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SHANGHAI, CHINA: June 27, 2012
Metropolitan Ilarion of Volokolamsk Celebrates Divine Liturgy in Shanghai’s St Nicholas Church

On June 23, 2012, His Eminence Metropolitan Ilarion of Volokolamsk, President of the Department of External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, visiting China with the blessing of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, and at the invitation of the State Administration on Religious Affairts of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), celebrated Divine Liturgy at St Nicholas Church in Shanghai. As he entered the church, flowers were presented to him by students of the Sunday school, and Mr M Drozdov, President of the Russian Club, welcomed him on behalf of the local Orthodox community.

During Divine Liturgy, Metropolitan Ilarion was joined by the rector of the Orthodox community, Protopriest Alexei Kiselevich, clergymen of the Chinese Autonomous Orthodox Church Priest Michael Van and Protodeacon Evangel Lu. Helping during the service was also Subdeacon Papius Fu Silyan, a student of Archbishop Viktor (Svyatina), who was the Chief of the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission in China in 1933-1956. Most of them partook of the Holy Mysteries of Christ.

Among those in attendance were Mr Andrei Smorodin, Consul General of the Russian Federation; Mr Sergei Burdeliak, Consul General of Ukraine; Mr Vladimir Vorobey, Consul General of Belarus; Mr Nikolai Kudashev, Consul of Russia to the Philippines; the President of the Coordination Council of Compatriots in China; Mr Drozdov; film director Pavel Lungin; Mr Syui Hueitsan, and Representative of the Administration on Religious Affairs of Luvan district of Shanghai. By the end of the service, Ms Irina Beleva, Consul General of Bulgaria arrived.

In his archpastoral sermon at the end of Liturgy, Metropolitan Ilarion said:

Dear Fathers, Brothers and Sisters:

I express my heartfelt greetings to you on this day, when we are given the opportunity  to celebrate Divine Liturgy in this historic St Nicholas Church of Shanghai. Over the  course of many decades, there were no divine services in this church. But in recent years,  although not on a regular basis, but on important holidays, divine services have once  again been celebrated here. This is thanks primarily to the fact that you have preserved  the Holy Orthodox Faith, that through your patience and persistence, you have overcome  all obstacles that rise up against you.

Orthodox Christianity has existed in China for several centuries. Orthodoxy is practiced  here by both the Chinese people as well as Russians, Ukrainians, Belarussians,  Moldovans, and representatives of other nationalities who live here. It is very important  that all Orthodox believers have the opportunity to come to church and participate in  divine services, so that through the Holy Eucharist we would be united with God not only  spiritually, but with our entire nature.

The church temple is the heart of the spiritual life of a Christian. It is impossible to be a  Christian and not attend church. It is impossible to be an Orthodox Christian and not  participate in the Holy Mysteries, not commune of the Holy Mysteries of Christ. Those  who consider themselves Christians, but do not attend church as a rule, are very distant  from God. They have difficulty finding the words to pray to the Lord. Such people are  uncomfortable in church, they sense that there is a great deal they do not know and that  the divine services are not being performed for their sake. Only those Christians who  come to church on Sundays and holidays sense in their lives the special presence of God.

What are those Orthodox Christians who would like to attend church on Sundays  but do  not have that opportunity supposed to do? First of all, one should go to church at every  opportunity, once a week, a month, a year, for that is how the Christians in the Soviet  Union lived. Many of them had no opportunity to pray at divine services in church,  because they were closed. Sometimes the closest church was hundreds or even thousands  of miles away. But believers lived in hope that their nearby churches would be opened,  that sooner or later, divine services would return to their lives. They did not abandon  hope, despite the years and decades they existed, when nothing, it seemed, ever changed.

The Orthodox believers of China lived for many decades with hope for the renascence of  church life. We cannot yet say that Orthodoxy has fully come to life in China. Yet there  are signs of this appearing: we see that churches that were many years used for other  purposes and were not open to believers now, maybe not fully, but are gradually  returning to their original purpose—divine services are being performed in them.

We hope, we pray and labor towards the goal that the active Orthodox churches of China  hold regular services, so that priests would be provided, that churches which are  misappropriated would once again be filled with the sounds of Divine services, and in  places where the need arises, the Orthodox believers of China could build new churches  or restore those that were destroyed. I promise you that on our part, we will do everything  we can.

I want to thank each and every one of you that you preserve the Orthodox faith. Stand  firm in your faith, do not falter. There is nothing in this life more important, there is  nothing more valuable. Everything else—our successes and our failures, our health and  our sickness, our problems and struggles, these all come and go, but the Orthodox faith  will abide for eternity, helping us live with God and follow the path to the Kingdom of  Heaven.

The President of the DECR then addressed the Chinese clergymen and parishioners: “I have special words of gratitude, thankfulness and elation for Fr Michael and Fr Evangel, to Papius and the other Orthodox Chinese believers, who despite all their struggles and hindrances, staunchly carried the Orthodox faith into life. I wish you firm health and I wish that you will see the rebirth of the Orthodox Church in China with your own eyes.”

Metropolitan Ilarion then thanked Fr Alexei, noting his pastoral labors in ministering to the Orthodox believers of Shanghai. The DECR President also thanked the Consul General of Russia, or Ukraine, Belarus and other nations who support the rebirth of the Orthodox faith in Shanghai.

In prayerful commemoration of this event, Vladyka Ilarion gave the Orthodox community of Shanghai an icon of the Savior Not-made-by-Hands, and to the parish library a set of books he himself authored. Every worshiper then received an icon of the Mother of God “Joy of All Who Sorrow.”

Protopriest Alexei then expressed the filial love of the community he heads to Metropolitan Ilarion, as well as their fervent gratitude for his archpastoral visit and hierarchal prayers. He gave Vladyka Ilarion an icon of his Heavenly Patron for his prayerful efforts in the normalization of the status of the Chinese Autonomous Orthodox Church.

After the service, tea was offered, after which, distributing his archpastoral blessings to all, Metropolitan Ilarion flew to Harbin to finalize the official program of his visit to the People’s Republic of China. The DECR President is accompanied on this mission by Mr DI Petrovsky, officer of the DECR; Mr LM Sevastianov, Executive Director of the Fund of St Gregory the Theologian; and Subdeacon Alexander Yershov.

Press Service of the DECR.