Italy returns Orthodox Church in Bari to Russia

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MOSCOW, November 13 (RIA Novosti) - Russia and Italy have signed a document restoring Russian ownership of the St. Nicolas Orthodox church in the southern Italian city of Bari, a Kremlin spokesman said Thursday.

The handover of the church complex was agreed during the then Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit to Russia in March 2007. On April 17, the city council of Bari unanimously voted to hand the 100-year-old church to the Italian government so it could subsequently become Russian property.

"A process of returning historic objects, lost after the [1917] October Revolution, is currently underway," Viktor Khrekov said.

A century ago Grand Princess Elizaveta Fyodorovna first raised the idea of building the church to welcome Russian pilgrims in Bari, the burial place of St. Nicolas, one of the most revered Orthodox saints. The construction of the complex, which was built with charitable donations, was suspended due to World War I and the Russian Revolution in 1917.

In 1937, the church buildings and the land, totaling 8,000 square meters (2 acres), were handed to Bari's municipal authorities.

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