The Russian government has passed a law on the restitution of religious properties to religious organisations. On 30th November, President Dmitry Medvedev took the opportunity to inform the Patriarch Kirill personally inside one of the Kremlin’s chapels.
The law has seen vigorous debate, but the President defended the compromises:
“I believe that the optimal version of the law has been adopted, and it will address many pressing problems facing the Russian Orthodox Church and other confessions without destroying the existing system of handling items of cultural value and other related procedures.”
The Patriarch noted the difficulties and thanked the President for the return of Church property:
“This law testifies that our country is overcoming the effects of the most difficult years; we are restoring justice. Only a state that bases its activities on the principles of justice can have a future because injustice is always a danger both for society and the state.
“You have my heartfelt gratitude. This law is the result of some compromises, and I think that is how it should be. At least all the healthy forces of society will be able to rely on this law when carrying out their activities.
“I am particularly grateful to you for returning property to the Russian Orthodox Church and other religious organisations, which will enable them to exercise their ministry for the good of our nation.”
The law makes way for property which was nationalised after the October Revolution in 1917 to be given back to religious organisations or else for those organisations to be given free use of the buildings. Museums, archives and libraries had questioned the ability of the cash-poor religious organisations to care for works of art held in Churches and temples around the country.
The law was passed unanimously with 122 votes in the Russian Senate.