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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Patriarch Christens Cathedral

President Boris Yeltsin and Patriarch Alexy II on Thursday celebrated the rebirth of a small Red Square cathedral that was destroyed under Stalin, calling it a symbol of Russia's national revival.


"It is my hope that the revival of this church is a sign of the end of a time of troubles, and an overcoming of hostility and division between our people", Alexy told more than 1, 000 believers outside the Mother of God of Kazan Cathedral, after blessing it.


Despite his words of unity and the rich peals of new church bells sounding through the overcast morning, the scene on Red Square epitomized Russia's enduring ideological discord.


As the country's highest spiritual leader presided over a four-hour service inside the Cathedral, on the other side of police lines across Red Square thousands visited Lenin's Mausoleum, the former centerpiece of atheistic communism.


"Russia is a country of paradoxes", said Sergei Chumakov, 56, who came with his mother to hear mass broadcast over a loudspeaker.


Alexy waited until exactly 1 P. M. for the mausoleum to close before stepping outside the church to address a mostly elderly crowd of about 1, 000 gathered outside.


Yeltsin, making his first public appearance in Moscow since the violent repression of the October rebellion a month ago, arrived a minute or two late, stayed less than half an hour, and did not speak to the crowd.


Police barred visitors without special passes to an enclosed area in front of the church. But those among the faithful who did get close said they were delighted with the Cathedral, which was built in 1636 and destroyed in 1936 by Stalin to make way, ultimately, for public toilets.


"Today is the happiest day in our lives", said Anastasia Grishin, a retired engineer. "During the Soviet era, the government only destroyed things; now for the first time they have finally built something".


Dozens of churches shut under Communism have reopened in Moscow recently, but many see the Mother of God of Kazan Cathedral as especially meaningful.