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'Patriarch's palace' is just a spiritual centre, Orthodox Church says

by Andy Potts at 25/02/2011 13:04

 

A so-called palace on the Black Sea coast is indeed the work of the Russian Orthodox Church – but the building should not be branded a pleasant retreat for the patriarch.

The shoreline in the popular resort region has come under fierce online scrutiny following US reports in December – swiftly denied – that Vladimir Putin was building himself a palatial residence there.

Initially a spokesman for Patriarch Kirill of Russia denied claims that the church’s leader was planning something similar for himself.

But on Thursday the church’s official press service admitted that it was behind the imposing seaside structure – only to insist that it was a “spiritual centre” rather than any private residence.

 

No public costs

Vladimir Legoyda, chairman of the church’s Synodal Information Office, told gzt.ru that the Moscow patriarchy was paying all the costs of the development, helped by donations.

And, hitting back at local environmental campaigners from “Open Shore”, he said it would not stop people enjoying the local beaches.

“There are no secrets and mysteries,” Legoyda said of the building, which has been under construction for about five years. “That place will have a church-based spiritual centre for our administrative functions.

“I emphasise that this is just a church and admin centre. There are similar centres in Moscow and St. Petersburg.”

 

Eco-anger

The Open Shore group had earlier protested the building on its website, complaining that developers had chopped down hundreds of trees.

In a document called “How to steal a resort” activists posted a long account of the environmental war they claim is being waged on the Gelendzhik Region’s natural charms.

And they pointed the finger at the rich and powerful for over-riding legal restraints and blocking off centuries-old routes through forests and beaches.

But Legoyda denied any wrong-doing on behalf of the church.

“For us, ecological and environmental issues are very important,” he said. “The Federal Environmental Service checked this, and we have all the documents to prove that we did not cut down any trees.”

He added that church’s centre is 60 metres above sea level and thus cannot interfere with access to the coast.

 

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