To the Ends of the Earth

Orthodox Christian Missions

Archive for April 2010

OCMC Mission Team Among the Turkana, North Kenya

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The blast of heat that flooded the cabin of the twin engine prop plane that brought our OCMC Mission Team to Lodwar, Kenya in February, 2010 was a shock. Less than 48-hours earlier we began our epic journey to East Africa shivering on the grounds of Holy Cross Seminary waiting for our bags to be loaded into the vans that took us to Logan International airport.

Our team, nine strong, was comprised of two priests, four seminary students, and three laypeople. We had been invited by His Eminence Makarios, Archbishop of Kenya, to proclaim the Gospel and share Christ with the Turkana – the people indigenous to the extreme northwestern region of Kenya.

As we marched across the gravel air strip we were greeted by the beaming smile of Fr. Vladimir Lonyuduk, an Orthodox priest serving in Lodwar. Our Team was blessed to have Fr. Vladimir Aleandro and Matushka Suzanne who led the very first OCMC Mission Team to Lodwar in 2007. These two priests worked closely together for nearly a month in 2007 and had kept in regular contact ever since. The joyful reunion was but a foretaste of the many incredible blessings that this team witnessed over the course of our two week stay in one of the harshest, most inhospitable environments some of us had ever experienced.

The mission of our Team was to teach and evangelize the Turkana of five communities in and around Lodwar. Some of the people we met were Orthodox, but many of them were not even Christian. We had the help of three Turkana Orthodox priests (Fr. Vladimir, Fr. Zachariah, and Fr. Makarios) to help us to understand Turkana culture and to translate the message we had traveled so many miles to share. The partnership our team enjoyed with these priests was vital. Through them we were able to offer a Christian witness in a way that supplemented their own ministries.

The Turkana are primarily nomadic pastoralists. Families rove large swatches of land as they graze their cattle in search of grass and water (one of the rarest commodities in the region). This area of Kenya is ravaged by cyclical drought, which often wreaks havoc on the livestock that lie at the heart of the Turkana culture and economy. These periods of drought often force people to walk, sometimes more than 10 miles per day, simply for water.

Our team was there in the midst of one of these crippling drought cycles, which occur about every eight to ten years. People in the villages where we preached were only able to eat because of regular food distributions from NGOs (non-government organizations) that were working to stave off cataclysmic famine in the area.

In spite of these struggles, we would regularly see hundreds of people at the seminars we held. Fr. Martin Ritsi (OCMC’s Executive Director and our team leader) and Fr. Vladimir Aleandro celebrated the Liturgy and administered the sacraments as often as possible. Because of the extreme remoteness of these villages (over three hours by jeep from Lodwar), those Turkana who are Orthodox only get to partake of the Eucharist when one of their priests is able to hire transport out to their village.

The people looked hungry, thirsty, and tired. There was an unending plea for food and water. In spite of this great need, we were always greeted with song and dance. Knowing that the people who came to attend the seminars had traveled many miles and sacrificed a day’s labor to be with us, we made food available everywhere we went.

The Holy Spirit was overtly present for the entire time we were in Kenya. Rain, which people hadn’t seen in weeks, seemed to follow our team wherever it went. We heard some of the most powerful stories of conversion imaginable. People who had accepted Christ into their lives reported improved relationships with neighbors and relatives and being filled with a sense of hope that carried them through the immense struggles that they faced.

We were blessed with many opportunities to share the Faith. In Lupala, we showed a movie about the life of Jesus that had been translated into Turkana. Bathed in the blue glow of a video that was projected through a laptop computer onto a sheet that was hung from fence made of palm fronds, over 200 people gathered under the stars to receive the message of the Gospel. It was the first time that some of them had ever seen a movie.

The next day, Fr. Zachariah led us on a 45-minute hike across the desert to meet with a man known as an Emuron in a village neighboring Lupala. The Emuron are very important figures in the traditional Turkana belief system, which is centered on the worship of a deity named Akuj. Emuron serve as shaman and prophets for the Turkana. They determine what, and when, sacrifices should be made to Akuj and without permission from an Emuron the people of a village will not gather.

