The Chinese Orthodox Church
On June 18, 2012, Metropolitan Hilarion, Chairman of the Department for External Church Relations of Moscow Patriarchate, visited Khabarovsk on his way to China. On the trip Vladika Hilarion was escorted by a member of Department for External Church Relations of Moscow Patriarchate D.I. Petrovsky, assistant chairman of the DECR, A.A. Ershov and L. M. Sevastianov, executive director of St. Gregory the Theologian Foundation, with whose help the trip was made.
At the airport in Khabarovsk DECR chairman and his party were met by Metropolitan Ignatius of Khabarovsk and Amur and close staff of the Amur metropolis.
After a brief visit to Khabarovsk Theological Seminary, where Metropolitan Hilarion was greeted by the seminary pro-rector Bishop Ephraim Bikin, a meeting was arranged with V.I. Shport, Governor of the Khabarovsk Territory.
The head of the district warmly welcomed the Chairman of the Department for External Church Relations, and he described the experience of cooperation of district administration with the Khabarovsk’s metropolis in the social, informational areas in the development of international contacts. V.I. Shport stressed that the key event for all the far eastern people was the formation of Khabarovsk metropolis.
With the heartfelt warmth V.I. Shport recalled the visit to Khabarovsk by His Holiness Patriarch Alexis II, who was accompanied then by Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad (now – the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia.) Noting the role of this visit in the life of the region and the special participation of Metropolitan Kirill in the church life of the city, particularly in determining the location for the construction of the Cathedral of the Transfiguration, the governor sent an official invitation to His Holiness Patriarch Kirill to visit the Khabarovsk region.
For his part, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk thanked for the opportunity of the meeting. He stressed that the Khabarovsk district is a strategic region for Russia and the Far East, quoting the words of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, who noted that the “Far East” is not the edge, but the beginning of Russia, as here the sun rises first.”
Khabarovsk and its seminary, which can rightly be considered one of the best in Russia, could become a place of spiritual development in the region, the meeting place of cultures and peoples, one of which is the largest neighbor of Russia – China, said Vladika Hilarion. The Archbishop pointed out that more and more citizens of China are visiting the Khabarovsk district and live here on a temporary or permanent basis, so all the more urgent becomes the problem of Orthodox mission among the Chinese Diaspora in the region.
Chairman of the Department for External Church Relations of Moscow Patriarchate thanked for the invitation to the Patriarch, and promised to pass it to the recipient.
Metropolitan Hilarion also shared his impressions of the visit to Khabarovsk. He said that before he visited the city in 1985, while serving in the Armed Forces, the Chairman of the DECR said: “The main difference between the old and present Khabarovsk – the temples. In that time in the city there was one wooden temple, and I could hardly find it. Now the city is decorated with magnificent cathedrals, which indicates a spiritual rebirth of the people. I am glad to visit the city. I am confident that His Holiness the Patriarch will joyfully visit Khabarovsk. ”
The meeting participants exchanged gifts, and then the governor V.I. Shport more deeply acquainted Metropolitan Hilarion with the geography of region, pointed out the noteworthy sights of the region’s cities, about construction of temples.
On the same day he met chairman of the Department for External Church Relations Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk with the Minister of Development of the Far East, an authorized representative of the President of the Russian Federation in the Far Eastern federal district V.I. Ishaev. During the conversation, which lasted over an hour, they discussed a wide range of issues related to the development of the Far Eastern region and the strengthening of its religious life.
During a brief tour of the city, Metropolitan Hilarion, together with Metropolitan Ignatius visited the Dormition and the Transfiguration cathedrals of the city.
In Khabarovsk Theological Seminary, Metropolitan Hilarion was greeted by the seminary pro-rector Bishop Bikin Ephraim, Bishop Aristarchus from Nicolaevsk, students and teachers of the theological school. As a memorabilia of visiting the Khabarovsk seminary, the chairman of the DECR was presented with an icon of St. Nicholas. In the seminary church in the name of St. Innocent of Moscow, Vladika Hilarion worshiped at the temple shrines. At solea (space before the altar) he was greeted by Metropolitan Ignatius:
“Your Eminence, dear Vladika! We welcome you to the land of Khabarovsk, in the newly formed metropolis. We’re glad that you found the opportunity to meet with students and teachers of the seminary, and now we welcome you to the seminary church of St. Innocent.
You are the rector of Church’s post-graduate courses, and are publishing a lot of literature devoted to catechesis. You know the problems facing today’s pastors, as well as those who are currently studying in religious schools to be future priests. We follow your speeches and writings, which indicate your high potential and are a good example for the seminarians. In our seminary school we organized a new direction for the training of specialists in Chinese language and culture. We look forward to your help in this endeavor.”
Addressing the assembled students, Metropolitan Hilarion said: “I am very glad to visit Khabarovsk, after a long interval. I was here in 1985, when serving in the Border Troops. While in Khabarovsk, on a Saturday night I went to the city, followed after grandmothers who were walking and ended up in a small wooden church. Today Khabarovsk has a beautiful Cathedral of the Transfiguration and a wonderful seminary. We see that a long road was travelled, and not only here but all over Russia. But the revival of faith, which is particularly visible in large cities, not always and not everywhere came to the Russian hinterland, where there remains a vast field for Orthodox missionary work. This is the reason to give new impetus to missionary work, to pay more attention to those people who are not covered by the apostolic mission, across all Russia new dioceses and metropolis are created.”
Vladika Hilarion also said:
“The church exists not only to baptize, marry, and to provide funeral services, but to fill people’s lives with deep meaning. And who but not you have to do it? In your pastoral and church ministry you have to transfer your knowledge to people, in the first place – the spirit of dedication and the spirit of prayer, which you get in your deed.
Far East – a special area is the eastern outpost of Russia borders with the other great country. It is necessary that you are well aware of your neighbor, her culture, people and language. I made a stop on the way to China specifically to hear about initiatives toward China, which take place here.
We are currently having a challenging dialogue on normalization of the Chinese Autonomous Orthodox Church. In its history there were periods of prosperity and decline, now much is destroyed, but there’s something left. We are working with the Chinese leadership to make inactive churches become active again and to have open churches to be filled with words of prayers, so that our fellow citizens and citizens of China may freely exercise their religious life. ”
I hope that you will become educators of the Chinese, who, while in Russia, will seek to know our faith. I wish you all God’s help. Do not relax in this work!”
As a gift to the seminary library, Metropolitan Hilarion gave a set of his books.
Metropolitan Ignatius of Khabarovsk and Amur gave a dinner in honor of the chairman of the DECR. During the meal a constructive conversation took place about the prospects of the Khabarovsk theological seminary and her participation in the works (headed by the Department for External Church Relations) of the Russian Orthodox Church on the normalization of China Autonomic Orthodox Church.
Metropolitan Hilarion then attended a press conference for media and gave interview for the Khabarovsk Branch of the RTR.
Warmly taking leave at the airport from Metropolitan Ignatius, on the same day, Metropolitan Hilarion left for Beijing.