Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Orthodoxy in.... China

a fascinating article from Russia Profile:

The Ties That Bind
By Andrei Zolotov, Jr.
Russia Profile

Moscow Patriarchate Works to Revive the Chinese Orthodox Church

When Moscow hosted the World Summit of Religious leaders in early July, many commentators noted the conspicuous absence of the Dalai Lama. The Moscow Patriarchate defended its decision not to invite the Buddhist leader by saying he was unlikely to get a Russian visa due to objections from the Chinese government. At the same time, the red carpet was rolled out for the Chinese delegation, led by the Director of the State Administration for Religious Affairs, Ye Xiaowen.

The Russian Orthodox Church is going to great lengths to accommodate China because over the past four years, the Moscow Patriarchate has been involved in a complicated negotiating process with the Chinese government in order to restore the status of the Chinese Orthodox Church.

In the early 20th century, there were more than 100 Orthodox churches in China, serving both a large Russian community and a small but growing group of indigenous Orthodox Christians.

Today, there are only four open churches serving a community the Chinese government estimates at 2,000 members, while Russian Orthodox officials believe it to be 12,000. Even the larger estimate represents a tiny minority in a country with a population of more than a billion. But the Russian Orthodox Church feels a historical responsibility for this group since they represent the work of one of the Russian Orthodox Church’s few missionary enterprises abroad, and once played a central role in Sino-Russian relations.

The history of Orthodox Christianity in China dates back to 1685, when the Chinese imperial army took over the Russian fortress of Albazin and brought its entire Cossack population, including a priest, Maxim Leontyev, as prisoners to Peking. Many married Chinese women and an indigenous Orthodox community began. In 1712, Peter the Great sent the first Russian Ecclesiastical Mission to China. It also functioned as the official diplomatic mission of Russia to the court of Chinese Emperors until a separate diplomatic mission was established in 1861.

(read it all here.)

(icon from the website of the Chinese Orthodox Church)