The Emuron had been told to expect us, but it had rained the night before making the trek to the village quite difficult. Our team, along with Fr. Vladimir, Fr. Makarios, and Fr. Zachariah arrived at this man’s village only to find that he had gone to tend his heard assuming that we were not coming on account of the conditions. Someone from the village ran to fetch him. As he approached our group, he shared how amazed he was to see that we had made the long journey to see him. No missionary, apparently, had ever visited his village.

His face was haggard with deep lines hardened by the wind and sand. The clothing he wore was unassuming – no different then the other Turkana we had met. In fact, it would have been difficult to differentiate him from any of the other villagers were it not for the air of authority that preceded him. So we sat, nine white-faced missionaries and three Turkana priests on one side and him (and only him) on the other. The Holy Spirit must have prepared the heart of this man prior to our arrival because after a brief 15-minute conversation, he invited Fr. Zachariah to gather the people of his village to talk with them about Christ. In that very moment our team witnessed what we pray will be the beginning of a new Orthodox community.

OCMC is committed to continuing this vital mission work among the Turkana. We, the Orthodox faithful of North America, have a beautiful opportunity to help Fr. Vladimir, Fr. Makarios, and Fr. Zachariah share Christ’s message of hope and salvation with people who may have never before heard it.

This witness must address both the significant physical and spiritual needs that exist among the Turkana. In 2010, OCMC will begin construction of a well in Lupala, provide financial assistance to a nursery in Lodwar, prepare to construct a new church, and most importantly help Fr. Vladimir, Fr. Makarios, and Fr. Zachariah to reach their fellow Turkana with the Gospel to name a few.

To help raise awareness and support of these efforts OCMC is inviting parishes and organizations across the country to hold mission walks. Participants will have an opportunity to journey in solidarity with our Turkana brothers and sisters who have to travel extreme distances everyday simply for food and water.

Information on OCMC’s 2010 Missions Walk for the Turkana can be found by visiting http://www.ocmc.org/walks. We pray that the people of your parish or organization will be inspired to walk, so the Turkana won’t have to, and so they can be welcomed into our Orthodox family as members of the Body of Christ.

Source: OCMC Blog
To support this mission, you can go to OCMC’s page Missions Walk 2010 for the Turkana

Written by Stephen

April 29, 2010 at 10:24 pm

Posted in Africa, Kenya, Missionaries, OCMC

Pictures and a Video of Fr. Themi in Sierra Leone

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View of the front of the cathedral at Syke street ,Freetown


Rev Siluanos teaching French at the old Christian Orthodox school at Syke street, Freetown


Rev Themi poses with some of the inhabitants of the disabled village in Waterloo.


A boy wades on a layer of rubbish over a river. Susans bay, Freetown.

Pictures are taken by Costa Anastasakis, of the Our Forgotten Children project. You can view more pictures of Fr. Themi and Sierra Leone by Costa here.

A TV documentary has also recently been made in Greek of Fr. Themi’s work. The first part of it can be viewed on the PK4A website here. Even if you don’t speak Greek, I would recommend it as the visuals itself can be quite striking.

As always, if you would like to support Fr. Themi and his work, you can go to the PK4A (Paradise Kids 4 Africa) website.

Written by Stephen

April 27, 2010 at 5:29 pm

Posted in Africa, Sierra Leone, Video

Russian Orthodox Revival in Israel

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A Different Sort of Orthodoxy
By KSENIA SVETLOVA
02/04/2010 16:04

Early Saturday morning, when the town of Migdal Ha’emek is still sound asleep, the tiny church of St. Nicolay is crammed with people. There is a strong aroma of incense and thin, yellow candles glow softly, their light reflected on the golden icons. The murmur of Russian words grows into loud singing and the 100-strong parish repeats the prayers after the black-bearded priest and a small choir behind him.

They are singing in Old Slavonic – the language that could be easily understood by the contemporaries of Ivan the Terrible, and nowadays is used only in prayer texts and church documents. Physically, the church of St. Nicolay is situated in the heart of this quiet and sleepy Jewish town in the North; spiritually it is a part of quite different world, the world of Russian Orthodoxy.

