KESTON NEWS SERVICE: 11.00, 14 November 2001.
Reporting on violations of religious liberty and on religion in communist
and post-communist lands.
CHINA: GOVERNMENT PREVENTS RUSSIAN ORTHODOX
PARISHES HAVING PRIESTS. After the death of its priest over a
year ago the Orthodox parish in Harbin, as well as the other Orthodox
parishes in China, remain without either priests or services, Keston News
Service has learnt. This is more than a year after the Russian Orthodox
Church began asking the Chinese government for permission to send a
priest or priests (see KNS 11 October 2000). No response has been
received by the Chinese government. In Hong Kong by contrast,
following a recent visit to Beijing and Hong Kong by Metropolitan Kirill
of Smolensk & Kaliningrad, a Russian Orthodox priest may be allowed
to visit Hong Kong to hold services.
CHINA: GOVERNMENT PREVENTS RUSSIAN ORTHODOX
PARISHES HAVING PRIESTS
by Tatyana Titova and Felix Corley, Keston News Service
The Orthodox parish in Harbin, as well as the four other surviving
Orthodox parishes in China, remain without a priest and without services,
Father Dionisi Pozdnyayev, the Moscow Patriarchate's main expert on
Chinese Orthodoxy, told Keston News Service, more than a year after the
Russian Orthodox Church began asking the Beijing government for
permission to send a priest or priests. The parish of the Protecting Veil of
the Mother of God in Harbin in China's north-eastern Heilongjiang
Province was the last in China to have its own priest, but with the death
in September 2000 of Father Gregory Zhu Shipu this parish too has been
without a priest (see KNS 11 October 2000). Chinese officials have made
no response to any of the letters and appeals from the Moscow
Patriarchate, Father Dionisi reported. In contrast to the situation in China
itself, following a recent visit to Beijing and Hong Kong by Metropolitan
Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, the head of the Patriarchate's
Department of External Church Relations, a Russian Orthodox priest may
be allowed to visit Hong Kong to hold services.
Apart from Harbin, Father Dionisi, who works at the Department for
External Church Relations with responsibility for South East Asia, said
the other Orthodox parishes are located in Labdarin (Inner Mongolia),
Urumqi, Chuguchak and Kulj (Xinjiang Province). Not one of them holds
services because of the absence of priests. "China is the canonical
territory of the Chinese Autonomous Orthodox Church, whose fate
cannot be a matter of indifference to us," Father Dionisi told Keston in
Moscow on 12 November.
He said that Metropolitan Kirill had written to the director of the
government's Religious Affairs Bureau in Beijing, Ye Xiaowen,
proposing a dialogue on a wide range of issues. Previous letters sent to
the Chinese president, Jiang Zemin, had received no response. The
Moscow Patriarchate has also appealed to the Chinese embassy in
Moscow, but a meeting between Metropolitan Kirill and the ambassador
was also fruitless. "The reason for the silence is that the Chinese
authorities have not taken our requests seriously," believes Father
On 12 November, the spokesman of the Chinese Embassy in Moscow
refused to answer Keston's questions about the Chinese Autonomous
Orthodox Church, saying they were too "complex". He was also unable
to say what had happened to the Russian Orthodox Church's appeals to
the Chinese embassy in Moscow, as these appeals had been made under
the former ambassador, on whose departure most of the embassy staff
had been changed, including the spokesman.
Contacted in Beijing on 14 November, an official of the Religious Affairs
Bureau was unable to give Keston any immediate response as to whether
the government would give permission for an Orthodox priest from
Russia to serve in Harbin or other Chinese cities. "Our director, Ye
Xiaowen, is away in Anhui Province on business," the official told
Keston, "and the head of the Christian affairs department, Ma Yuhong, is
away on business in Guangdong Province. Only they can answer your
questions." The official promised that Keston's written questions would
be answered on their return.
On 7 November, during a pastoral visit to South East Asia, Metropolitan
Kirill visited Beijing, though he spent only a few hours there and did not
hold any official meetings. "The format of the visit did not allow for that.
As all our appeals had remained unanswered, we could not insist on it,"
Father Dionisi explained to Keston. According to the Russian Orthodox
Church's official website, the Russian embassy in Beijing is the only
place in China where Orthodox services are conducted.
During Metropolitan Kirill's visit to the Hong Kong Special
Administrative Region, several dozen Russian-speaking Orthodox
believers expressed a wish to form a congregation that could be served by
a Russian Orthodox priest. Asked by Keston whether the appointment of
a permanent Russian Orthodox priest in Hong Kong had been discussed,
Fr Dionisi explained that the talks had related only to visits by a priest to
serve his compatriots. Currently, Orthodox believers of Russian birth are
served by the Greek Church of the Holy Apostle and Evangelist St Luke,
under the Constantinople Patriarchate.
A spokesman for Constantinople's diocese of Hong Kong and South East
Asia told Keston from Hong Kong on 14 November that Metropolitan
Nikitas had not made any attempt to send a priest from his jurisdiction to
the Harbin parish or any of the other Orthodox parishes in China itself.
Copyright (c) 2001 Keston Institute. All rights reserved.