Priest Dionisy Pozdniaev
THE ORTHODOX CHURCH IN CHINA
ITS PROBLEMS AND PROSPECT
The Orthodox Church in China has an almost three-century history. The first orthodox church was opened in Peking in 1685. In the course of time friendship relations between Russia and China was the reason for opening the Russian Orthodox Mission in Peking. However, its activity was not missionary up to the end of the 19-th century. The Russian priests was able to perform their mission works only after the Russian Diplomatic Mission had been opened in Peking had been established.
106 orthodox churches were opened in China by 1949. In general the parishers of these churches were the Russian refugees, and the Chinese part was about 10 000 persons.
When China had its own communist revolution, the Russian refugees left China. Consequently, there appeared the problem of training Chinese-born for priesthood. That years many Chinese were ordained. In 1957 the Chinese Orthodox Church was declared the Autonomous. Bishop of Peking Basil (Shuan) became the head the Church. Bishop Simeon (Du) was at the head of the Shanghai Diocese.
Some years later “the cultural revolution” destroyed the young Chinese Orthodox Church almost totally. Some clergymen were persecuted and exiled, others were tortured. The churches were closed, its property was confiscated, and the religious activity was forbidden.
The revival of the Orthodox Church in China stated in the middle of the 80-s. In Harbin the church in the honour of the Protection of Our Lady was opened first. In 1986 few Russian refugees and the orthodox Chinese were allowed to pray there. Nowadays it is the only orthodox church in the territory of the Peoples Republic of China (PRC), where the services are going on. Farther Grigoriu Чжу is the dean of this church. The services there are performed in church-slavonic. During the years of persecution the service books has been confiscated and are not returned till now. The name of His Holiness Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia ALEXY II is remembered at the Divine Liturgy. Patriarch ALEXY II gives the antimins, without which it is impossible to perform the Liturgy.
There is another church recently opened in China. It is situated nearby Harbin (25 km from it) in the place Санкeшу in the territory of the cemetery, where the orthodox believers are buried. The authorities of the province Heilongjiang allocated about 80 000 юаней for the reconstruction of the church. In August, 1995, restoration works were completed. Divine services are performed by the priest from Harbin on special days of Commemoration of the Dead.
In September, 1997, the authorities of Harbin has completed the reconstruction of the St. Sofia church. It is turned into museum.
In 1993 the delegation of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) with metropolitan of Smolensk and Kaliningrad Kirill at the head and bishop of Chita Innocent visited China. Father Grigoriu Чжу made several visits to Moscow and Khabarovsk. Nowadays the priests from the Russian Orthodox Church used to visit China.
The church of the Protection of Our Lady in Harbin is also at the edge of closing, because the aged priest is not capable to perform worship regularly for the community of 150 persons. In such situation the ROC can support this community and send a priest from Russia on great church feasts. ROC also is ready to give an opportunity for the Chinese men for their theological education and finance their training at the Russian theological school.
The orthodox flock in the autonomous area of Xinjiang contents about 3 500 persons. In 1986 the members of the community have been allowed to reconstruct the church in Urumqi. In 1990 the works was completed. However, the services are not performed, due to the cause that the community does have no priest up to now. That is why for more than 30 years the orthodox faithfulls of Xinjiang is lack of spiritual help. On great church feasts and every Sunday they meet for the common prayer at the church. The authorities of this autonomous area announced Christmas as the non-working day for orthodox, and on Easter they arrange a banquet for the community.
The church community in Urumqi repeatedly addressed to the ROC to send a priest for the great feasts. The religious legislation of the PRC provide the opportunity for foreign clergymen to serve under condition that there is the invitation from local communities and the permission of authorities. However, the matter is stopped by the authorities of the PRC.
Father Michael Li, protodeacon Evangel Lu and about 30 orthodox faithfulls live in Shanghai. But till now the authorities of Shanghai do not consider the spiritual inquiries of the orthodox. There are 2 churches kept in the city and considered the architectural monuments. But nowadays they are turned into restaurants settle.
More than 250 orthodox албазинцев (descendants of the Russian refugees) lived in Peking and its vicinities. Farther Alexander De feeds them spiritually. They
repeatedly addressed to local authorities asking to register the community and permit to worship. However, the authorities gave negative answer. Farther Alexander De was rewarded by Patriarch ALEXY II with the church order of St. Innocent, II degree. The representative of the ROC has handed the high church reward to him during their visit on October 25, 1998.
On the occasion of 40-year's anniversary of the autonomy of the Orthodox Church in China the Holy Synod of the ROC, held on February 17, 1997, has decided to carry out charge about the orthodox flock in the territory of China in a more complete way. The decision was also accepted that Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia will take care about the orthodox faithfulls in China till the election of the Head of the OCC.
Till now we know nothing about the remains of the relatives of the last Russian Emperor, killed in Alapaevsk (Russia) in 1918, are placed and about the relics of 222 orthodox Chinese martyrs, glorified by the Russian Orthodox Church in 1902. We only know that these holy relics were buried in Peking somewhere in the territory of the orthodox cemetery at the gate Andingmen.
The Russian Orthodox Church considered useful to begin the dialogue with China on all these problems. We believe that the joint effort of all the christians would be the appropriate step for the decision of the existing problems in religious sphere in China. In this connection the assistance of western christians is extremely important at all levels.