The Russian Orthodox Church has sharply criticized a proposed referendum on the fate of St. Isaac’s Cathedral, a St. Petersburg landmark that is at the center of a bitter dispute.
Russian media quoted church spokesman Vladimir Legoida as saying late on March 28 that the proposal for a citywide vote was "nonsense" from a legal point of view. He also said it would be strange and counterproductive.
Legoida spoke after the St. Petersburg electoral commission approved a proposal to hold a citywide referendum on the iconic cathedral's status following a January decision by the city officials to return it to the control of the Russian Orthodox Church.
The decision has sparked protests and increased concerns among secular Russians and people of other faiths that the dominant church is gaining too much influence.
St. Isaac's, founded in 1818, is one of the top tourist sites in St. Petersburg and has been a museum since 1917, the year of the Bolshevik Revolution.
The proposal for a referendum is subject to approval by the city legislature.