Orthodox Christians celebrate Easter with prayers and music

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 May, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 01 May, 2008, 12:00am

Chinese Orthodox Christians celebrated Easter on Sunday at St Michael's Catholic Church in Beijing with prayers and music.

Evangel Lu Yafu , 82, who was ordained a deacon in the early 1950s, donned the red and gold vestment and led the community in reading the Chinese text concerning the mystery of the resurrection of Jesus.

This was the second time in three years that the small community had received permission to mark the most important Orthodox holiday in accordance with the Julian calendar, which is 13 days behind the Gregorian calendar.

Orthodox icons were placed on the altar and two choir members from the Russian community enlivened the short, sombre ceremony.

Since the death of Aleksandr Du Lifu, the last Chinese Orthodox priest, in 2003, there has been no clergyman to lead the congregation, which numbers only a few dozen.

In recent years the Orthodox community has tried to revive its traditions. More than 20 students have studied in Russian seminaries, although ordination outside the mainland is not officially recognised.

Still, the small community saw a glimmer of hope as they shed their fear of persecution and came out to profess their faith openly.

Mr Lu came from Shanghai, where he lives, for the celebration. Outside the church, he clutched painted eggs and muttered 'Christ is risen' in Old Slavonic.

Matrona Wang Linru , a Chinese Orthodox Christian activist, assisted an elderly and frail Christian woman in a wheelchair.

'We hope the government authorities will enable us to keep our community fabric intact and let us practise our faith,' she said.

Chinese Orthodox Christians can trace their origin to the 17th century, when Russian Cossacks taken prisoner in a border war arrived in Beijing.

Until the mid-19th century, the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission also functioned as the tsar's envoy.

About 5,000 Orthodox Christians live on the mainland, most in the northeastern provinces near the Russian border and in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region .

We hope government ... will enable us keep our community fabric intact
Matrona Wang Linru, an
Orthodox Christian activist