08/30/2021, 09.01
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Republic of Tuva: Consecration of an Orthodox church-yurt

by Vladimir Rozanskij


Archbishop Feofan (Kim) of Korea presided over the ceremony. It is the second mobile tent of nomadic peoples used as a place of worship. Dedicated to the Blessed Matron of Moscow, a seer venerated throughout Russia. The Siberian region hosts a lager where 7 priests and 4 deacons serve.





Moscow (AsiaNews) - Orthodox authorities have consecrated a "church-yurt" in Kundustug village in the Siberian Republic of Tuva, on the border with Mongolia. Despite the strong urbanization of the territory, which has been home to nomads from the countryside or inhabitants of cities and small towns, more than half of Mongolians still live in the typical mobile tent of the nomadic peoples of Asia, which also include Kazakhs, Kyrgyz and others.

Archbishop Feofan (Kim) of Korea presided over the ceremony, held Aug. 26. He is administrator of the Kyzyl diocese in the Republic of Tuva, which is entrusted with the care of the Russian Orthodox faithful both in Korea and in the part of Siberia inhabited by Mongolian peoples. Feofan is a Russian citizen, but in 2006 the Seoul government granted him honorary South Korean citizenship. The ceremony was celebrated in Slavic-Echclesiastic, the liturgical language of the Russian Orthodox Church, but some chants were performed in Tuvanian, a Turkic-Eastern variant of the Sajany mountains widespread in Russia, Mongolia and among the Uighurs of China.

The new church in the tent was dedicated to Blessed Matron of Moscow, a seer of the first half of the 20th century who was greatly venerated by the inhabitants of Tuva, even the unbaptized, as well as throughout Russia. Also called "Matron of the Blind", as she was blind from birth, as an adolescent she went on pilgrimage throughout Russia and Siberia; at the age of 17 a stroke deprived her of the use of her legs (for which she is also called "the Seated"). Until 1952, the year of her death, she continued to receive pilgrims and the sick, whom she advised and healed. The Tuvans consider her the patron saint of "spiritual nomadism".

Matron is famous above all for a semi-legendary episode: in 1941 Stalin is said to have met her at the moment of the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union. Thanks to the fortune teller, the Soviet "father of the people" would have renounced to escape, remaining in Moscow, as she had commanded him. In this way the woman contributed to the salvation of the country and the whole world from Nazism: even the icons of Matrona and Stalin are widespread. An urn with the relics of the blessed woman was placed in the new church.

The church-yurt of Kundustug is not the first in the republic of Tuva: Feofan of Korea consecrated the first in 2020. It is located in the village of Terlig-Khaj and is dedicated to the Epiphany of Our Lord. Then too, as in the newly consecrated church, the liturgy was followed by a festive banquet in front of the large prayer tent.

In the republic of Tuva, where Tibetan Buddhism is widespread, along with Tuvan shamanism, there are a total of 10 Russian Orthodox parishes. They include eight churches and a chapel, as well as two yurts, plus another chapel in the local detention camp (lager), where seven priests and four deacons serve.

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