The Cathedral of Christ the Saviour
Valery Sharifulin/Tass/PA Images
Russia's Orthodox church will have opened 100 new places of worship in Moscow by the end of 2019, under a massive sacral building programme launched by Patriarch Kirill after his election in February 2009.
"Construction teams are currently at work on 232 new churches in our capital, which still has many fewer than the national average", said Vladimir Resin, a State Duma member in charge of the programme. "Today, we find ourselves on the borderline, with half the projected churches scheduled for completion by the year's end".
The Duma deputy was speaking during a visit to the Church of New Russian Martyrs and Confessors on Moscow's Saltykovskaya Street, one of the new buildings commissioned by Kirill with backing from Moscow's then mayor, Yuri Luzkhov.
Orthodox experts said the city's existing 535 churches and chapels, many of them historic, each had 40,000 potential parishioners, compared to a national average of 11,000, adding that dozens more would be needed to meet popular demand even after completion of the current programme.
However, this has been disputed by critics, citing dwindling church attendance in Russia, while media reports said many local residents had objected to parks and wooded areas being taken over in already densely populated new city developments.
The new Orthodox buildings include a 300-foot Orthodox military basilica, with multiple altars and room for 6000 worshippers, which is to become "a spiritual and educational centre for servicemen, Orthodox clergy and Russian citizens", according to a Defence Ministry statement. In September 2018, residents seeking to block the construction of an Orthodox church clashed with riot police in Moscow's Torfianka district, in a protest paralleled by similar actions in other Russian cities.