Русский | DECR Communication Service| May 9, 2010
English translation by Katherine Ilachinski

Divine Liturgy for the first time in half a century in the St. Nicholas Church in Shanghai

On May 9, 2010 for the first time after half a century, Orthodox divine service was celebrated in St. Nicholas church, a monument, built by Russian émigrés in the heart of Shanghai.

In the small temple, under the arches for the first time in many years were heard church hymns, gathered dozens of Orthodox believers from the CIS and abroad, living in the metropolis. Many of them came on a holiday with children.

Following the Divine Liturgy, Fr Alex Kiselevich, spiritual father and spiritual leader of Orthodox flock in Shanghai, conducted a thanksgiving service (moleben) to mark Victory Day, and then - funeral service for deceased soldiers.

The resumption of worship in the temple, closed during the "Cultural Revolution" was made possible thanks to the zeal of many people - members of the Orthodox community, the staff of the Consulate General of Russia and members of the Russian Club in Shanghai who for many years were trying to first evict from the church places of entertainment, and then were working hard to have the services resumed. Support for these efforts during many years was provided by the Department for External Church Relations of Moscow Patriarchate, chaired by the then Metropolitan of Smolensk and Kaliningrad Kirill, now - Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia.

The question of restoration of worship in one of the historic temples of Shanghai during the World Exhibition EXPO-2010 was raised during a visit to the city by the delegation of the Department for External Church Relations and the Council for Cooperation with Religious Associations under the President of the Russian Federation headed by the Archbishop (now - Metropolitan) of Volokolamsk Hilarion on November 20, 2009. Then, the delegation conducted a brief prayer in St. Nicholas Church and sang hymns in honor of Mother of God and St. Nicholas the Wonderworker.

St. Nicholas Temple-Monument to the Tsar-martyr Nicholas II and his imperial family (dedicated in honor of Saint Nicholas, Archbishop of Myra, a miracle worker), a masterpiece of architecture and one of the major attractions of Shanghai, was built by the Russian emigrants in 1934. The beginning of construction of St. Nicholas church, the first émigré church in Shanghai took place in 1932. Its construction was done in record time — 15 months.

The construction of the temple, situated on the territory of the French Concession, is connected with the name of Lieutenant General F.L. Glebov, who initiated the construction and raised funds for the building. Funding it through donations from both Russian immigrants, and foreigners, among whom was even the commander of the British royal expeditionary forces in China, General Fleming. The project of the church was executed and donated by architect A. Yaron, who not only directed the work, but paid from his own funds for the work of all technical staff. In 1965, after the death of the last Orthodox bishop of the Chinese Autonomous Orthodox Church, Bishop Simeon (Du) of Shanghai, all Orthodox churches in Shanghai have been closed by Chinese authorities, the church buildings were nationalized and declared architectural monuments and taken under protection. They were subsequently transferred for commercial use.

The Cathedral of Shanghai in honor of Mother of God "Surety of sinners" for over 20 years was used as a warehouse. In the vestibule of the cathedral a restaurant was opened, while in the Cathedral itself a stock exchange was established and later also a restaurant and nightclub.

St. Nicholas Church for a long time has been used as a warehouse; during the "Cultural Revolution" in China it housed a laundry. The survival of the church during the excesses of the hongweibing was helped by a portrait of Mao Zedong placed anonymously on the front of the bell tower. Since the late 1990's an Italian restaurant was located inside the temple.

In 2002, the Russian Club in Shanghai with the support of the Consulate General of Russia organized the collection of signatures requesting the eviction of entertainment establishments from the premises of the two Russian churches in Shanghai. The request of compatriots, supported by the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian state, was partially satisfied: the nightclub was removed from the cathedral, the cathedral itself after the restoration was transformed into an exhibition space. In 2005, in Shanghai, an Orthodox community was established; the Consulate General of Russia began to hold regular services, which were headed by Archpriest Alexis Kiselevich who had come from Moscow.

Following the November 2009 visit to China, of the chairman of Department for External Church Relations Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, the Orthodox of Shanghai collected hundreds of signatures requesting that the church be provided for the commission of Orthodox services. In the collection of signatures were taking part not only Russians, but also citizens of Ukraine, Belarus, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria and other countries.

"Previously, Orthodox services in mainland China were only on the territory of the Russian Embassy in Beijing and the Consulate General in Shanghai — reported Archpriest Alexis Kiselevich. - This year, for the first time it was possible to reach an agreement with the Shanghai Administration for Religious Affairs on the resumption of services in St. Nicholas church during the time of the Shanghai World Expo for collective worship for foreigners. At this time we will hold services every Sunday and on main Orthodox holidays."

As the vice consul-general of the Russian Federation in Shanghai S.Y. Paltov noted, "talks about the resumption of church activity in the remaining two Orthodox churches in Shanghai made serious progress after the adoption in 2007 in China of a special law authorizing the collective worship of foreigners in China."

St. Nicholas Church transferred to Shanghai's community of Russian Orthodox Church for lease. Funds to pay for it come in the form of donations from parishioners. The temple will be open on Sundays and public holidays for all Orthodox guests of the World Expo in Shanghai in the period from May to November 2010.