RUSSIAN CULTURE MINISTER PLEDGES RETURN OF MORE RELIGIOUS TREASURES TO CHURCH

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MOSCOW, MARCH 29, 2004, (RIA NOVOSTI). - Alexander Sokolov promised Monday that the return of religious treasures to the Russian Orthodox Church would continue as he met-for the first time in his new capacity as Culture & Media Minister-with Patriarch Alexis II of Moscow and All Russia.

Specifically, arrangements were made on the return of a number of icons from art museums, Patriarch Alexis II said at a news conference after the meeting.

The leader of the Russian Orthodox Church also reported that he and the minister had discussed issues relating to the organization of a festival of Slavic literature & arts, the publication of an Orthodox encyclopaedia, the conservation of archives, and cooperation in instilling high moral values in the younger generation.

"Earlier, we agreed with the Culture Ministry on the production of ten films devoted to the history of the Russian Orthodox Church. I think this agreement will remain in force now that the ministry's top has changed," the Patriarch said.

This year marks ten years since the Orthodox Church and the Culture Ministry of Russia signed a cooperation accord, he continued. The ministry's functions have now expanded somewhat: it has taken over the administration of archives and of the media. A coordination committee has therefore been instructed to update the accord so that it could be extended into the next decade.

To quote Alexis II, the Church and the Culture Ministry have "a lot in common in their plans to perpetuate Russia's religious culture and spiritual heritage."

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