures to hand Bari Orthodox church to Russia

ROME, April 17 (RIA Novosti) - Italy has launched procedures to return the St. Nicolas Orthodox church, in the southern city of Bari, back to Russia, a source in the Russian embassy in the country said Friday.

On Thursday the city council of Bari unanimously voted to hand the 100-year-old church to the Italian government so that it can subsequently become Russian property.

The agreement was reached during President Vladimir Putin's visit to Italy in March 2007.

A century ago Grand Princess Elizaveta Fyodorovna first raised the idea of building the church in Bari, the burial place of St. Nicolas, one of the most revered Orthodox saints.

The construction of the complex, which was built with charitable donations, was suspended due to World War I and the Russian Revolution in 1917.

In 1937 the church buildings and the land were handed to Bari's municipal authorities.