Last part of interview with Fr. Nikolay Balashov, DECR's deputy chief, concerns Orthodoxy in China
[Q] - Please say a few words about the current situation of the Russian Orthodox Church in the People's Republic of China.
[A] - The Orthodox Church made a huge contribution to the development of relations between Russia and China. The Russian Ecclesiastical Mission represented Russia in China for many decades, before there was a government mission. Members of the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission in China have done a great deal for the development of Sinology and for spreading in Russia adequate knowledge about China. The activities of the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission in China resulted in, among other things, the Chinese national Orthodoxy, as is known, there being a Chinese Autonomous Orthodox Church, which proclaimed to be such by the Moscow Patriarchate. Unfortunately, at the moment, it has only two very elderly clerics, one priest and one archdeacon. At the same time, there are a number of believers who are deprived of pastoral care.
The Russian Orthodox Church in China may carry out religious activities aimed only at the spiritual needs of our compatriots and foreigners who are in China. Thus, for example, the visitors to the museum-church of the Dormition on the territory of the Russian Embassy in Beijing may be Russians and those bearing foreign passports, but not Chinese citizens. A similar situation exists in our community in Shanghai, which functions on the territory of the Consulate General of the Russian Federation. There we have our priest and his parishioners, not only those who came from the canonical territory of the Russian Orthodox Church, but also Greeks, Europeans, and all sorts of people, but no Chinese. We respect the requirements of Chinese law, but try to promote dialogue with the Chinese side. With the participation of the Russian state, with the participation of other traditional religions of Russia.
There is a working group on dialogue between Russia and China in the religious field — the parties in this process are the State Administration of Religious Affairs of the People's Republic and the Council for Cooperation with Religious Associations under the President of the Russian Federation. Chairing the Russian side of this working group is a member of the Council for Cooperation under the Russian President, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokalamsk. Last year the group held a meeting in Moscow. We hope that during this summer the negotiations will continue. One of the first their results is that in the very near future two Chinese Orthodox students will officially come to Russia has officially come to study in the theological schools of the Russian Orthodox Church, Thus, we begin to have hope that Chinese Orthodox believers will have their own pastors.
Interviewed by Vadim Lozovsky