Devoted to the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary, the church was constructed within the late 1800s. It was closed in 1936 and its parish priest, Father Ignat Žolnerovič, was despatched to a gulag. In the course of the Soviet period it was first used because the NKVD’s archives, then because the Area’s archives. Catholics have been asking for its return for the previous 30 years and are keen to pay for its restoration prices.
Moscow (AsiaNews) – On Thursday, the destiny of the Church of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary, the Catholic cathedral of the town of Smolensk, in western Russia near Belarus, got here earlier than the Smolensk Oblast Duma (Smolensk Regional Meeting).
The Duma recognised the church, massive neo-Gothic constructing constructed within the late 1800s, as a “federal architectural monument”, noting that it’s in a state of disrepair and in want of restoration.
In Smolensk, native Catholics wish to have everlasting usufruct of the constructing, which was confiscated and by no means returned to the Catholic Church, and are keen to pay for its renovation. Nevertheless, the Duma has refused.
“The everlasting concession of the Church to the Catholic devoted shouldn’t be on the agenda now or sooner or later,” it mentioned in an announcement. This perspective of rejection has endured for the previous 30 years now, because the finish of the Soviet interval.
The native Orthodox Church has backed the Duma in rejecting Catholic calls for, refusing to acknowledge the appropriate of Smolensk’s small Catholic group to make use of such a prestigious monument, positioned in a avenue as soon as known as Kostelnaya Ulitsa, “Catholic Avenue”.
In the course of the Soviet period, the church was used as a repository which nonetheless homes the Smolensk Oblast Archive. In 2016, a challenge was put ahead to revive the central nave of the church and switch it into an live performance corridor for organs.
The church was constructed within the Nineties and consecrated in 1898, changing the outdated Church of the Nativity of Mary, which had turn into too small for the native congregation.
As one of the necessary cities within the north-western Russia, Smolensk has at all times had shut relations with neighbouring Catholic international locations (Poland, Lithuania). At current, the Catholic presence is substantial with about 3,000 members; nonetheless, the native parish can accommodate only some hundred worshippers in a close-by construction.
After the revolution, the massive church bells had been eliminated in 1922. The constructing itself was shuttered in 1936, when the parish priest, a Belarusian, Father Ignat Žolnerovič (image 3), was arrested and shipped to a gulag on Anzersky Island. After conducting the liturgy a number of occasions in jail, Father Ignat’s sentence was elevated by 5 years and he was despatched to Kazakhstan the place he died in 1939.
In 1940 the Individuals’s Commissariat for Inside Affairs, higher recognized by its acronym NKVD (later KGB), arrange its archives within the church. Beginning within the Nineteen Sixties, the constructing served because the Oblast Archives.
After the autumn of communism, Catholics requested for the church to be returned. In 1992, they had been granted the usage of a cemetery chapel owned by a Catholic household. Since, then, a parish priest, initially from Poland, Franciscan Father Ptolomeusz Kuczmik, has held holy Mass within the construction.
Subsequent to the church stands the priest’s home (Dom Księdza), the place at current the devoted can collect for different celebrations and actions, together with these by the busy parish Caritas. This follows a convention that goes again to the 1800s when native Catholics arrange an necessary “Mercy” affiliation to assist the poor.
Due to its precarious situations, the church was lastly shut down in 2018. The Oblast Division of Monuments has repeatedly tried to start out the restoration work, however has not obtained the required funds from Russia’s Federal Ministry of Tradition.
Additionally, no official causes have been given for refusing to grant the church to Catholics regardless of their willingness to start restoration.
The Oblast Duma itself has complained that “with out correct work the church will find yourself like the town’s historical partitions,” which have largely collapsed in previous years.