05/04/2005, 00.00
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In Beijing Orthodox Easter is celebrated in Catholic church

Lay people celebrate Orthodox Easter service in Catholic because there are no more Orthodox churches and priests in China.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Orthodox Easter was celebrated in China on Sunday, May 2. The service was however conducted in Beijing's Catholic Cathedral since there are no Orthodox places of worship left in the country.

The mass, the first one in 40 years, was conducted by lay people since there are also no Orthodox priests in the country and Chinese law bans foreign priests.

China's oldest Orthodox priest, Fr Alexander Du Lifu, died in 2003 at the age of 80. He was survived by just two other Chinese-born Orthodox clergymen living in Beijing: Mikhail Li, who is currently based in Australia, and Evangel Lu, who in the meantime has moved to Shanghai. For this Easter, Orthodox believers had to get prior authorisation from City Hall.

The congregation thanked City Hall for its permission, and said they hope that they "would soon have an Orthodox priest of their own".

Most of the worshippers in attendance were Beijing residents, but some had come from Tianjin and Hebei (provinces to the south-east of the capital).

Another Easter service took place on the premises of the Russian Embassy in Beijing, but was not open to Chinese believers.

The Orthodox Church in China gained full autonomy from the Russian Orthodox Church in 1957, but with the Culture Revolution of 1966-67, the life of the local Orthodox community got almost frozen.

Currently, according to the External Church Relations Department of the Moscow Patriarchate there are an estimated 13,000 Orthodox Christians in the whole of China, 400 in the capital.

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