Translation: Patriarch Kirill in China

As the Russian Patriarch embarks on a five-day visit to China, Kommersant’s Pavel Korobov takes a look at the history, current reality, and future prospects of Orthodoxy in China.

The ROC Acquires Chinese Literacy

Patriarch Kirill arrived in China on a five-day official visit. The leadership of the PRC has already called the First Hierarch’s visit an historical event – never before has the head of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) been to the country. Experts believe that the visit will help the Orthodox Church acquire official status in China.

The visit of the ROC’s primate carries not only a religious character, but also a diplomatic one, as the Patriarch is accepted as an authoritative Russian representative in the PRC. “You are the first Russian religious leader who has visited our country,” Xi Jinping said upon meeting the First Hierarch. “This is a clear expression of the high level and special nature of Sino-Russian relations.” Sources in the Moscow Patriarchate likewise say that “the Patriarch’s visit is aimed at strengthening the friendly relations between the two countries.”

Orthodoxy first came to China in the 17th century, when the Russian priest Maxim Leontiev arrived in Beijing. The Russian Spiritual Mission to China was founded in 1713. In 1957, the Chinese Orthodox Church granted autonomy. In 1965, after the death of Simeon of Shanghai, the Church lost its episcopal leadership. The Synod of the ROC in 1997 made the decision that on account of the Chinese Church lacking its own primate, and while its Local Council had not yet elected another, care of the flock would be handled by the the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia.

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