воскресенье, 1 марта 2009 г.

Italian president presents symbolic key to Bari compound to Medvedev

BARI (Italy), March 1 (Itar-Tass) -- Italian President Giorgio Napolitano presented a symbolic key to the Russian Orthodox Church’s Bari compound to President Dmitry Medvedev on Sunday. Bari residents welcomed the chiefs of state with songs and applause.

“This is a token of friendship between our peoples and our countries. This is also a symbol of the historical dialog between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church. This is a symbol of our determination to work for the sake of peace and mutual understanding, which will prevent intolerance and fundamentalism that endanger gains of the civilized world,” Napolitano said.

“We are witnessing a historic event,” Medvedev replied. “The Orthodox compound built by our fellow citizens in Italy nearly one hundred years ago is returning to Russia. Everyone who understands the moral significance of this event is overfilled with joy and sincere feelings.”

Medvedev cordially thanked everyone “who had promoted the event with their labor and will.” He addressed special thanks to Napolitano and the Italian government, Bari citizens and everyone who took care of the compound in the 1930s – years of ordeal in Russia. “They preserved the unique monument of Russian culture and architecture and thus offered an example of special attitude to our people,” he said.

Late Patriarch Alexy II and incumbent Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia Kirill also promoted the event, Medvedev said.

“The significance of the transfer of this priceless historical monument is equally large for citizens of Russia and Italy, as it confirms the profound relationship between our peoples and cultures,” he said.

The 100th anniversary of the compound will be celebrated in 2017. “These celebrations should become an illustrious example of common moral and humanist values of Russia and Italy,” Medvedev said.

He voiced hope that the importance of the compound – a major center of Russian Orthodoxy on the Italian land – would continue to grow. “The initiative of holding the Year of the Italian Language and Culture in Russia and the Year of the Russian Language and Culture in Italy in 2011 aims at active humanitarian contacts,” he said.

In the words of Medvedev, Napolitano and he had just reached an agreement to develop the tradition of “diverse and trustful interstate relations in the interests of further growth of Russian-Italian strategic partnership.”

Patriarch Kirill expressed his gratitude to Russian and Italian authorities for the return of the Bari compound to the Russian Orthodox Church. Acting head of the Moscow Patriarchate’s External Church Relations Department Bishop Mark of Yegoryevsk read out the patriarchal message at the ceremony.

“We should call fair today’s transfer of the compound, as the Russian Church is regaining the property built with believers’ money and lost in the years of persecution. I regard this transfer as a symbol of historical continuity of Russian authorities’ care for the moral fundamentals of our life,” the message runs.

The Patriarch also thanked the Bari Catholic community and the Dominican Order “for their invariable hospitality offered to the pilgrims and assistance to the reopening of the Moscow Patriarchate’s compound.”

The ceremony was initially planned for last December but Medvedev delayed his visit because of the death of Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia Alexy II.

The Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society decided to build the compound in the end of the 19th century as Orthodox pilgrims had encountered accommodation problems in Bari, and the land lot was purchased in February 1911. The compound was built in 1913-1918 with donations of the flock and with support of Grand Duchess Elizabeth and Emperor Nicholas II. It included the St. Nicholas Church, the St. Spyridon Church, a house for pilgrims and cleric quarters. Architect Alexei Shchusev designed the place.

The compound was neglected after the Bolshevik Revolution 1917 and the subsequent Civil War, and few inhabitants had no money to maintain the compound properly. Pilgrimage stopped, and Prince Zhevakhov, who had been in charge of the compound since 1920, made an illegal deal and reassigned the place to the Bari authorities in 1937. The compound stopped being property of the Russian Orthodox Church but was taken under jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR).

Bearing in mind the increased pilgrimage to Bari, the Russian Orthodox Church requested the Bari administration to return the 8,000 square meter compound to the Moscow Patriarchate in the middle of the 1990s.

Church representatives and the Bari mayor signed an agreement on the permanent use of the St. Nicholas Church and the house for pilgrims by the Moscow Patriarchate on November 23, 1998. The agreement on the compound’s transfer to the Russian Orthodox Church was reached during an Italian visit of then Russian President Vladimir Putin in March 2007.

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