Giant Russia church planned near czar’s murder site
A well-known Russian priest is planning to build the world’s largest Orthodox church near the site where Russia’s last czar and his family were executed.
St Sophia Church is due to have a capacity of 37,000 worshippers with work due to begin this year in Sverdlovsk region.
The mysterious Father Sergei is behind the scheme. The priest acts as a confessor to politicians and celebrities. The 64-year-old former police officer served 13 years in a penal colony, according to the Znak website. He was reportedly released in 1997 after serving his term for crimes, which allegedly included murder.
The world’s biggest Orthodox church is currently the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Tbilisi, Georgia, with a 15,000 capacity.
Sergei provides spiritual guidance to Natalia Poklonskaya, an-ex law enforcement chief in Crimea. She is now an MP with President Vladimir Putin’s ruling United Russia party.
Pavel Datsyuk, one of Russia’s best-known ice hockey players, is also purportedly a member of the priest’s followers.
Sergei is seen as the informal head of Russian royalists. His followers often carry religious icons picturing Czar Nicholas II.
St Sophia is due to be approximately 25km from the Yekaterinburg site where the royal family were murdered by the Bolsheviks in 1918.
Chinese investment is allegedly being channelled into the project with large numbers of pilgrims from China expected to be baptised at the church.
The Russian Orthodox Church is seeing a construction boom under the nationalist government of President Vladimir Putin.
In 2019 Patriarch Kirill, the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, said three churches were being built each day in Russia.
The Russian government purportedly allocated 2.8 billion roubles (US$40 million) for recent renovations to Kirill’s official home near St Petersburg.
Jehovah’s Witness condemnation
The Jehovah’s Witnesses headquarters has condemned a Russian court’s suspended conviction of a church member under anti-extremism laws.
“We are not surprised that Russia has convicted yet another one of Jehovah’s Witnesses for peacefully practising his Christian beliefs,” said spokesman Paul Gillies. “Gregory is the first Witness convicted in Russia in 2020, but we anticipate the number of convictions to exponentially increase this year.”
Grigoriy Bubnov, 54, received a six-year suspended sentence this week in Volno-Nadezhdinskoye in eastern Russia near the North Korean border, according to the religious group. Bubnov was labelled as an extremist.
The Russian Orthodox Church has long targeted Jehovah’s Witnesses as a dangerous foreign cult looking to undermine the government and Russian values.
Eighteen Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia were fined or jailed during 2019. Nearly 800 raids on Jehovah’s Witnesses have been reported since 2017.
“Russia has shown no signs of slowing down despite repeated criticism from prominent international bodies and human rights advocates,” Gillies said. He said church members had “resolutely held to their religious convictions” during the Soviet Union’s persecution.
Sverdlovsk. Picture credit: Wikimedia