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Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Russia may return churches seized in 1917

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The Russian government wants to return property seized from the Orthodox church more than 90 years ago, an official says.

While a bill being written by the Economics Ministry would apply to all religious property, the Russian Orthodox Church, the country’s dominant religion for centuries, is expected to be the major beneficiary, RIA Novosti reported.

The ministry has been working on the legislation since 2000. But Andrei Sebentsov, secretary of the commission on religious organizations, said a meeting Wednesday made considerable progress on the bill.

“We agreed to remove all weak points in it by February,” he said.

Religious groups now use facilities owned by the government free of charge. The Economics Ministry sees their return to the church as a cost-saving measure.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, about 100 of the 16,000 Orthodox churches and cathedrals seized after the 1917 revolution have been returned. About 4,000 mosques and 70 synagogues would also be returned.

The bill would not apply to St. Basil’s Cathedral on Red Square in Moscow and other facilities listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites.

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