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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Reunited Church Consecrates Temple

Itar-TassPatriarch Alexy II, right, and Metropolitan Laurus consecrating the Cathedral of Christ's Resurrection on Saturday.
BUTOVO, Moscow Region -- The Russian Orthodox Church consecrated a cathedral on Saturday at a site of mass Stalinist executions in a symbolic act of unity after an 80-year rift between the mother church and a rival faction.

Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II and Metropolitan Laurus, the New York-based leader of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, attended the emotional liturgy at the Cathedral of Christ's Resurrection and Russia's New Martyrs and Confessors.

At a secluded military testing site in Butovo, just south of Moscow, some 21,000 people, including about 1,000 Orthodox priests, were executed in just one brief period of communist repressions from August 1937 to October 1938, historians citing KGB files say. Alexy and Laurus, who signed a church reunification act on Thursday, laid the groundwork three years ago for the cathedral in this quiet village.

"We are united by the prayers of the martyrs and confessors. Tens of thousands were killed for their faith and truth," Alexy said.

Alexy calls Butovo "Russia's Golgotha," drawing an analogy with the hill where Jesus carried the cross for his crucifixion.

The nearby ravines hold the bodies of more than 200 Orthodox priests and believers canonized in recent years, making the former shooting range the country's biggest shrine.

"Today's event is the final act of our church unification," said Father Anatoly, of Moscow.

Father John Townsend, serving a parish in the U.S. state of Georgia, said: "It's just such a beautiful moment to come here and honor these martyrs, and to do it at the same time and at the same church."