18 January 2021, 18:59
Stepashin asks Israeli govt to protect Alexander Metochion in Jerusalem
Moscow, January 18, Interfax - Head of the Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society Sergey Stepashin has called on the Israeli authorities to take the Alexander Metochion in Jerusalem under their protection after it was attacked by a representative of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR).
"On January 13, priest Roman Gultyayev, a ROCOR cleric in Israel, showed up at the Alexander Methochion of his own will, began blackmailing the nuns, broke the lock at the Alexander Nevsky church, and stormed inside, intimidating people" before being led away by police, Stepashin told Interfax on Monday.
This incident is unprecedented, given the enormous historical significance of the metochion, as well as the fact that nothing of the sort has happened since the reunion of Russian Church in Russia and abroad in May 2007, he said.
One likely cause is the January 7 ruling by a regional court in Jerusalem, rejecting the ROCOR mission's appeal against the decision to register the methochion as property of the Russian state, not that of ROCOR as it wanted, Stepashin said.
"We ask Israel to take this site under its protection, given that all legal proceedings are actively ongoing and we expect the methochion to be finally registered as Russia's soon," Stepashin said, noting the methochion was never property of either of the churches.
Russia's Patriarch Kirill has been informed of the incident, and the Foreign Ministry is writing a note addressed to the government of Israel, Stepashin said.
The Alexander Metochion is situated in the Old Town of Jerusalem, in close proximity to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. It is an archeological and architectural compound standing on land bought by Emperor Alexander III of Russia in 1859. The compound was built by the Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society in 1896.
Controversy surrounding its ownership began after the revolution of 1917. In 1918, the head of the society, Prince Alexey Shirinsky-Shikhmatov, fled Russia, as most of the society's members did at that time. Shirinsky-Shikhmatov arrived in Berlin, and the society resumed operating there. At present, the compound is managed by a society led by German citizen Nikolay Worontsow-Hoffmann.
At present, two different organizations of the same name, Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society, exist separately in Russia and Germany. In 1992, the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Russian Federation approved a resolution on "the restoration of the historical name of the Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society." The Justice Ministry then recognized it as a successor to the Soviet Palestine Society and the historical society.
The Russian society is headed by Stepashin, a former head of the Accounts Chamber. Stepashin's organization is contesting the ownership of the metochion.
Currently, the metochion is occupied by Worontsow-Hofmann's organization registered in Munich. According to Worontsow-Hoffmann, before they left Palestine in 1948, the British authorities confirmed the society's right to all related property in the Holy Land.