2009-08-31 13:10:00

Orthodox Church consecrated in China for first time in 50 years

Moscow, August 31, Interfax - Orthodox Church of St. Innokenty of Irkutsk was consecrated last Sunday in the city of Labdarin (Inner Mongolia autonomous district in north China.)

Descendants of Russians who settled in this distant district of China in the 19th century will become parishioners of the Labdarin Church, which was built in 1990. The parish doesn’t have clergy yet.

The Russian Ecclesiastical mission had been effective in China since 1713 and was abolished for political reasons in 1954. In 1956, Russian Synod granted autonomy to the Chinese Orthodox Church and appointed Archimandrite Vasily for the Beijing Diocese. Following the latter's death in 1962, the Chinese Orthodox Church fell into decay.

In 1997, the Synod of the Russian Church said that under existing circumstances, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Alexy II would provide for the Orthodox Church congregation in China.

China’s last openly officiating Orthodox clergyman, Fr. Gregory Chu, died in 2000. He was a priest in the church of Protection of the Mother of God in Harbin. Fr. Alexander Du, the last Chinese priest, though he could not officiate publicly, died in Beijing in 2003.

According to different estimations, there are 9,000 to 15,000 Orthodox believers in China. Majority of them live in Beijing, Shanghai, Heilongjiang Province, Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia autonomous districts.