Moscow Patriarchate hopes that an iconostasis built five years ago will be permitted to enter into the PRC

The Church of Innocent of Irkutsk The Church of Innocent of Irkutsk
The Church of Innocent of Irkutsk

As reported in an October 13 interview given to RIA "Novosti" by Archpriest Nikolai Balashov, secretary for inter-Orthodox relations of the Department of External Church Relations, Chinese customs officials await a special order from their authorities and for four years already have not allowed entry across the border of an iconostasis and church articles for a temple in Labdarin.

Archpriest Nikolai recalled that at the meeting with participants of the Bishops Council of the Russian Orthodox Church, the president announced his intention to touch on this problem in the course of his visit to China.

"We hope the president’s visit will give momentum to the prolonged process of resolving this matter", said Balashov.

He emphasized that the church, which it has not been possible to consecrate because of the absence of an iconostasis and other ritual objects, is located in the Three Rivers region where several thousand Orthodox reside. "Before the ’cultural revolution’, there were 18 temples. And now, instead of them, local authorities in 1999 built a new one," reported father Nikolai.

"The church is completely empty inside", he noted, adding that as early as the year 2000 the Holy Synod charged Evstafy, Bishop of Chita, by way of fraternal aid, to deliver internal decorations to this temple, and to agree on its consecration with the Chinese authorities.

""Everything that is necessary, including the iconostasis, was obtained. Funds were appropriated by the Most Holy Patriarch Alexy. But it has been impossible to deliver this church cargo to China; for four years now it has been stored in the border town of Priargunsk, because Chinese customs officials await special permission from higher authorities," explained agency’s interviewee.

He also described other problems of Orthodox faithful in China.

"In Beijing not one temple remains, except for the Church of the Dormition situated on the territory of the Russian embassy. Unfortunately, the building now houses the embassy garage. The embassy’s reception hall had once been a house church. Even at the present time, divine services are conducted there several times a year for diplomats and our compatriots; a priest, sent from Russia, serves".

"In Shanghai there are two well preserved temples, built by Russian emigrants in the years prior to the second World War. One of these temples houses a French restaurant, and the other - a nightclub. We hope that this situation will change soon", noted the Moscow Patriarchate’s representative.

"In Harbin the temple is open to believers; parishioners assemble on holy days and pray -- as they might -- without a priest. Last summer a priest from the Yekaterinburg diocese was sent there, and he, with the permission of local authorities, conducted services in this temple", reported Balashov and expressed the hope that this practice will be continued.

According to Archpriest Nikolai, the first Orthodox believers appeared in China already in the XVII century. This was the captive garrison of the Albazin fortress, with the priest Maxim. In the XX century, there were in China ten thousand Orthodox and 100 temples, most of which were destroyed during the years of the ’cultural revolution’.

Answering a question about who will serve in the Chinese Orthodox temples, Balashov noted that 18 students from various regions of China are studying in the theological schools of the ROC Mp. "As yet we are unclear as to whether they will get permission to engage in religious activity in their native land, but, of course, we hope for the best", concluded the agency’s interviewee.


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