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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Orthodox Church Opens Bank With Greeks

Russia's transition to a market economy may benefit from a little divine intervention with the launch Tuesday of a new bank for the Russian Orthodox Church.

The Orthodoxy Bank, due to open in May, will be a joint venture between the Greek Egnatia Bank and the Church's education and catechism department.

Joann Svidirov, the department's head, said at a press conference Tuesday, that Patriarch Alexei II did not want the church actually to own a bank, but he said "the partriarchate is not against a specific structure of the church taking part in the bank's creation, so that the Church's image does not suffer".

Svidirov said part of the profits from the bank would go to spiritual programs, Orthodox schools, hospitals, shelters and the restoration of Russia's many crumbling churches. Money will also go toward the new Russian Orthodox University which is due to open in Moscow on Wednesday.

Svidirov said that the Church would not take a direct role in managing the bank. He said that the Russian Patriarchate had talked with other banks over the past year, but chose Egnatia because "the bank was young, efficient, shared the same interests and had modern computers".

The Orthodoxy Bank will receive startup capital of $30 million from private investors in Greece, Cyprus and the United States. But neither side would divulge what contribution the church was making.

Officials said that the bank would have 100 branches in Moscow, St. Petersburg and along the Black Sea by 1996. Initially only hard-currency accounts will be offered but ruble accounts are planned later.

Andreas Boumis, chairman of the Egnatia bank which has 12 branches in Greece, said that the cultural and religious ties between Greece and Russia needed revival and that financial cooperation was greatly needed for the economic development of both countries.