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Spain is ceding to Russia the dome cross of St. Sophia's Cathedral at Novgorod the Great. Spanish World War II soldiers took it away in 1942
Jose Bono, Spain's Defence Minister, will pass the sacred relic to Alexis II, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia-Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church, November 16, as a Faith and the Word festival of Orthodox Christian media outlets opens at the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow. The information reached newsmen as the festival organising committee had its closing session today. Leading the committee is Clemens the Metropolitan of Kaluga and Borovsk, Charge d'Affaires of the Moscow Patriarchate. An artillery shell destroyed the cathedral dome during the WWII battle of Novgorod. The cross that topped it remained flimsily suspended on bearer cables. Soldiers of the 2nd and 50th engineer battalions, 102nd Infantry Corps, removed the cross and took it away to Spain with them as they retreated. Mikhail Prusak, Novgorod regional governor, appealed to the Russian Embassy to Spain, November 2002, to retrieve the holy relic. The diplomats tracked it down to the museum of the Military Engineering Academy in Madrid. Bilateral negotiations brought Spanish consent to cede the cross to the Russian Orthodox Church. The metal cross is two metres long and a metre and a half wide, topped with a stone dove statue. Patriarch Alexis II has blessed the cross to stay at the Church Council Hall of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, while the Faith and the Word festival is on. Novgorod will regain it later. It depends on its state of preservation whether the cross will replace the one mounted on the central St. Sophia dome during postwar restoration, or will find a place of honour at the Ecclesiastical Archaeology Museum of the cathedral. Russia's federal service for legal compliance monitoring in mass communications and cultural heritage protection was active in the return of the cross. Senor Bono will be in Moscow, November 16-17, and will meet at the negotiation table with Sergei Ivanov, his Russian counterpart, reports the Spanish Embassy to Russia
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