The Chinese government has authorized the ordination of Russian Orthodox priests on its territory for the first time in 60 years, according to an Asia News report.
Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, who heads the Synodal Department for External Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, made the announcement upon his return from an official visit to China from May 14-17, the report said, citing Russian News Agency TASS. His trip came days after President Xi Jinping landed in Moscow to attend Victory Day celebrations in Red Square, where PLA troops joined in the march to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the capitulation of Nazi Germany.
Straight after meeting with President Vladimir Putin, Xi held talks with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill and lauded the Russian Orthodox Church for its “contribution in the joint fight against fascism”.
Bishop Hilarion had met with Wang Zuoan, director of the State Administration of Religious Affairs, in Beijing on May 14.
“We agreed on the ordination to the priesthood of an ethnic Chinese who studied for several years in Russia. We hope that he will serve in Harbin at the Church of the Intercession,” Bishop Hilarion said. “Until now it had no priest. Now, God willing, it will have a priest”.
“We agreed that two other seminarians will study in Russia, with a view to their possible ordination,” he stated further. “I hope that Orthodoxy will grow in China with the help of God”.
Today, most of China’s 13,000 Orthodox Christians are spread across Harbin, Heilongjiang; Labdarin, Inner Mongolia; as well as Kulj and Urumqi, Xinjiang. In the wake of the Cultural Revolution, they’ve been left with no bishops or priests, but still sometimes gather to pray on Sundays.
Orthodox Christianity is not an officially recognized religion in China (the five officially recognized faiths here are Protestantism, Catholicism, Buddhism, Taoism and Islam). Having said that, exceptions have been made for certain non-officially recognized groups to worship legally, e.g. for the Jews and Mormons.