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Russia Wrests Back Ownership of Orthodox Churches in France

Saxon

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The Kremlin has been accused of an “aggressive” campaign to wrest back ownership of a second Russian Orthodox church in Nice.

Worshippers at Saint-Nicolas-and-Saint-Alexandra’s in the southern French city fear they will be turned out for a second time after the Russian Federation asked a French court on Wednesday to declare it the legal owner of the church.

Locals descended from émigrés who fled the 1917 Russian Revolution say they have already lost the use of the local Saint-Nicolas cathedral after a judge declared nine years ago it belonged to Russia.

Saint-Nicolas-and-Alexandra church is believed to be the first Russian Orthodox religious edifice built in western Europe.


In 2014, the Russian Federation demanded a French court expel the local Orthodox Russian Cultural Association (Acor) from the church. Acor described it as an “aggressive strategy by the Russian state aimed at taking possession, by any means, of Orthodox churches built outside Russia before the Bolshevik revolution”.

In 2010, a Nice court gave Acor ownership of the Saint-Nicolas cathedral, built in 1912, and the largest Orthodox place of worship in western Europe. This decision was overturned the following year by the appeal court, which declared that even if the Russian state had not used the building for almost a century, there was no time limit for it to claim legal ownership.

Alexis Obolensky, a retired professor whose family arrived in France from Russia in 1921, and Acor vice-president, said that after losing the cathedral the parish had moved to the Saint-Nicolas-and-Saint-Alexandra church, opened in 1859, which it now also faced losing.

As well as the building, the Russians also obtained a court order to recuperate from the Saint-Nicolas-and-Saint-Alexandra church a bloodied white linen shirt and a blue woollen uniform jacket with gold-thread embroidery said to have belonged to Tsar Alexander II. The tsar was wearing the clothing when he was assassinated in St Petersburg in 1881.

The imperial family had been visiting the city on the Côte d’Azur since the 1850s, making it a popular resort with Russian nobility. Acor and the Russian Federation are also in dispute over ownership of the city’s “Russian cemetery”.

In 2014, Moscow paid for a €20m two-year renovation of the historically listed cathedral.

Obolensky told Le Monde the descendants of Russian émigrés were struggling all over the world – including in Argentina and South Korea – to retain control of religious edifices.
Article continues at source: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2...back-ownership-of-orthodox-churches-in-france
 

Orest

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There is more to this story: it is about the theology of the church: not bout "trauma" s the MP priest seems to think. The old emigre community favour the church governance pattern of the Sobor of 1917 with sobornost.
See this article from last year which also includes that same quote from the MP priest:
For Andrei Eliseev, the archpriest of the now Moscow-run St. Nicolas Cathedral, this row has nothing to do with religion.

“To me it’s largely a dispute about property. Though much can be explained by the psychological trauma related to Russia’s history on the part of the émigrés,” contends the blue-eyed clergyman in almost faultless French. “Many of these people lost their property during the revolution, that’s why they’re so adamant about the estate here. But we’re talking about fourth-generation exiles; it’s as if the trauma is genetic.”

Alexandra Castillon, 77, begs to differ. A teacher of catechism and devoted member of ACOR, she thinks the conflict is all about the church.

“I’m 100 percent opposed to uniting with Moscow because I don’t want to be part of a church that is subservient to the state,” she explains, sitting inside the St. Nicolas and St. Alexandra Church on Rue Longchamp, which is still run by ACOR. “How can you trust a Patriarch that honors the memory of communism? They [the communists] blew up our churches with dynamite! We have no trust in the institution of the Russian Orthodox Church.”

Castillon and the other members of ACOR belong to a local parish that is still under the jurisdiction of the Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.

Also concerning the cozy relationship between the MP and the government see this article
from 2017 explains the special legal position of the MP:

"When Article 148 was amended, I wrote an analysis piece noting that many democratic countries have some sort of law against giving offense to religious believers’ feelings, or blasphemy. But in retrospect, I should have given more attention to a crucial distinction: some of these laws, like Germany’s, are designed to protect religious minorities; Russia’s law, on the other hand, is now clearly being used to protect the majority against criticism from minorities."
 
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