Русский | | June 16, 2008 09:32
English translation by Nina Tkachuk Dimas

Orthodox clergymen from China took part in divine services in the Russian consulate in Shanghai

June 15, 2008 Photo
from Olga Kiseleva

HONG KONG. June 16 - RIA Novosti, Kira Pozdnyaeva. For the first time in 44 years, two Chinese clerics, Father Mikhail Wang and deacon Evangel Lu, took part in the festal divine service held at the Russian consulate in Shanghai, reported on Monday by the "South China Morning Post."

On Monday the Orthodox Church marks one of its more important feasts - the Day of the Holy Spirit.[1]

Some 30 Chinese nationals attended the divine service together with Russian-speaking parishioners. Some of them had been baptized into the Orthodox faith in childhood, before the "Cultural Revolution", and for [44] long years had been unable to practice their faith. Also present at the service were many young people who came to Orthodoxy after learning about it from books and the Internet. Several people came especially from Beijing.

Priest Alexy Kiselevich explained that the first liturgy in which Chinese priest Mikhail Wang participated was on Pascha, but deacon Evangel Lu failed to attend it because he attended the lay service in Beijing.

Orthodox services in Shanghai are held for Russian-speaking and foreign nationals.However, the laws of the PRC prevent foreign priests from performing services for Chinese citizens in China proper.

Shanghai is home to several dozen Chinese Orthodox believers, but thus far that they are prevented from regularly participating in church services.The community has no legal status; it has no premises. On major church feasts Chinese believers attend services conducted by the Russian Orthodox Church community.

In the late 17th century, a group of Cossacks, defenders of the Albazin border fortress, was taken prisoner. The Chinese emperor, who admired the soldiers' courage, provided them with a settlement and allowed them to open a church. Subsequently this led to Peter I establishing the Russian Spiritual Mission in China, which for a long time fulfilled the role of Russian diplomatic representation and established the basis of Russia's China Studies. By 1918, there were about 10 thousand Orthodox Chinese in the country.

The revolution of 1917 in Russia pushed into China hundreds of thousands of Russian-speaking refugees. The emigrants built more than a hundred temples in Beijing, Harbin, Shanghai, Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang, Hong Kong, Hankou, Tianjin.

In 1954 the Russian Spiritual Mission in China, which had been in charge of Orthodox churches, was abolished for political reasons. And 50 years ago, on November 23, 1956, the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church, in agreement with the Chinese side, decided to grant autonomy the Chinese Orthodox Church.

The "Cultural Revolution" in China, which was marked by massive destruction of temples and cemeteries, desecration of icons and relics, persecution of believers, threatened the existence of Orthodoxy in China. No divine services were served on the territory of that country for more than 20 years.

The revival of Orthodoxy in China began in the 1980s - when a temple opened in Harbin and a temple was built in Urumqi. At the present time there are in China several Orthodox communities for Russian-speaking and foreign nationals. On major church feasts Chinese believers gather for divine services led by laymen.

[1] According to Fr Dionisy Pozdnyaev, the first Orthodox Bishop of China Metropolitan Innokenty (Figurovsky) was ordained to the rank of Bishop on Holy Spirit Day and count that Day as also day the Chinese Church was established.