Русский | Education and Orthodoxy | August, 31, 2006
Orthodox Chinese in Churches of Irkutsk
English Translation by Igor Radev

Coming thousands of kilometers from China to Siberia, on an invitation by the Brotherhood of St Innokenty a group of pilgrims from Mainland China and Hong Kong came to Irkutsk on June 28,in order to venerate the holy relics of St Innokenty, the first bishop of Irkutsk and the heavenly patron of the Celestial Kingdom. The group was lead by Protopresbyter Dionisy Pozdnyaev, who is the caretaker of the Sts Peter and Paul parish in Hong Kong.

Among the Chinese pilgrims were many learned Sinologists, including professors from Russian and Chinese universities, as well as students studying at the Moscow Spiritual Academy. During the week spent in Irkutsk, the guests visited festive church services, went on excursions to the churches of Irkutsk Diocese, the museums in the city and the prefecture, and even cruised on Lake Baikal. They also listened to lectures by Fr Dionisy Pozdnyaev, Fr Daniel Sisoev (Moscow) and Jean-Paul Vist (Beijing) on the contemporary religious situation in China, giving answers to some interesting questions. On that occasion a presentation was made of the books in Chinese published by the Brotherhood of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul: Russian-Chinese Prayer Book, a book by Archimandrite John (Krestyankin)- “Tractate on Establishing a Confession”, Church Calendar for 2006 as well as other publications.

We are know bringing to your attention the interview done by Professor Dionisy Gavchuk of St Macarius Orthodox Theological Institute from Novosibirsk, with Fr. Dionisy Pozdnyaev,  representative of the External Church Relations Department, and Elena Wen, the translator into Chinese of the book by Archimandrite John (Krestyankin)- “Tractate on Establishing a Confession”.

Fr. Dionisy, is this a first time for Chinese Orthodox pilgrims to visit Russia? What is the goal of your visit?

Actually, this is a second visit, while our first such experience was the trip to Blagoveshchensk Diocese during the summer of 2005. Of course, the main goal here is to pray before the relics of St Innokenty and in the churches of Irkutsk. For the time being, the only opportunity of Orthodox Chinese to have pilgrimages is traveling outside of China.  Also, I think it is important to inform those in Irkutsk about the problems of the Orthodox Church in China and the cooperative ways of resolving these problems.

How are the Orthodox Chinese received in Russia? What is the benefit for the Chinese pilgrims from these trips?

  Fr. Dionisy: I must say that we were received with great warmth and undivided lively interest. And for the Chinese Orthodox, besides the opportunities to participate in Divine Services, Holy Communion, and confessions, this trip offered them the chance to communicate with Orthodox Christians in Russia, and that represents another step toward realizing their own unity which is necessary for establishing a normal Church life. 

Elena Wen: There is no doubt about it. During such interesting and important trips we are present at holy sites. During Divine Services we are communicating with God, and walking out of church we are communicating with our good brothers and sisters. Is there anything more beautiful and useful than this?

Elena, in the previous century our compatriots used to say about the baptized Chinese – “One Christian more, one Chinese less”. Is there in these days a changed opinion concerning the Orthodox Chinese? Please, tell our readers how you came to Orthodoxy?

To tell the truth, not many Chinese people can tell the difference between Orthodoxy and other Christian denominations. For the absolute majority, they are quite the same. By the way in which people communicate, know and receive me with understanding, I am convinced that they receive me and other believers in that same way, irregardless of their creed.

I came to the Orthodox Faith in 1995, when I was studying at a Russian University. I was surrounded by many good people. I must admit, at that time I did not know what Orthodoxy was and how it differed from other Christian denominations, but I trusted my goodhearted friends who prepared me for Holy Baptism.

Fr. Dionisy, among the participants in your group there are Chinese students studying at the Moscow Spiritual Academy. What tasks lay before them after finishing their education? They will go to China or will they stay here in Russia?

If the PRC Government allows them to serve in China, they will go to serve in Chinese parishes. The decision about ordination is in the jurisdiction of the hierarchy of the Russian Orthodox Church. My opinion is that after finishing Seminary, the students ready for ordination should be received into the priesthood. Also, it seems important that they could be sent to the Russian Far East and Siberian parishes where they could engage in missionary activities among the Chinese living in Russia.

Elena, you mentioned that you have studied in Russia. Please share with us your impressions about our country.

It is hard to express my impressions in words. I can just say that during the years when I studied in Russia, I have fallen in love with this country and people.

In Russia there is wide spread opinion about a “Yellow Peril” threatening our homeland. Fr. Dionisy, after having lived for more than two years in China, how do you perceive that problem? Is it real?

I think we could hear many speculations on that subject. I don’t even fully understand what this “peril” consists of (especially if we have in mind that among the Chinese working in Russia almost no one sees this country as his permanent home). If more Chinese move to our country (and comprises at least 20% of the total population of the world)- we are obliged to do our best to show them the way to Christ. According to Apostle Paul, in the Church there is no difference between Greek and Jew, or any other nationality for that matter. In the preaching of Orthodoxy I see it as the duty of Russia and of every single Orthodox Christian. Non-fulfilling our call and ignoring our duty is the main peril for us.

Fr. Dionisy, how do you see in the light of the recently held Summit of World Religious Leaders, where also representatives of the Chinese government took part, the  change of life for the Orthodox citizens of China?

I do not expect quick changes. From political decisions a church and spiritual environment can not be built. Rather, we should make every effort in the task of spiritual growth and raising the Church conscience among the Orthodox of China, where political decisions could have only a supporting role. Speaking about the Summit, I would say that it was important to achieve such high-level meetings. Officially, China does not fully realize the role of the Orthodox Church in the history of Russia and its present life. I think that the visit of the Chinese delegation will serve towards forming a more complete view on the Russian Orthodox Church among the dignitaries of PRC.

There was information on the Internet that an Orthodox church will be built in Harbin. Will services be held there for the Orthodox Chinese?

For the time being, the Chinese side still speaks about the opening of that church as a tourist spot. So, we can hardly see in that decision some improvement of the state of Orthodox believers in the PRC. In Harbin there is already opened church, but the community is very small. On the other hand, in Beijing, regardless of the larger number of faithful, there is no Orthodox church. Anyhow, even more important is the resolving of the problem with the spiritual guidance of the Chinese believers – I am speaking here about the ordination of our Chinese seminarians.

Fr. Dionisy and Elena, I am very grateful for your interview, which will be so interesting to our readers. Fr. Dionisy, I am congratulating you the well deserved reward from His Holiness, the Patriarch of Moscow and all of Russia, Alexy II,the rank of protopresbyter, and I wish you God’s assistance in your not so easy work for the well being of our Mother – the Church.