One has to strain his eyes to spot the cross on top of the church – a rare sight in a town with predominantly Jewish population. The simple structure is walled by a two-meter fence erected under the direct order of the municipality for the protection of the worshipers.

The church of St Nicolay was founded in 1894 and was partly funded by the Grand Duke Sergey, who also built the famous Russian Compound in Jerusalem. It has seen the decline of the Ottoman Empire, the British Mandate and the birth of the Jewish state. The church functioned until 1948, and in 1953 Migdal Ha’emek was founded. Long abandoned and in ruins, in 2004 the church was reconstructed by Sophia – the association of Russian Orthodox Christians in Israel. The funds mostly came from private donations of the parish.

“We, the followers of the Orthodox church, are independent in thought,” says its English language Web site. “We believe that our primary adherence is to the Christian Orthodox faith which is our shared religion and culture and which erases the social and language differences to communicate in Christ. The association works to strengthen and to deepen Orthodox Christian presence and to provide welfare for the followers of the Orthodox congregation and all righteous worshipers in the Holy Land through truly benevolent work in religious, educational, social, development, publicity and legal aspects.”

On weekdays no more then 20 people might show up at the church; however, on Saturdays, Sundays and the major Christian holidays, such as Christmas, Easter and Trinity Sunday, the place is teeming and many have to settle for a place in the courtyard, says Oleg Usenkov, the press secretary of Sophia. After mass, the people gather outside in the courtyard, reluctant to leave, and exchange greetings and congratulations. The majority are immigrants from the former Soviet Union who came with the large wave of aliya during the 1990s. Others are foreign workers from Romania and Bulgaria. There are also a few offspring of mixed marriages – Arab fathers and Slavic mothers – who speak mostly Arabic, but also some Russian.

The priest is Father Roman Radwan, an Israeli Arab born in Nazareth, fluent in Russian, which he mastered at the White Russian seminary in New York. His grandfather, Alexander Kavna, was the last rector of the Russian teachers’ seminary in Nazareth before the October Revolution in 1917.

“We wait for these Saturdays and Sundays impatiently during the whole week. I feel most alive here, in this church,” says Nadejda, a member of the parish. She came here from Moscow, being both a Jew and a Christian. “Weren’t Jews the first Christians? Aren’t we in the Holy Land? We do not harm anyone and do not wish to offend or be offended by anyone.”

The Russian footprint

There was a time, some 100 years ago, when the influence of the Russian Orthodox Church in Israel was quite palpable. In 1860, the Russian Palestine Society was founded by the czar. Over a period of more than 50 years the society established hospices for pilgrims, Christian schools, a theological seminary and a number of churches all over the region, from Jerusalem to Beirut. According to a few Russian accounts, as well as the Catholic Encyclopedia, this activity greatly annoyed the local Greek Patriarchate, which saw itself in competition with the wealthy Russian church.

This rivalry came to an end with the October Revolution in Russia, when the Communist Party came to power. All educational and religious projects of the Russian Orthodox Church were effectively frozen. The ownership of its vast assets passed through many hands – the British government and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan recognized the White Church as the sole owner, while the State of Israel saw in the Soviet Red Church the lawful heir of Russian church assets on its territory. Eventually many of these assets were nationalized or traded for various commodities and goods. In the notorious 1964 “Orange Deal,” Israel purchased most of the Jerusalem’s Russian Compound from the Red Church for $3.5 million. Short of cash, it paid in oranges. Until the fall of the Iron Curtain, Russian pilgrims almost entirely ceased visiting the Holy Land and the influence of the Russian church was eradicated.

Since 1991 the tide has turned once again. Relations between Israel and post-Soviet Russia were reestablished, and a sizable flow of Russian Christian pilgrims resumed, reaching its peak following the introduction of a visa-free regime between the countries. Along with their Jewish relatives, many Christians also came here under the auspices of the Law of Return. Some converted to Christianity while still in Russia, others were of Russian or other non-Jewish origin in the beginning. Upon arrival, some immigrants, both Jewish and non-Jewish, embraced Christianity and joined various churches – Greek Orthodox, Catholic and Anglican – or sects, such as the Messianic Jews or Jehovah’s Witnesses.

