NJ Judge: Diocese Has Rights at Parish

A state judge has affirmed the property rights of a Russian Orthodox diocese locked in a dispute with a breakaway parish in southern New Jersey, but declined to intervene in doctrinal matters.

NJ Judge: Diocese Has Rights at Parish
As a result, the ultimate fate of the small group of worshippers at the Sviato-Pokrovskiy Russian Orthodox Church remains undecided.

The heart of the conflict lies in the decision of the diocese, part of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, to reconcile with the Moscow Patriarchate in Russia. The parish's worshippers abhor the Moscow Patriarchate for its cooperation with the Soviet authorities years ago and for its close ties with the Russian government today.

Superior Court Judge William C. Todd, in an order filed Thursday, barred the parish from selling its church and land without the permission of the diocese. The church, topped with golden onion-shaped domes, is on about 5 acres in Buena Vista, about halfway between Atlantic City and Philadelphia.

Parish lawyer Thomas M. Licata said Friday they would consider an appeal of that ruling.

Todd, however, denied the diocese's request to declare that parish members who withdrew from the diocese had no stake in the property, according to representatives on both sides.

In another ruling, the judge refused a diocese request that he declare that the property "be used solely in accordance with the canons, rules and customs" of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, both sides said.

In that decision, Todd adhered to the general practice of courts to let church authorities settle matters of religious interpretation.

The Sviato-Pokrovskiy church was established in 1957 as part of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, a network of churches created after the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution by people who had fled the Soviet Union and hated Communism.

The Soviets attempted to destroy the religious soul of lands that had been mostly Orthodox for hundreds of years by slaughtering thousands of priests and parishioners, and destroying churches. The Soviets also forced priests to support Communism and inform on members of their flock to the secret police, the KGB.

AP
Last Mod: 08 Eylül 2007, 11:33
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