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Patriarch Alexy & Metropolitan Laurus Begin Building New Church

MOSCOW. May 15 (Interfax) - About 10,000 Orthodox Christians gathered for a Divine Liturgy service conducted by Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Alexy II at Moscow's Butovo range early on Saturday.

About 30,000 people, mainly Muscovites, were executed at the Butovo range during the Stalinist era, and about a thousand of them are believed to have suffered at the hands of the Bolsheviks for their loyalty to the Orthodox Church. "The range in Butovo became a symbol of Russia's sufferings, our national Golgotha," the patriarch said following the service, which was also attended by a delegation from the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia led by Metropolitan Laurus, who arrived on his first official visit to Russia Friday. "Here and now, we especially keenly feel the pain of the separation of the Russian people caused by the revolution and the bloody civil war. Here we are regaining confidence that this wound will be healed by the sun of God's truth," he said. Alexy said he hopes the tragic divide in the Russian Orthodox Church will be bridged. Metropolitan Laurus is expected to discuss how to bring the two parts of the Russian Church back together with Patriarch Alexy during his stay in Russia. In 1996, a wooden church was built at the Butovo range to commemorate 20th century Russian martyrs. At the Saturday service, Patriarch Alexy II and Metropolitan Laurus laid a stone in the foundation of a brick church that is to be built at the range. Bishops from the Church Outside Russia and the Moscow Patriarchate also laid several bricks to start the construction, which was seen as a symbol of unified building of the Russian church. After this, Patriarch Alexy II and Metropolitan Laurus exchanged Easter greetings, and foreign priests, who came to Moscow together with the metropolitan on Friday, asked the patriarch for his blessing. The blessing of the stone was to serve as a vivid confirmation of the radical changes that have occurred in Russia and in the Russian Church over the past 15 years. One of the main disagreements between the Church Outside Russia and the Moscow Patriarchate was the latter's loyalty to the atheist Soviet powers. Many of those who gathered at the service on Saturday approached Metropolitan Laurus to kiss his hand and so seek his blessing. The metropolitan himself kissed the holy altar at the Butovo range, which was also seen as recognition of the Russian church in Russia, whose unification still lies ahead.

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