13 October 2009, 15:20

First Russian Orthodox church opens in Beijing

On Wednesday, the church of Dormition of the Theotokos will be consecrated on the territory of the Russian embassy in Beijing. The ceremony will be held on the day of Protection of the Holy Virgin. The new temple will be the only Russian Orthodox temple in China.

photo RIANOn Wednesday, the church of Dormition of the Theotokos will be consecrated on the territory of the Russian embassy in Beijing. The ceremony will be held on the day of Protection of the Holy Virgin. The new temple will be the only Russian Orthodox temple in China.

Built in the middle of the 19th century on the former territory of the Russian Orthodox Mission in China the church has been completely reconstructed now and is ready for consecration. That temple has a rich history full of glorious and tragic episodes, secretary of the Moscow Patriarchate on the Russian Orthodox Churches abroad Bishop of Yegoryevsk Mark says.

In that church divine services were held for the members of the Russian Orthodox mission. Unfortunately in troubled years the church was destroyed. In 1950-s, there were workshops and garages on that territory. Garage boxes were attached to the building of the church and disfigured it for several years. It took too many efforts of the Russian Orthodox Church to win back the building of the church and to renovate it. It was also difficult to avoid obstacles from Chinese authorities which could oppose the restoration.

Under the Chinese law only national religious organizations and those religious organizations which are subordinate to the Chinese government are legal in the country, Bishop Mark says. Though the Chinese Orthodox church is a direct inheritor of the traditions of the Russian Orthodoxy the construction of temples of the Russian Orthodox Church is prohibited in China. That is why the new temple will be more a museum than a functional church. It is expected to house a vast exposition dedicated to the history of the Russian Orthodox mission in China.

The pastoral mission of the Russian Church in China began in the 17th century when Russian priest Maxim Leontyev came to Beijing. The Russian Orthodox mission in China was established in 1713. Russian evangelists made Orthodoxy quite wide spread in China. By 1917 there were more than 100 churches of the Moscow Patriarchate in China. In 1920-s the Beijing eparchy of the Russian Orthodox Church was established and 30 years after the Chinese Orthodox Church received autocephaly from the Moscow Patriarchate. However soon hard times came for the Chinese Orthodox. In the years of “cultural revolution” in China the Orthodox church could not function properly.

Though there are more than ten thousand of Orthodox believers in China now and most of them are Chinese people, the renovated temple will be accessible only for a limited number of believers as it is located on the territory of the Russian embassy, Bishop Mark says.

This temple is intended for divine services both Russian citizens and citizens of other Orthodox countries can attend but not Chinese people. The problem is that Chinese believers are allowed to attend only the services conducted by Chinese priests. That is why they cannot attend this church.

“We hope that with the opening and consecration of the temple will make it much easier for our compatriots in China to pray and to believe in God. We also hope that the consecration of the church will help soften Chinese laws concerning religious institutions and very soon more temples of the Russian Orthodox Church will appear in the country”, Bishop Mark concluded.

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