Head of Russian Orthodox Church personally arranged transfer of St. Isaac’s Cathedral with Putin
The decision to give St. Petersburg’s St. Isaac’s Cathedral to the Russian Orthodox Church was made after Patriarch Kirill personally made such a request to Russian President Vladimir Putin, reported media outlet RBK on Thursday, citing several sources close to the Russian Orthodox Church and the Kremlin.
According to one of the sources, the president gave his consent back in December 2016, but high-ranking Kremlin officials, including first deputy head of the presidential administration Sergei Kiriyenko, remained uninformed.
In February, several media outlets cited a source in the Kremlin who claimed that St. Petersburg’s municipal authorities had played no role in President’s decision to transfer St. Isaac Cathedral to the Russian Orthodox Church. At the same time, sources in St. Petersburg’s museum circles and municipal administration claimed the regional governor Georgy Poltavchenko had himself decided to transfer the St. Isaac’s Cathedral to the Church after yet another personal meeting with Patriarch Kirill in December.
After the transfer of Isaac’s Cathedral is complete, all key decisions for the house of worship will be made by the Patriarch, though the local diocese will remain involved in managing the estate, said head of the legal department of the Moscow Patriarchate Mother Superior Xenia in an interview with RBK.
St. Petersburg’s administration initiated the transfer of St. Isaac’s Cathedral in December 2016, but the decision was publicly announced only in January 2017. The Russian Orthodox Church is expected to receive the cathedral for gratuitous use for a period of 49 years.
Russia’s Ministry of Culture, members of the museum and scientific community, as well as many residents of St. Petersburg have spoken out against the transfer of the cathedral, which contains a museum, and several mass protests have already taken place.
The city of St. Petersburg may hold a referendum on the cathedral’s fate, but any such vote would need to be approved by St. Petersburg’s legislative assembly, which has yet to review the issue. Preliminary data suggests that local officials will vote against a referendum.