Chinese Orthodox receive state approval to prepare for ministry in Russian seminaries

Orthodox students from the People’s Republic of China can now begin to prepare for their future ministries in China in the theological schools of the Russian Orthodox Church. Agreement on the issue came as a result of the sixth session of the Russian-Chinese working group on contacts and cooperation in the religious sphere held in Beijing on Thursday, the Vice Chairman of the Department of External Church Affairs (DECR) of the Russian Orthodox Church Archpriest Nikolai Balashov told RIA-Novosti.

The meeting was held on Thursday at the Chinese State Administration for Religious Affairs, chaired by His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev) of Volokolamsk, the Chairman of the DECR, and the Deputy Chief of the Administration for Religious Affairs Chzhan Yantun.

“We touched upon a wide range of topics concerning cooperation between Russia and China in the religious sphere, including questions of training Chinese Orthodox students in the theological schools of the Russian Orthodox Church,” the statement reads.

Commenting on the results of the talks, Fr. Balashov specified to RIA-Novosti that the dialogue with the Chinese state bodies, despite the difficulties, will continue “with respect and consistency.”

“One of the main goals is to help prepare Chinese Orthodox students who will become spiritual leaders for Orthodox faithful in their country,” Fr. Balashov added. There are an estimated 10,000 Orthodox believers in the country.

The DECR Vice Chairman also noted that many Chinese Christians endured quite difficult times and preserved their faith in the years when the churches were closed and there were no priests. Fr. Alexander Yu Shi was ordained in 2015—the first Chinese Orthodox priest to be ordained in China in 60 years, which was also the result of previous Russian-Chinese talks.

“Following the first Orthodox priest after a long break, others will come to Harbin. We hope to resume regular services in Ergun, Yining, and Ürümqi, where the churches are opened but there are no priests. We hope our fellow believers will find places for prayer in other parts of this vast country. We will be consistent and patient until the normal life of the Chinese Orthodox Church is restored. The first steps towards this have already been taken,” Fr. Balashov concluded.