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Disgrace in Old Jerusalem, Hope in New Jerusalem

Last Sunday the world was shocked to see so-called ‘Christian’ clergy fighting one another at the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. Interestingly, these nationalist functionaries dressed in cassocks were foreigners, probably sent to the Holy Land by their national Foreign Ministries as colonists to look after real estate. The local people, the Palestinian Orthodox, are forgotten.

However, after this disgrace in Old Jerusalem, we have received some good news from New Jerusalem. This is the seventeenth century complex of buildings and holy places to the west of Moscow, which are exactly modelled on the holy places in and around Jerusalem. This New Jerusalem complex was the child of the great Patriarch Nikon and building there was begun in 1658. It was intended to become the international centre of the whole Orthodox Church, far from the ravages of Islam and the Vatican alike. Rejected by the westerniser Peter I, New Jerusalem was closed by the atheists in 1919 and then seriously damaged in the German occupation of 1941. Only in 1994 were the first buildings returned to the Church for monastic use.

At last it has been announced that the vast complex is to be restored in its totality over the next five to seven years, at a cost of between 13 and 20 billion roubles (between £260 and £400 million). Patriarch Alexis II and President Dimitry Medvedev, who are behind the project, visited the complex on 22 October this year. The President said that although the churches in the complex were in a very poor state, in restoring them, the Russian people ‘are returning to their roots and their moral values’. ‘Without these, none of the great challenges faced by the State in Russia today can be met’. At the same meeting, Patriarch Alexis II made the following statement: ‘The time has come to restore New Jerusalem…contemporary Russia must make its contribution to this treasure-house of World Orthodoxy’.

This move is of great significance, for it means that Russia is now turning its back on the temptations of both triumphalist chauvinism and obscurantist ritualism and also Western consumerism and self-indulgence. All these movements have been promoted in post-Communist Russia by those who simply want to make the Church into a nationalist ideology, to replace the old bankrupt Communist ideology, which had been imported from the West in 1917. The restoration of the New Jerusalem means that the Russian Church is now returning to its destiny on the international stage, to what it has been called to become ever since 1453, the centre of unity of World Orthodoxy.

Archpriest Andrew

29 October/11 November
St Anastasia the Roman

(See the English translation of our speech made at the Institute of Philosophy in Moscow in May 2007, calling for the restoration of the New Jerusalem for use for a future World Council of Orthodoxy:

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