07/19/2006, 00.00
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Pyongyang: Orthodox community subject to authority of Alexei II

The Russian Orthodox Synod has decided to accept the request submitted by the chairman of the Orthodox Committee of North Korea, Giorgio Ho Ir Zin, and has welcomed the North Korean Orthodox community among its members.

Moscow (AsiaNews) – The members of an Orthodox church being built in Pyongyang in honour of the "Life-Giving Trinity" will be subject to the canonical authority of Alexei II, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia. The Russian Orthodox Synod made the decision on 17 July during its summer session at St Sergius, in response to a request from the chairman of the Orthodox Committee of North Korea, Giorgio Ho Ir Zin.

The Orthodox Committee was set up by the North Korean government in 2002. Fr Dionisy Pozdnyayev is an Orthodox priest of the Patriarchate of Moscow who ministers to Orthodox foreigners living in Pyongyang at the invitation of the authorities. He described the committee as "a sign of official recognition of the Orthodox faith".

The chairman made the formal request during a meeting with Alexei II last June. The decision was a foregone conclusion, given that ties between the Patriarchate in Moscow and the small North Korean Orthodox community are close and go back a long time.

The Russian Spiritual Mission in Korea was established in July 1897. The blessing of the first stone of the Orthodox Church of Pyonyang was carried out in April 2003 by the archbishop of Kaluga and Borovsk, Climent, who is now a Metropolitan covering the role of administrator in the Patriarchate of Moscow.

And Bishop of Yegoryevsk Marc ordained two North Korean students, Theodore Kim and John Ra, in May 2003: they were students of the Moscow Spiritual Seminary and after their ordination they returned home with a mandate to revitalize the local community.

At the turn of last century, around 10,000 Koreans converted to the Orthodox faith, thanks to the work of Russian missionaries in Seoul, Wonsan (now in North Korea) and some villages. The Japanese domination and Stalinist dictatorship interrupted the development of evangelization. Activities have now resumed in South Korea, where there are four Orthodox churches that are seen as the first signs of revival on the other side of the border too.

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