There are no precise figures on the number of non-Jewish immigrants or Jews who practice other religions, since some of them hide their religious views, fearing they and their children might be ostracized by society. According to Usenkov, the numbers are significantly higher than previous estimates.

“I think that there are at least 70,000 to 100,000 Russian Orthodox living in Israel today. Perhaps the real figures are even higher, but in any case this is quite a large section of Israeli society,” he says. According to Usenkov, a Jewish oleh from Moscow who embraced Christianity while still in Russia, there are also many immigrants, especially from mixed Jewish-Russian families, who turned to Christianity after their relocation.

Dr. Ze’ev Khanin, the chief researcher at the Immigrant Absorption Ministry, says there are no data that support this claim. “There are absolutely no statistics to show that there is a significant process of Christianization among the non-Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union. Upon arrival in Israel, only 5 percent to 7% declared their Christian faith. That’s why there is only one community in Migdal Ha’emek, and not 10 or more.”

Khanin acknowledges the phenomenon of Jews and non-Jews who turn to Christianity while here, but claims that it’s rare and uncommon. “The roots of this phenomenon are in Russia, where many people today are in some sort of spiritual search. According to our data, 10 years ago about 80% of the Jewish population in the former Soviet Union was secular and 20% religious. Among the religious segment, 12% were Christians and 8% adhered to Judaism. Today the tendency has changed – 12% adhere to Judaism and 8% to Christianity. So, as you can see, we are talking of margins of the margins.”

The burden of faith

However, not everyone is convinced that the intentions of the Russian Orthodox Christians are kosher. Anti-missionary organizations such as Yad L’Achim and many religious leaders suspect that spreading Christianity among the Jewish population is exactly is what the members of the parish are after. Usenkov waves off all accusations of being involved in missionary work. “Our faith forbids us to lure people into it. On the contrary, if someone interested in information about Christianity comes to me, I will advise him, of course. However, I will interrogate him about his intentions and try first to explain about the burdens and obligations before this person will be able to make up his or her mind,” he says.

Since the day it opened, the church of St. Nicolay has been met with suspicion and hostility. Albeit unwillingly at first, the people who gathered in its courtyard started telling stories of abuse and harassment against them. “Often the students of a nearby yeshiva pass by our building and curse us; others spit on the building,” Dr. Ilya Litvin, a member of Sophia, says.

The most recent violence happened in August during one of the church holidays. Unidentified youngsters began throwing stones at the worshipers praying in the yard, and a few people received light injuries. Father Radwan complained at the police station no more then 500 meters from the church, but the intruders were never located.

“At least we have our church and our priest, so we can observe our holidays, arrange for a proper marriage or child baptism, unlike many others,” says Litvin.

Despite the vast abundance of different churches here – Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Anglican, Coptic, Ethiopian, Armenian and many others, the Russian Orthodox, who today form the largest Christian minority after the Israeli Arabs, fall between the cracks. They can’t find their place in Arab churches, being estranged culturally and linguistically, and they claim to be neglected by the Greek Patriarchate. Hence the need for separate churches and other necessities, such as cemeteries.

The question of burials turns out to be one of the sorest points for the community. “The death of a dear one is always difficult, however the pain becomes unbearable when we can’t even bury him or her according to their religious belief,” says Father Roman Radwan. “The Arab local councils with Christian cemeteries cannot accommodate our dead, since they are in dire need for vacant plots themselves, and burial in secular cemeteries is very costly. Also in some cemeteries we cannot arrange a Christian burial ceremony.”

The association addressed a request to the Interior Ministry to obtain a license as a Hevra Kadisha to be able to bury its dead, however the official response was: “The society should obtain a plot of land for the cemetery and then seek a license from the Ministry of Religious Services.”

