Russian Church Sued over Merchants in Cathedral

A prominent consumer rights watchdog filed on Monday a lawsuit against the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Christian Church, accusing it of running a business in one of Moscow’s most prominent cathedrals.

The premises of the downtown Christ the Savior Cathedral host numerous businesses, including jewelry and souvenir stands, a food joint, dry cleaner and car wash, the nongovernmental Consumer Rights Protection Society said on its website.

The cathedral de facto hosts a full-scale mall, which is, however, never identified as such and whose tenants do not comply with various regulations for commercial enterprises, the report said.

The watchdog sued to have all violations remedied, it said.

The watchdog’s report noted that though religious organizations enjoy various tax breaks in Russia, those do not include their commercial operations not directly related to religious services. However, the group did not specify whether businesses at the cathedral were actually using the religion-related tax breaks.

Khamovnichesky court has accepted the lawsuit, but did not set up date for a hearing as of Monday evening, according to its website.

The cathedral does not belong to the church, which only rents out space on the premises, the same as commercial tenants, spokesman for the Moscow Patriarchate of the church, Vladimir Vigilyansky, told RIA Novosti.

“Now the lies propagated by the media, which say that the church is running commercial operations at the Christ the Savior Cathedral, will hopefully be finally disproven,” Vigilyansky said.

The Russian Orthodox Church is often accused of running lucrative commercial operations and owning huge assets, including in real estate and businesses. The church does not disclose its income, but an investigation by cultural news website in 2011 estimated its assets at more than $1 billion.


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