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If all goes as planned, a golden-domed Russian Orthodox Church will flank the Seine River two years from now, a glittering symbol of Moscow’s growing spiritual and political presence abroad. Photo courtesy of www.egliserusse.eu


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PARIS (RNS) If all goes as planned, a golden-domed Russian Orthodox Church will flank the Seine River two years from now, a glittering symbol of Moscow’s growing spiritual and political presence abroad.

Construction is expected to begin shortly on the complex, which will include a primary school and a cultural center. For the Moscow Patriarchate, it represents the latest in a string of high-profile buildings erected in such places as Spain, Thailand and Dubai that burnish not only the church’s image but that of the Russian government, which picks up the construction costs.

“The Russian church culture is the culture of Russia,” said Stephen Headley, an American-born Russian Orthodox priest in France and author of “Christ After Communism,” which examines Orthodoxy in post-Soviet Russia. “The ideology of separation of church and state was never strong.”

In France, home to tens of thousands of Russian Orthodox — there are no precise figures — the Moscow Patriarchate has retaken possession of a century-old church in Nice. In 2009, it also opened its first seminary in Western Europe, outside Paris.

A view of the Seine River in Paris.

A view of the Seine River in Paris. Photo courtesy of Daniel Julie via Flickr


This image is available for Web publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

But this latest project, proposed next to the Eiffel Tower, has faced political and aesthetic roadblocks since it was first floated in 2007. France’s former president, Nicolas Sarkozy, embraced the idea. But the mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoe, judged the church’s initial design “mediocre.”  The newest plans, drawn up by renowned French architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte, appear to have passed muster.

It will not be the first church catering to Russian Orthodox. Across the Seine lies the 19th-century Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, once a hub for the Russian diaspora in France that fled the 1917 Bolshevik revolution. That church falls under the spiritual leadership of the Patriarch of Constantinople, underscoring old divisions that have never healed.

Most Orthodox in France have little interest in ecumenical battles, Headley said. “People don’t go to church on the basis of the ethnicity, they go to church because they like it, it’s nearby.”

The common denominator, he said, is the church’s conservative stances on issues such as abortion and gay marriage — stances that run counter to the social mores and laws of this staunchly secular country but respond to traditions that some are yearning for.

YS/MG END BRYANT

4 Comments

  1. Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    Interesting note at the end of the story about how traditional in morality the Russian Orthodox is and how that Church is growing, In fact the fastest growing religious groups around the world are those which want nothing to do with the moral decay of Western nations and culture. But you would never know it from reading the American media which keeps screaming that the Catholic Church and Evangelicals must obey media orders or die.
    But, in reality it is the Western “modernizers” of morality who are embracing a death wish (abortion) and dead-end worship of sterility (gay “marriage”) who are in a death spiral.

  2. Peter Maydanis

    Cannot comment on the interneciine struggle between the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and the Pariarch of Moscow, but the Choir at the Russian Cathedral of Alexander Nevsky used to be the greatest thing going in liturgical music when I live there in 1955-56. If their music did not move one, then the only answer is that person was unmovable.

    If you are in Paris, or are going anytime soon, check it out. You will not regret it even if Director Spasky may not be there any more.

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