Legislation is being drafted in Russia to return icons and other religious art seized after the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution to churches and convents.
The proposal has the backing of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, The Moscow Times reports.
Last month, the Russian Orthodox Church regained control of the Novodevichy Convent -- a 16th century Russian regent, and the sister and estranged first wife of Peter the Great. Because the convent is a United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site, Putin ordered the property to be managed by the Orthodox Church with the government retaining formal ownership.
Church leaders say religious property and art should not be state-controlled. "A temple must be a temple, not a museum. An icon has its place -- not in a museum, but in a functioning temple," Archbishop Hilarion, who is in charge of external relations for the Russian Orthodox Church, told The Moscow Times.