OXFORD, England (CNS): A Catholic bishop has criticised plans to build a Russian Orthodox church on the site of the 2004 school massacre in Beslan, Russia.
Bishop Clemens Pickel of Saratov, Russia, said it was “essential to accept what the parents want – it’s they, not the Churches, who should be given the last word. And it’s clear they don’t want anything more here”.
In an October 10 phone interview, he told Catholic News Service that the school’s gutted sports hall, where most hostages died, was currently marked by a large cross.
However, he added that most parents were non-Christians, and he had seen some bringing animist symbols like water to their children’s graves at the nearby cemetery.
For three days in early September 2004, Chechen rebels occupied Beslan’s Middle School No 1 and killed nearly 200 children. More than 100 townspeople also died.
Plans for the church were confirmed during anniversary commemorations by Orthodox Bishop Teofan of Stavropol and Vladikavkaz, who told Russia’s Interfax news agency on September 5 that most of the dead children were Christian.