On June 23, 2012, Metropolitan Hilarion, chairman of the Department for External Church Relations of Moscow Patriarchate, who is in China with the blessing of Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Cyril and at the invitation of China’s State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA), conducted a service at St. Nicholas church in Shanghai. At the entrance to the temple, Sunday School pupils presented Metropolitan Hilarion with flowers ; and on behalf of the community, M. Drozdov, President of the Russian Club, welcomed the DECR Chairman.
During the Divine Liturgy, Archpriest Alexy Kiselevich, rector of the Orthodox community, Priest Michael Wang and Archdeacon Evangel Lu, clerics of the Chinese Autonomous Orthodox Church concelebrated with Metropolitan Hilarion. Assisting during the service was Subdeacon Papiy Fu Xiliang, graduate of Archbishop Victor (Svyatin), head of the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission in 1933-1956. There were about a hundred people present at the service — members of a multinational Orthodox community in Shanghai. Most of them partook of Holy Communion.
Among those present at the service were Consul General of: Russian Federation — Andrei Smorodin, Ukraine — Sergei Burdelyak, Belarus — Vladimir Vorobiev, Russian Ambassador to the Philippines Kudashev Nicholas, chairman of the Coordinating Council of Compatriots in China, President of the Russian Club in Shanghai Mikhail Drozdov, movie director Pavel Lungin, representative of the Office of Religious Affairs of Luwan district of city of Shanghai Xu Huijiang. Irina Beleva, General Consul of Bulgaria in Shanghai came by the end of the service.
After the Divine Liturgy, Metropolitan Hilarion said in his archpastoral homily:
I heartily congratulate you with this day when we had the opportunity to celebrate the Divine Liturgy in the historic St. Nicholas Church in Shanghai. For many decades there were no services in this church. But in recent years, albeit sporadically, once again on major holidays, the services were beginning to occur. This is primarily due to the fact that you saved the Holy Orthodox Faith, that with your patience and perseverance you overcome all the obstacles erected against it.
Orthodoxy has existed in China for several centuries. Orthodox Faith in this country is confessed by both Chinese and Russian, Ukrainians, Belarusians, Moldovans and other nationalities that reside here. It is important that all Orthodox believers were able to come to church and participate in worship, that through the Holy Eucharist we can unite with God, not only spiritually, but also with all our being.
The Temple is the spiritual core of Christian life. It is impossible to be a Christian and not go to church. It is impossible to be Orthodox and not participate in the sacraments of the church, not partake of Holy Communion. Those people who consider themselves Christians, but do not go to church, as a rule, are far from God. They have a hard time to find words to utter a prayer to the Lord. In church, these people feel awkward and uncomfortable: they always think that they do not know much and that the service is performed as if not for them. And only those Christians who are in the church on Sundays and holidays, feel the special presence of God in their lives.
What should those Orthodox believers do who would like to come to church every Sunday, but do not have this possibility? First of all, one should come to church whenever the opportunity appears, whether it be weekly, monthly, annually — as did Orthodox believers living in the Soviet Union. Many of them have not been able to pray in divine services in the churches because they were closed. It sometimes happened that the nearest church was hundreds or thousands of miles away. But believers lived in hope that these churches would open, and sooner or later the worship will return to their lives. They did not lose hope, despite the fact that years and decades passed, and nothing around them, it would seem, has changed.
Orthodox believers in China for decades lived in hope for the revival of church life. We can not yet say that the Orthodox Church in China is fully revived. However, the first signs of this are visible: we see that those churches, which for many years been used for other purposes and did not opened their doors to believers, now, even if not in full measure, but once again become what they were meant to do — in them the worship services are performed.
We hope, pray and work to ensure that regularly worship services led by resident priests be performed in existing Orthodox churches in China, that the temples, which are currently used for other purposes, once again would be filled with the sounds of divine services, and in places where there is a need, that Orthodox Christians of China could build new churches or rebuild the ones that were destroyed. I promise you that from our side we will do everything possible for this to become a reality.
I would like to heartily thank each of you for keeping the Orthodox Faith. Stand firm in your faith, do not abandon it. In this life there is nothing more important and nothing more precious. Everything else — our successes and failures, our health and our sorrows, problems and difficulties — come and go, but the Orthodox Faith endures forever, helping us to live with God and follow the path to Heaven. «
DECR Chairman appealed to the Chinese clergy and parishioners: «A special word of thanks, gratitude and admiration I would like to bring to Father Michael and Father Evangel, to Papiy and other Chinese Orthodox believers, who, in spite of all difficulties and obstacles, firmly carried the Orthodox Faith through life. I wish you good health and wish that you would see with your own eyes the revival of the Orthodox Church in China. »
Welcoming Archpriest Alexy Kiselevich, rector of the community, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk noted his pastoral labors in taking care of Orthodox believers in Shanghai. DECR Chairman also thanked the Consul General of Russia, Consul General of Ukraine, Belarus and other countries which have contributed to the support of the Orthodox Faith in Shanghai.
For prayerful memory Archbishop Hilarion gave to the Orthodox parish in Shanghai, the miraculous image of Our Savior (not hand made), and for the parish library — a set of books written by him. During the liturgy, each worshipper received the image of the Mother of God «Joy of All Who Sorrow» as a blessing.
Archpriest Alexy Kiselevich on behalf of the participants expressed to the DECR Chairman filial love and gratitude for the warm Archpastoral visit and Episcopal prayer. To strengthen the prayer in the affairs of the normalization of the Chinese Autonomous Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Hilarion has been presented with the image of Guardian Angel.
After the service, a tea reception was held, after which, having given the Archpastoral blessing to all gathered, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokamsk flew to Harbin for completion of the official program of stay in China at the invitation of China’s State Administration for Religious Affairs. DECR Chairman was accompanied by D.I. Petrovsky of the Department for External Church Relations of Moscow Patriarchate, L.M. Sevastyanov, executive director of the Foundation of St. Gregory the Theologian, and Subdeacon Alexander Yershov.
Originally published in Russian by DECR Communication Service June 24, 2012
English translation by Katherine Ilachinski