Friday, February 11, 2011

You shall not covet anything that belongs to your neighbor.

Despite criticism that it will revisit yet more thorny tangles from Russia’s past, Parliament has passed a law to restore to religious organizations property seized by the state in Soviet times.
Under the law, the federal, regional and municipal authorities have two years to hand over property after a decision is made on a claim by the church, either for rent-free use or in a full transfer of ownership.
While the law addresses religious property generally, it is seen as broadly favouring the Russian Orthodox Church, the largest religious organization in the nation, though all groups had property taken by the Communists.
The new law dictates that government bodies must post all property claims and decisions on Web sites. Claims can be disputed in court and legal challenges are expected. The concept of former church real estate extends not only to buildings that were used for worship, but also to church-run hospitals, schools and residential buildings.
In Kaliningrad, the former German Königsberg that ended up in Soviet hands after World War II, questions of church property are especially complex. The regional legislature voted to transfer more than a dozen former Catholic and Lutheran churches, cathedrals and Teutonic castles to the Russian Orthodox Church, which says Orthodox believers there are underserved.
Moscow’s relations with the Vatican had been improving, but Archbishop Paolo Pezzi, whose diocese oversees Moscow and Kaliningrad, said that the region’s legislators were “profoundly mistaken” in their effort to hand over the neo-Gothic Church of the Holy Family to the Russian Orthodox rather than the Roman Catholic Church. The church is now used by the Kaliningrad Philharmonic.
The debate has reached across borders. After protests from the government of neighboring Lithuania, the Kaliningrad region is reconsidering its decision to include in the transfer list a Lutheran church that is the burial site of Kristijonas Donelaitis, a Lithuanian pastor and poet.
Properties in Kaliningrad region, that handed over, by the local government, to the Russian Orthodox Church for free.
1 Church of the Holy Family,_Kaliningrad
2 Arnau Church ( German cultural organisation paid 320000 Euro to restore that Church)
3 Königin-Luise-Gedächtniskirche
4 Waldau Castle
Neuhausen Castle
Taplacken Castle
Ragnit Castle
Labiau Castle
Gergdauen Castle
Insterburg Castle
And about 15 or so other properties.

My friends and I rallied against the transfer of cathedrals and castles to the Russian Orthodox Church. But usually we did end up in the police stations through the court procedures and fines. We signed up the petition to the president of Russia, local intelligentsia did back us up, but unfortunately local and federal authorities do not wish to hear us.

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