Priest Dionisy Pozdnyaev Comments on the
"Regulations on Religious Affairs"
Adopted in the PRC
English Translation by Nina Tkachuk Dimas

Xiānggǎng (Hong Kong), December 24, 2004.

The PRC's newly adopted "Regulations on Religious Affairs", governing relations between the state and the religious organizations, will have a beneficial effect on the development of Orthodoxy in this country. This opinion was expressed in a RIA "Novosti" interview by priest Dionisy Pozdnyaev of the Department of External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate.

Sts Peter & Paul's, Hong Kong

"New rules concerning the religious organizations, adopted this week in China, will have a beneficial effect on the development of Orthodoxy in this country, despite of some restrictions which were maintained" said priest Dionisy, who now serves Russian Orthodox believers in China and Hong Kong.

As an example priest Dionisy pointed to the fact, that the document, for the first time, mentions legal guarantees of believers' rights and the church property, and also the process of registering religious communities, which, he said, should provide for an orderly procedure.

"I think that the Orthodox Chinese in Beijing will petition for registering an Orthodox community in China's capital after new rules will take effect on March 1 of next year", - said priest Dionisy. - "As far as I know, they had tried to get an official status even earlier, but there was no answer from the authorities to their petition. According to the new rules, now authorities will be obliged to answer within a specified period."

The number of Orthodox citizens of China in Beijing was estimated by priest Dionisy to be approximately in 400 persons.

He also named as an important point the item about the possibility for citizens of China to receive religious formation abroad. "At the present time in the Russian religious institutions there already are students from China; we hope, that in the future their numbers will increase", - said the priest.

According to him four Orthodox communities are now registered in China - two in the Xinjiang autonomous region, one in Harbin and one in Inner Mongolia. The number Orthodox in China (not including citizens of Russia), according to the Department of External Communications at the MP reaches 13 thousand persons.

Representatives of the [Roman] Catholic Church in Hong Kong also have stated that, on the whole, they give positive marks to the "Regulations".

"All restrictive moments, for example, concerning prohibiting foreigners to participate in religious activity, simply repeat what was already formulated in the previous acts ", -said, Anthony Lam, professor of Hong Kong's Holy Spirit Study Centre (圣神研究中心).

"At the same time new rules should limit the arbitrariness of local authorities with regard to religious communities, as they spell out the measure of responsibility of each official's actions", - he emphasized.

According to Centre's workers, the attitude of the Chinese authorities to traditional world religions has recently improved. "In Shanghai's schools in 2004 for the first time in history Bible was included in the list of recommended reading for comprehensive schools alongside with texts of Confucius ( Kǒngzi , 孔子) and Lao-tze ( Lǎozǐ , 老子)", - said Betty Maheu, editor of Holy Spirit bulletin.

"In spite of the fact that some parents were against it, teachers managed to convince them that without knowing the Bible, their children cannot fully understand western literature", - she noted.

According to Holy Spirit Study Centre which is considered the leading research center in the field of [Roman] Catholicism in Hong Kong, China has a total of 10 to 12 million Catholics. Official Chinese authorities estimate their numbers to be 4-5 million.

The "Regulations on Religious Affairs" were promulgated on Tuesday, on December 21. This document, consisting of 48 clauses, will become law on March 1, 2005. The "Regulations" are broken down into seven chapters: "General provisions", "Religious organizations ", "Places of religious activity ", "Ministers of cults", "Property of Church ", "Legal duties" and "Appendix".