DECR Deputy Chairman Hegumen Philaret (Bulekov) met with representatives of governmental and religious organizations during his trip to China

Chinese Orthodox Church

Hegumen Philaret (Bulekov), Deputy Chairman of the Department for External Church Relations (DECR) of the Moscow Patriarchate held a series of meetings in Beijing with government and religious organizations in China. Father Philaret led a DECR delegation at a round table, “Compatriots and the Russian Orthodox Church: Experience of Cooperation in Asia”, held in Beijing on December 10-11, 2011 with the support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia and the Russian Orthodox Church.

On December 9, 2011 Hegumen Philaret visited the State Administration of Religious Affairs of the People’s Republic of China (SARA PRC), where he met with the head of the Department of Foreign Affairs, Ms. Guo Wei. A wide range of issues of cooperation between Russia and China in the religious sphere was discussed, as well as the pastoral care of Orthodox compatriots in China and cooperation on normalizing the situation the Chinese Autonomous Orthodox Church.

Accompanying Herumen Philaret was DECR staff member, D. I. Petrovsky, a member of the Russian part of the Russo-Chinese group on contacts and cooperation in the sphere of religion; Petrovsky discussed with the Chinese side agenda issues of the working group, particularly, the preparation of the second Russo-Chinese consultations and a regular mechanism of cooperation in the religious sphere, which are scheduled to be held in China in 2012.

The meeting was also attended by A.P. Povalyaev, First Secretary of the Russian Embassy in Beijing; Ms. Xiao Hong, Deputy Director of the Department of Foreign Affairs of SARA PRC; Mrs. Xu Wenzhen and Mrs. Xue Chunmei, deputy directors of the Second Division of the Department of Foreign Affairs of SARA PRC.

As a remembrance of the meeting, Hegumen Philaret presented Ms. Guo Wei an album published for the 65th anniversary of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations. Then China’s State Administration for Religious Affairs gave a dinner in honor of the DECR delegation.

That same day, the DECR’s deputy chairman visited the southern Catholic cathedral in Beijing in honor of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary, where he was met by priest Peter Zhao, vicar general of the Beijing diocese. He welcomed Hegumen Philaret on behalf of Bishop Joseph Li Shan of Beijing, who was on a trip abroad on that day.

Hegumen Philaret expressed his gratitude to Chinese Catholics for the support they give to the Orthodox in their country. By mutual agreement, Chinese Orthodox believers and priests from Russia have an opportunity to use Catholic churches in Beijing for divine services: the feast of Pascha, during the Olympics, as well as for funerals of Orthodox believers — in particular, the burial rite of Archpriest Alexander Du was held in the Catholic Church. DECR’s deputy chairman expressed the hope that this cooperation will continue in the future because while the Orthodox church on the territory of the Russian Embassy has been restored, not everyone (especially Chinese citizens) can visit it.

The interlocutors also discussed the future development of joint scholarly and educational projects in the Beijing seminary and the Russian Church’s theological schools and the exchange of faculty and students.

Priest Peter Zhao said that the mutual support of the Orthodox and Catholics is natural, noting that the Chinese Catholics are impressed by the beauty of Orthodox divine services. The sides also exchanged views on the importance of preserving Christian tradition and a firm witness of traditional Christian moral values in a world which is rapidly being secularized.

As a remembrance of the meeting, Hegumen Philaret left an illustrated album about Orthodoxy in China, written in the Russian and Chinese, for Bishop Li Shan.

The DECR delegation also visited the Daoist White Cloud Monastery (Baiyunguan), where they met with the Deputy Secretary of China Daoist Association Meng Zhiling. After a conversation about the importance of promoting inter-religious peace, they exchanged gifts. Hegumen Philaret gave the Chinese Daoist Association an “Orthodoxy in China” album.

On December 12, 2011 Hegumen Philaret visited Beijing’s Council of Churches, where he spoke about the roundtable which had brought together in Beijing compatriots and Orthodox clergy from Asia, noting that representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church consider it important to meet with representatives of traditional religions of China as part of their stay in Beijing.

“We know of the good communication between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Chinese Protestants” – said DECR’s deputy chairman. “That it was at the invitation of China Christian Council and Bishop Ding, Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad (now – the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia) first visited China in 1993. We would like to maintain the current high level of contacts including in the field of educational projects.”

On the same day Hegumen Philaret had a meeting with Sergey Razob, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Russian Federation in China, at which they discussed issues related to the joint agenda in detail.