Members of the community stress that they are loyal citizens who pay their taxes and serve in the army. “The only thing different is our faith, but this is the only thing,” Usenkov says. “We don’t want to be outsiders. We wish to be recognized by Israeli society as part of it. We, and our Arab friends of Christian faith who pray and work together with us, are Israelis first of all, not Russians and not Palestinians. This is a very important point. The tendency today among the Arab Christians in Israel is toward radicalization and Palestinization. At the same time, while there are no responsible spiritual leaders among the Russian-speaking Christians, extremely dangerous and hazardous sects, some distinctively anti-Israeli and even bluntly anti-Semitic, attempt to spread their influence among them.”

Litvin supports his point: “We promote hard work, army service and values of tolerance and coexistence. So we adhere to Christianity and not to Judaism. So what?”

Time for the church of Zion

Besides the complaints of harassment and maltreatment by the authorities, the members of the community also cherish dreams of religious revival. “Christianity was born in this land, and we favor the crystallization of our faith from foreign elements,” says Usenkov, who believes that it is time to revive the Orthodox Church in the Holy Land. “Today we pray in the Russian language, because it’s easier for the elderly to use it as the language of communication. However, our heads and souls are in Israel, where the official language is Hebrew. It can unite all Orthodox Christians here – the Jews, the non-Jews and the Arabs – and the ancient church of Zion might be resurrected again.”

But all that is in the future, the activists of Sophia believe. Today, the community is in dire need of churches, priests and recognition. “Our small church hardly answers the needs of Russian-speaking Christians in the North, while in the South people die without seeing a priest, but the Greek Patriarchate doesn’t prepare Russian-speaking priests for our community, nor do we see new churches, although there is a huge need for them,” says Litvin.

Father Galaktion of the Greek Patriarchate says that it established a committee to answer the needs of Russian-speaking Christians and that Patriarch Theophilus III meets with Russian speakers during church holidays.

But the activists and the leaders of Sophia are positive that the solution for their problems will not come from abroad, neither from Russia nor from Greece. “We are an Israeli church. We are Israeli citizens. And our goal is to serve the Christians of Israel who are part of Israeli society. We seek rapprochement, not alienation, and with God’s help we will succeed in our goal,” Litvin says after another morning of prayers at St. Nicolay in Migdal Ha’emek.

Source: The Jerusalem Post
Hat Tip: Ad Orientem
Information about the Sofia Association can be found at their website here.

Written by Stephen

April 26, 2010 at 8:43 pm

Posted in Israel, Russia

St. Stephen of Perm

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Commemorated April 26

This life is from Orthodox America, found here, but I would also highly recommend Aaron Taylor’s post on St. Stephen, found here at his blog, Logismoi.

St. Stephen, the Enlightener of Perm, was a contemporary of St. Sergius of Radonezh, one of the great fathers of Russian monasticism. The spiritual affinity of the two saints is illustrated by the following incident, as recorded in St. Sergius’ Life:

Once, when St. Stephen was passing near St. Sergius’ monastery on his way to Moscow, he stopped and turned in the direction of the monastery with the words: “Peace to thee, my spiritual brother!” Seeing this with his spiritual eyes, St. Sergius, who at that moment was sitting in the refectory with his monks, arose, said a prayer and bowed in St. Stephen’s direction, saying as he did: “Rejoice also, thou pastor of Christ’s flock, and may the blessing of the Lord be with thee !”

Born in 1340, St. Stephen was the son of a cleric, Simeon of Ustiug, and his wife Maria. When Maria was only three, Blessed Prokopy, fool-for-Christ of Ustiug (July 8), foretold that she would give birth to a great hierarch.

From childhood St. Stephen was marked by exceptional abilities: only a year after beginning his studies he became canonarch and reader at his father’s church. At the same time there blossomed in his heart a yearning tc please God.

He was still quite young when he entered the monastery of St. Gregory the Theologian in Rostov where he was tonsured and ordained a hieromonk. When he wasn’t busy with his obediences, the youth studied the Holy Scriptures and the Greek language. He became inspired with the idea of bringing. the light of Christianity to the pagan Ziryans who inhabited the distant land of Perm on the western edge of the Ural mountains. In preparation for this missionary work, the Saint studied the Ziryan language and, after composing an alphabet based on Ziryan monetary symbols, he translated into that language from Greek the sacred texts. The head of the Moscow diocese at that time, Bishop Gerasim, blessed the young missionary and gave him necessary church utensils, while the Tsar provided him with a letter of safe conduct.

