Sunday, August 07, 2005

Stavropol Judge Recognizes Rights of ROAC to Church in Zheleznovodsk

(Portal-Credo. Ru - Vertograd, Zheleznovodsk (Stavropol area))

On July 22nd, a civil affairs court in the Stavropol region has recognized the right of the parishioners of St. Olga’s Church in Zheleznovodsk to defend their church building, which early in 2005 had been arbitrarily transferred to the Moscow Patriarchate by the mayor’s office in that city.

As explained in an interview with a reporter for Portal-Credo. Ru, the rector of St. Olga’s in Zheleznovodsk, which is under the jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox (Autonomous) Church, Archpriest Roman Novakovsky, and thirty members of the parish, who were directly involved in building the church from 1982 through 1989, had decided to sue the mayor’s office on behalf of the entire parish. However, the Zheleznovodsk court refused to hear the case brought by the “alternative Orthodox,” declaring that the parishioners themselves could have no claim to the property of the church. After this, the community turned to the regional court in Mineral Waters, but there again, the judge simply declined to hear the matter. Only after an appeal was sent to the Stavropol regional court, did the case receive a hearing on its merits.

Fr. Roman Novakovsky further explained that the parishioners, and even the judges themselves, were shocked by the behavior of the city officials in the court of arbitration in Zhelznovodsk. On July 20th, while the court was in session, a letter from the city’s mayor, Anatoly Zubtsov, was read aloud in which he transferred all of his authority concerning the matter against the ROAC parish to the representatives of the Stavropol Diocese of the Moscow Patriarchate. The mayor of Zheleznovodsk announced in the secular court that he has full confidence in Bishop Theophan, and further stated that the MP diocese would be appearing as co-defendants in the suit brought by the “alternative Orthodox.” The judge ordered the MP diocese to present convincing documents showing why the church, built by the parishioners of the ROAC, should be considered property of the MP. Bishop Theophan (Ashurkov) was given until September to respond.