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Orthodox Christian Missions

Chinese Church Consecrated

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20090830eerguna2From Interfax:

Orthodox Church consecrated in China for first time in 50 years
Moscow, August 31, Interfax – Orthodox Church of St. Innokenty of Irkutsk was consecrated last Sunday in the city of Labdarin (Inner Mongolia autonomous district in north China.)

Descendants of Russians who settled in this distant district of China in the 19th century will become parishioners of the Labdarin Church, which was built in 1990. The parish doesn’t have clergy yet.

The Russian Ecclesiastical mission had been effective in China since 1713 and was abolished for political reasons in 1954. In 1956, Russian Synod granted autonomy to the Chinese Orthodox Church and appointed Archimandrite Vasily for the Beijing Diocese. Following the latter’s death in 1962, the Chinese Orthodox Church fell into decay.

In 1997, the Synod of the Russian Church said that under existing circumstances, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Alexy II would provide for the Orthodox Church congregation in China.

China’s last openly officiating Orthodox clergyman, Fr. Gregory Chu, died in 2000. He was a priest in the church of Protection of the Mother of God in Harbin. Fr. Alexander Du, the last Chinese priest, though he could not officiate publicly, died in Beijing in 2003.

According to different estimations, there are 9,000 to 15,000 Orthodox believers in China. Majority of them live in Beijing, Shanghai, Heilongjiang Province, Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia autonomous districts.

And from Orthodoxy in China:

On August 30 in the city of Labdarin (Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region) the Church of St. Innocent of Irkutsk was consecrated. The temple was built in 1990. (During the “Cultural Revolution” 18 Orthodox churches were demolished in this region of China).

Parishioners of the church in the Chinese Autonomous Orthodox Church are descendants of Russians who began to inhabit this remote region of China. The church of St. Innocent of Irkutsk is one of four that has an official status in China.

Since the temple does not have clergy, the consecration was performed by Fr. Mikhail Wang, a priest from Shanghai.

The Russian Orthodox Church’s Diocese of Chita and Transbaikal which, by decision of the Holy Synod, has the burden or responsibility for this parish, presented it with an iconostasis, utensils and liturgical vestments.

Archpriest Dionisy Pozdnyaev who is in charge of Hong Kong’s church of SS Peter and Paul took part in the consecration. Orthodox faithful from Hailar, Harbin, Shanghai, Beijing and the Russian villages of Tryokhrechye [3 Rivers] also came for the church consecration.

After the service, Archpriest Dionisy Pozdnyaev held talks with Ms Wang Yanming, from the 4th Department of State Administration for Religious Affairs, who attended ceremony.

To clarify and correct these articles as best I can: Interfax is incorrect about Fr. Alexander Du being the last Chinese priest in China. Fr. Alexander was the last priest in Beijing, but there are currently still two Chinese clergymen in Shanghai–Fr. Mikhail Wang and Fr. Dn. Evangelos Lu. Both are elderly, and until the last few years were inactive. Though still limited in what they can do due to their age and the Chinese authorities, they are now starting to occasionally serve. Also, Archimandrite Vasily was ordained as a bishop to head the Chinese church, and upon his death, and Bishop Symeon’s death in 1965, the Chinese government refused to allow anyone to succeed them.

To clarify the timeline of the new church, it appears to have been built in either 1990 or 1999 (or maybe completed in 1999). But the consecration couldn’t take place because the iconostasis had been held by customs since 2000. So, finally, that hurdle is overcome and the church is complete. The next hurdle is to get clergy. There are Chinese Orthodox Christians studying in seminaries in Russia, and I think elsewhere as well, but whether they will be allowed to return to China to serve is another question entirely. More pictures of St. Innocent’s can be found here.

Lastly, I don’t think the headline “Orthodox Church consecrated in China for first time in 50 years” is correct as two churches in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region have also been build (and presumably consecrated). They are both named St. Nicholas, and are in Urumqi (1991) and Ghulja (2000). Neither of these parishes have priests.

A good timeline of the Chinese Orthodox Church can be found at Orthodox Wiki.

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Written by Stephen

September 15, 2009 at 4:19 pm

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