"American Orthodox Messenger" Vol. VI. № 5. March 1-14, 1902. pg. 114-115.
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Chinese Orthodox Mission

English translation by Katherine Ilachinski

«Moscow Register» writes:

We have to note that, contrary to false rumors of last year about the alleged forthcoming abolition of the Orthodox Mission in China, in our government circles there is serious work going on for a stronger and wider establishment of it.

Currently, reports our correspondent (Moscow. Reg. № 18), the discussion on the Chinese mission draws to a close: even in the current year one hopes to establish a special Manchurian diocese, with the residence of its bishop in Beijing.

The undertaken review of the establishment of the Orthodox Mission of China was absolutely necessary, even apart from any Boxing unrest. The point is that the Mission, over 200 years, was an agency somehow quite vague in the goals and purposes of its existence. Whatever the merits or shortcomings of her individual personalities, the work could not develop under these conditions.

Peter the Great, in his project for it, with the usual deep penetration into the heart of the matter, indicated the establishment of the Orthodox Diocese of China, by the appointment of, the ever-memorable Innokenty as bishop of Beijing. But under the circumstances, this great toiler did not even reach Beijing, and all his missionary works fell to other spheres. Thus, the Diocese of China has not been established, but neither has it been abolished.

Indeed, the superiors of the Chinese Mission were not members of any diocese, and in Beijing institutions continued to exist on paper that were never actually implemented, such as a monastery, with broad rights as a Monastery (Lavra), superior of which was considered ideally the chief of the Mission.

But no monastery in fact existed, and the Chief of the Mission - Archimandrite, could not even take advantage of extensive autonomy of a monastery because it was set up to be managed by a bishop. The Mission also has not received any funds.

What was the Mission actually? She was looked upon as the Embassy house church, but not as the center of parish of former Albazins. But it was an internal contradiction, subordinating the Mission, on one hand, to our diplomatic Mission, and on the other – to the Chinese government, whose subjects were descendants of Albazins.

The complexity and ambiguity of the situation was compounded by the fact that communication with the diplomatic agency caused by the latest demands were not of religious character, and at the same time, by political aspects. The Mission, in almost all the time of its existence, was expressly forbidden to disseminate the Orthodox faith.

Generally, the situation exasperated the complete inability of the Mission to do any productive work, except maybe to study the Chinese language.

Obviously, leaving the Mission in such a situation was possible only until nobody thought about her, and as long as it existed in the form of a random archaeological ornament, dispensable and not disturbing anything.

However, the Boxing turmoil and the terrible beatings that occurred among the Chinese Orthodox have now made it completely impossible to accept such a negligent attitude towards the Mission on our part.

After all that have happened, we had to choose only two outcomes, to execute the requirement of crazy fanatics of paganism – and leaving to arbitrariness of fate the ill-fated “not slaughtered” Chinese Orthodox and clearly renounce the precepts of Christ - completely destroy the Mission; or, refrain with horror from such apostasy and shameful cowardice, put the Mission in the situation where you could properly develop the moral force of Christianity, be an angelic comforter of victims of atrocious paganism and continue Christ’s work, devotion to whom the Chinese people, through its Orthodox community, just demonstrated in a number of martyred feats.

But for such establishment of the Chinese Mission, obviously, there is no other way but returning to the idea of Peter the Great on the establishment of Chinese dioceses, with the bishop at the head.

If Orthodox Mission has such brilliant results in neighboring Japan, precisely because its superior based the work on purely Orthodox approach, on the church foundation, and soon after he was vested to the rank of archpriest. According to the books, Archpriest Nikolai of Japan still remained Auxiliary Bishop of the Riga diocese, but in fact he was Bishop of Japan. The Chinese mission requires the presence of a Bishop, but of course at this time, with more conscious respect for our cause, and with the memory of Peter the Great idea, no longer an “Auxiliary” representative of an alien diocese, but as a true bishop of China or Manchuria.

All these circumstances have led inevitably to radical reorganization of the old Chinese Mission. To this annexes a number of other circumstances, demanding reform of the Mission, on the basis of the diocesan approach.

Due to the increased relations between China and Russia, building of the Manchurian Railway, the emergence of Russian trade factors, and finally fighting that led many Russian troops to China, all this led to the gradually establishment of a significant number of Orthodox churches in Chinese areas, particularly in Manchuria.

In Beijing, Mongolia, Manchuria and Guangdong there are now, they say about three dozen Orthodox churches, sometimes starting accidentally, having clergy of various departments and generally remaining without proper alignment, oversight and guidance. The presence of Russian people and increasing number of temples had the inevitable consequence of the numerous cases of Chinese joining the Orthodoxy, even without any deliberate mission on our part.

In the meantime, not to mention Beijing, in Manchuria there was wide spread Roman propaganda. Before beginning of the last unrest, Roman Catholic mission had in Manchuria 30 European missionaries, 160 churches and chapels, 117 schools, 3 seminaries and a native flock of over 21,000 persons. Our troops had to rescue and protect them from the Boxers, and yet one is sufficiently aware that Catholic missionaries, with the extent of its success, consistently and systematically are arming China against Russia. In such a situation the most basic political caution compels us not to keep Manchuria in the power of Rome, but to care for our Orthodox Mission. This is all the more necessary because these Roman Catholic missionaries with their ways of propaganda promote Chinese pagan fanaticism and cause unrest, which we also then have to appease.

The need to improve our Orthodox churches and parishes, naturally and uncontrollably developing in Manchuria, and a clear need to show the Chinese that the Orthodox idea does not have anything to do with exploitative ways of Roman missionaries - all of which likewise requires development of Manchurian-Chinese dioceses. It would be very dangerous, politically, to join Manchurian parishes to the Siberian Dioceses: it would promote the fear of Chinese; in addition the goal of affairs in Manchuria and China are too different from the objectives of Siberian dioceses, so it requires a special independent church authority.

Here's the situation that now present itself before us in the question of the Chinese Mission. One can not but rejoice in its intended decision.

No less encouraging is for all Orthodox Christians, if confirmed, reported by our correspondent, rumors that the bishop of the new department will be Archimandrite Innokenty, The Honorable Pastor of Beijing Mission, who survived with his Chinese flock terrible time of pogroms and who managed so quickly to save and restore everything that was humanly possible. For the new diocese it will be very fortunate to get an administrator – bishop who is so beautifully prepared and selflessly dedicated to the cause. Like the first, appointed by Peter the Great to China, he is named Innokenty. We can be allowed to hope that his fruitful missionary successes will be as glorifying as of the first Innokenty.