The preaching of Christianity progressed slowly. The pagans would have killed the Saint had they not been held back by fear, knowing that he carried a letter of safe conduct. On his part, St. Stephen tried not to miss any gathering of people as an opportunity to preach the Gospel. Gradually the pagans began to engage in religious debates with him.

They didn’t know what to think of his meekness, and suspected that it was a form of craftiness.

The young missionary was grieved by the Ziryan’s hostile attitude towards the Faith. But he was patient in his labors and God answered his prayers and touched the hearts of the pagans with His grace; they began coming in crowds, asking for Holy Baptism.

St. Stephen’s success angered the old wizard Pamoi who began to reproach the Ziryans for having abandoned their ancient beliefs and listened to the young Christian. “Go,” they told him, “argue with him, not with us.” The wizard proposed to the Saint a test by fire and water to determine whose religion was better. The Saint agreed:

You desire that which exceeds my humble powers, but I trust in the compassion and mercy of the Ail-powerful God. May those who witness the miracle be confirmed in their faith, and may you and your idols be forever disgraced !”

A hut was set on fire, and the Saint, having prayed and having asked the people for their prayers, turned to the wizard: “Let’s go together, hands joined as promised.” But Pamoi was terrified; even the jeering crowd couldn’t persuade him to go in.

They proceeded to the trial by water. On the river two holes were cut into the ice; they were to enter through one hole and come out through the other. When the wizard again refused, the crowd cried out demanding his death. St. Stephen interceded to save his life, ordering him only to leave forever the land of Perm. And that was the last anyone heard of the pagan wizard Pamoi.

In 1383 Stephen was made the first bishop of Perm. He provided a strong foundation for the fledgling Church–erecting many temples and monasteries, establishing schools for future clergy, teaching them himself, and showing an example of active charity in caring for the poor and unfortunate. When there was a famine in the area he collected bread and distributed it to the populace, free of charge. He sought the reduction of taxes and protected his flock from oppression by secular authorities.

St. Stephen died in 1396 while in Moscow on church business. He was buried in one of the Kremlin churches, a fact which greatly saddened his orphaned flock. The monk Epiphanius described their grief in his prose epic “The Lamentation of the Land of Perm” which forms the basis of the present Life:

“…Had we lost but gold and silver, these we could regain. But we shall never find another like you …. What right does [Moscow] have? She has her own metropolitans and hierarchs; we had but one, and she has taken him for herself. And now we don’t even have a bishop’s grave. We had only one bishop; he was our lawmaker, our baptizer, our apostle, our preacher, our confessor…”

Written by Stephen

April 26, 2010 at 2:35 am

Mission to Chinese in Moscow

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Moscow, 13 April 2010, Interfax – Prophet Daniel Orthodox missionary movement carried out a guided tour to the Holy Trinity – St. Sergius Laura for Chinese living in Moscow.

“We believe the Lord has brought foreign guests to our city not only to work or to study here, but to learn more about Orthodoxy,” the movement leader, renowned theologian Yury Maximov told Interfax-Religion on Tuesday.

“Thus, we searched for possible ways to carry out missionary work among foreigners living in Russia and finally we decided that they can get acquainted with Orthodoxy in trips to our monasteries with guided tours in their native language,” the interviewee of the agency further said.

The initiative was once approved by the movement’s founder Fr. Daniel Sysoyev who was shot dead by unidentified criminals in St. Thomas Church in south Moscow late on November 19, 2009.

“We were preparing it for almost a year. It’s a great pleasure that the initiative was welcomed by Chinese. Though we first thought to attract a small group of six people, we finally have got a group of fourteen Chinese students,” Maximov noted.

According to Maximov, Chinese students showed such a “deep and lively interest in Orthodox shrines that we hope many of them will continue studying Orthodoxy in frames of Chinese Orthodox lectures, which will be soon organized by Prophet Daniel missionary movement.”

