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Russian Orthodox Church defends bid for control over St. Isaac's cathedral in St. Petersburg

  • FILE - In this file aerial photo taken on Sunday, April  13, 2014, Orthodox priests and believers participate in the Palm Sunday procession around the St. Isaak's Cathedral in St. Petersburg, Russia. The Russian Orthodox Church on Friday defended its controversial bid to fully take over St. Petersburg's landmark St. Isaac's Cathedral, saying it's in line with the law and wouldn't hamper tourist access. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky, file)

    FILE - In this file aerial photo taken on Sunday, April 13, 2014, Orthodox priests and believers participate in the Palm Sunday procession around the St. Isaak's Cathedral in St. Petersburg, Russia. The Russian Orthodox Church on Friday defended its controversial bid to fully take over St. Petersburg's landmark St. Isaac's Cathedral, saying it's in line with the law and wouldn't hamper tourist access. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky, file)  (The Associated Press)

  • FILE - In this file aerial photo taken on Sunday, April  13, 2014 , Orthodox priests and believers participate in the Palm Sunday procession around the St. Isaak's Cathedral in St. Petersburg, Russia. The Russian Orthodox Church on Friday, July 31, 2015 defended its controversial bid to fully take over St. Petersburg's landmark St. Isaac's Cathedral, saying it's in line with the law and wouldn't hamper tourist access. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky, file)

    FILE - In this file aerial photo taken on Sunday, April 13, 2014 , Orthodox priests and believers participate in the Palm Sunday procession around the St. Isaak's Cathedral in St. Petersburg, Russia. The Russian Orthodox Church on Friday, July 31, 2015 defended its controversial bid to fully take over St. Petersburg's landmark St. Isaac's Cathedral, saying it's in line with the law and wouldn't hamper tourist access. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky, file)  (The Associated Press)

  • People rest in a park in front of the St. Isaac's Cathedral in St.Petersburg, Russia, Friday, July 31, 2015. The Russian Orthodox Church on Friday defended its controversial bid to fully take over St. Petersburg's landmark St. Isaac's Cathedral, saying it's in line with the law and wouldn't hamper tourist access. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)

    People rest in a park in front of the St. Isaac's Cathedral in St.Petersburg, Russia, Friday, July 31, 2015. The Russian Orthodox Church on Friday defended its controversial bid to fully take over St. Petersburg's landmark St. Isaac's Cathedral, saying it's in line with the law and wouldn't hamper tourist access. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)  (The Associated Press)

The Russian Orthodox Church has defended its controversial bid to fully take over St. Petersburg's landmark cathedral.

St. Isaac's Cathedral features on the list of UNESCO's cultural assets and is the third most-visited cultural site in St. Petersburg. It has been turned into a museum, but the Church has periodically used it for services.

The museum's director warns the takeover could hamper tourist access and slow down the pace of restoration works. Some in the city administration also opposed the church's bid, and local activists pushed for a referendum on the issue.

Natalya Rodomanova, a spokeswoman for the Russian Orthodox Church's St. Petersburg eparchy, said Friday its bid complies with the Russian law. She said tourist access to the building will not be impeded.