Plea for recognition of Orthodox Christians in China

By Ecumenical News International
March 17, 2008

The new Orthodox metropolitan of Hong Kong and Southeast Asia says his priorities include dealing with the Chinese government to bring about the recognition of Orthodox Christians in mainland China - writes Francis Wong.

"There are many Orthodox in the port cities in South China. Greeks are working on the ships and they want a place of worship," Metropolitan Nektarios told Ecumenical News International on 29 February, the day before his enthronement. "The pastoral activities are first for the [Orthodox] Greeks, then for the Chinese. There are only a few Orthodox Chinese there."

At present, the Chinese government recognises only Daoism, Buddhism, Islam, Catholicism and Protestantism as "official" religions, even though other religious group operate in China.

The new metropolitan, or archbishop, also said that promoting Christian unity was a priority. "I want to work together, very closely and with more collaboration, with some other Christian churches here," he said. "We must be together."

To accommodate more participants, Nektarios' enthronement took place in a Roman Catholic chapel next to the Orthodox church in Hong Kong and it was attended by local Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran and Methodist leaders.

In his interview, the metropolitan said a major challenge now facing Orthodox Christians is to break down the national barriers between them.

"There is a big mistake for Orthodox to claim themselves as Greek Orthodox, or Russian Orthodox. We are the same Orthodox," Nektarios told ENI. "I come here not to change a Chinese to a Greek, or to a Russian, but to let the Chinese know about Christ."

Metropolitan Nektarios was born in 1969 in Greece. He received his training at the theological school of the University of Athens, and he was ordained a priest in 1995.The 40-year-old metropolitan, the youngest prelate of his rank in his church, said he planned to eventually divide his jurisdiction into two. At present, his jurisdiction extends from India eastwards, including all of East Asia except Korea and Japan.

One part would remain based in Hong Kong, to cover Hong Kong, mainland China, Taiwan and the Philippines. The other one would be headquartered in Singapore to look after India, Indonesia and Pakistan.

[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Conference of European Churches.]

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