Source: Mystagogy

Also a couple of interesting articles here and here about the Chinese in Moscow and Russia. Generally, they sound like a fairly transient and insular community, with little opportunity to make Russian contacts.

Written by Stephen

April 24, 2010 at 6:39 am

Posted in Asia, China, Missionaries, Russia

Thomas Sunday Celebrated by Chinese Priest in Harbin

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On 11 April 2010, St. Thomas Sunday, the Revd. Michael Wang Quansheng, a clergyman of the Chinese Autonomous Orthodox Church, who lives in retirement in Shanghai, celebrated the Divine Liturgy at the Church of the Protecting Veil in Harbin for the Orthodox community with the permission of the state authorities.

Fr. Michael Wang was ordained priest by Bishop Simeon (Du) of Shanghai in 1958. Fr. Michael, 86, was assisted by a reader, Papias Fu Xiliang, a pupil of the head of the 20th Russian Ecclesiastical Mission in China, Archbishop Viktor (Svyatin) of Beijing. Fu Xiliang studied at the Moscow Theological seminary several years ago.

Some fifty Orthodox citizens of China prayed at the Divine service as well as the Russians who reside or stay in Harbin. Many of them received Holy Communion. The procession of the cross around the church was held after the service that was celebrated in the Church Slavonic language; certain prayers were read in Chinese. Fr. Michael read out Paschal greetings in Chinese. The name of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia was proclaimed during the service. He will take direct canonical care for the flock until a Primate of the Chinese Autonomous Orthodox Church is elected.

The Divine Liturgy is the first service celebrated by a Chinese cleric in Harbin after the demise of the last rector of the Church of the Protecting Veil, the Revd. Gregory Shipu in 2000.

On 4 April 2010, the Feast of the Resurrection, Paschal Matins and Liturgy were celebrated at the Church of the Protecting Veil in Harbin. More than 100 compatriots prayed, many of them confessing and partaking of the Holy Mysteries of Christ. With the permission of the Department for religious affairs of the province and at the request of the Orthodox Russian citizens living in Harbin, Paschal divine service was celebrated at the Church of the Protecting Veil by a staff member of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations, hieromonk Stefan (Igumnov) who arrived in China with the blessing of Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, the DECR Chairman.

For ten years, the Orthodox believes living in Harbin, including Russian compatriots united in the “Russian Club of Harbin,” have tried to obtain permission for divine services. This matter was discussed by the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations and the State Administration for Religious Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, and also at the talk of Archbishop (now Metropolitan) Hilarion of Volokolamsk with the leaders of the administrations for religious affairs of the province and the city of Harbin on 19 November 2009 during the visit of the delegation of the Presidential Council for Interaction with Religious Associations and the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations to the People’s Republic of China.

Source: DECR
Hat Tip, with more pictures and links: Orthodoxy in China

Written by Stephen

April 14, 2010 at 12:15 am

Posted in China, Pascha

Paschal Celebrations in Vietnam

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In seaside Vung Tau, Vietnam, the Easter service was led by Rev. Sergiy Zvonarev, DECR acting secretary for far-abroad countries, who came to the city for the purpose at the request from the local Orthodox community, the Russian Orthodox Parish of Our Lady of Kazan.

The Easter service, just as the Holy Week services before it, was celebrated at the cultural center for Russian specialists of the Vietsovpetro joint venture, arranged temporarily as a church.

On Great Saturday, Easter cakes baked by a local bakery were blessed.

According to the established tradition, numerous believers walked in a procession with the cross through the district.
The night service was attended by Vietsovpetro workers and their families, Russians living in Vung Tau and other parts of the country as well as guests who came from Lebanon and Cambodia.

After the Easter liturgy, a festive repast took place. The priest brought Easter greetings and noted the importance of bearing Orthodox witness in distant parts of the world.

Source, with more pictures: DECR
Hat Tip: Orthodoxy in China

Written by Stephen

April 12, 2010 at 11:26 pm

Posted in Asia, Pascha, Russia, Vietnam