China restores oldest surviving Orthodox church

Chinese Orthodox Church – March 2014
English translation by Katherine Ilachinski

On February 25, 2014 in the city of Chongqing, was held the first meeting of the Joint Working Group on cooperation in trade-economic and humanitarian fields of the Volga Federal District of the Russian Federation and the region of the upper and middle reaches of the Yangtze River (Cháng Jiāng) of China.

At the meeting was particularly affected by the progress of work on the restoration of the Orthodox church of St. Alexander Nevsky in Wuhan, built in 1893, the works of Russian merchants and tea traders. The fate of the oldest Orthodox church in China has been affected in conversation of Plenipotentiary Representative MV Babich of the Russian President in the Volga Federal District and member Yang Jiechi of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China, in May 2013 during a visit by the Russian delegation of Wuhan. The parties agreed to keep this unique monument of Russian-Chinese relations and jointly restore it to its original form.

In December 2013 at the invitation of the authorities of Hubei Province and Wuhan City, China, a group of Russian painters and restorers visited to participate in the ongoing restoration of the temple by the municipal authorities. Following his trip to Russia, the necessary design and engineering documentation, which the Chinese side gave, had developed.

Participating in the meeting of the Joint Working Group, Vice Governor Gan Rongkun of Hubei Province in his report paid particular attention to the progress of rebuilding the temple, described the efforts of the Chinese side, and expressed hope for further performance of the agreed work.

Deputy Plenipotentiary Representative AP Sukhov of the President of the Russian Federation in the Volga Federal District, who headed the Russian delegation, thanked the Chinese side for its efforts to rebuild the temple. Noting the May 2013 visit in China of Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, as the most meaningful and significant event in the palette of cultural contacts between Russia and China in the past time, the head of the Russian delegation was pleased to note that at the regional level attention is being paid to the preservation of evidence on more than 300-year history of Russian-Chinese relations, the development of which plays a special role of the Orthodox Church.

AP Sukhov stressed the desirability of joint work of Russian and Chinese experts on the restoration of the temple, which will provide high-quality work and will demonstrate the cooperation between the two countries. He assured that the Russian side is ready to contribute fully to restore St Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in its original form, including the manufacturing and donation of the complex elements of temple architecture and interior decoration, painted to provide a temple in the traditional manner. In view of the importance of this project, the head of the Russian delegation stressed the priority of the quality of work over the timing of their execution.

Appreciation for the efforts of the Russian side, the Chinese partners have been made to restore the Orthodox Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in the city of Wuhan, and the agreement to continue to work on the reconstruction of the temple building with experts on both sides reflected in the minutes of the first meeting of the Joint Working Group, signed on February 26, 2014 by Chongqing Deputy Plenipotentiary Representative AP Sukhov of the Russian President in the Volga Federal District, and Vice Minister Cheng Guoping of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China.

DI Petrovsky of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate took part in the first meeting of the Joint Working Group.