Russia to negotiate return of St Daniel's Monastery bells

Talks on the return of 18 ancient bells to Russia's St Daniel's Monastery will take place in Harvard State University, Boston, US. The university has been keeping the bells for more than 70 years now. A delegation of the Russian Orthodox Church is flying to New York for talks on December 2.

"These bells are sacred to St Daniel's Monastery and to the whole of Moscow," Archimandrite Alexis, the father superior of St Daniel's Monastery, who will lead the delegation, has said in a RIA Novosti interview.

He said it was premature to make any forecasts whatsoever on talks outcomes. The Harvard University principals would make a grand gesture of good will if they consented to return the bells, he said.

The belfry of St Daniel's Monastery was one of Moscow's best along with the Kremlin belfry. In 1930, the Soviet government shut down the monastery and seized its property.

The bells could be re-melt. However, Thomas Whittemore, a researcher at Harvard University, suggested that American manufacturer Charles Crane should buy them. The Soviet government sold the bells at the price of the bronze they were cast of. In 1931, they were placed in Harvard University.

In Harvard, the bells were not used in religious services. They trumpeted university events of all sorts, even the beginning of soccer matches.

Russia first inquired into the possibility of having the Orthodox shrine re-installed in Moscow 20 years ago when then President Ronald Reagan was visiting Moscow. He then called on St Daniel's Monastery, which re-opened in 1983.

Talks and correspondence on the matter have been somewhat sluggish to date, according to Archimandrite Alexis.

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