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Innocent of Irkutsk

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John Kulchitsky, his birth name, was born into a noble family. His parents moved from Volhynia to the Chernigov region in mid seventeenth century where he was born about the year 1680, Entering a life of serving God, he received his theological education at the [[Kiev Theological Academy]]. In 1710, he was [[tonsure]]d a [[monk]] and was given the name Innocent. After his tonsure he was appointed prefect and professor of theology at the Moscow Slavonic-Greek-Latin Academy, the future [[Moscow Theological Academy and Seminary|Moscow Theological Academy]]. In 1719, [[hieromonk]] Innocent was transferred to the St Petersburg Alexander Nevsky Lavra where he was appointed the chief naval [[chaplain]]. The following year he was named to serve as vice-regent of the Alexander Nevsky Lavra.
In 1717, with the reposed repose of [[Archimandrite]] [[Ilarion (Lezhaisky)|Ilarion]] of the [[Russian Orthodox Mission in China|Orthodox Mission]] in Beijing, China a move was initiated, with the support of Peter I, for the appointment of hieromonk Innocent to lead the mission in Beijing and act as the official representation of the Russian government. On [[February 14]], 1721, in preparation for this assignment he was consecrated Bishop of Pereyaslavl. After having journeyed to Selingin on the Chinese border near Irkutsk, Bp. Innocent was refused entry to China because he was characterized as “a spiritual personage, a great lord,” a position that the Chinese would not accept. The Chinese emperor’s position had been formed by religious activities of Jesuits within China, leading to their expulsion. After existing in Selingin for three years in a state of uncertainty concerning his position, suffering much deprivation, and disarray in dealing with the civil government in Siberia, the Holy Synod, in 1727, named Bp Innocent to be the first Bishop of the new [[Diocese]] of Irkutsk and Nerchinsk.
Having his authority defined, Bp. Innocent took charge of the immense job that was given to him to enlighten the great number of diverse Siberian nationalities in the Christian faith. He toiled tirelessly organizing the diocese and strengthening its spiritual life. The witness of his efforts have been passed down through the many sermons, pastoral letters, and directives that he produced. His labors were accomplished under severe conditions as he spent his years of labor for God, until his repose, without receiving any money from St Petersburg. Even under these adverse conditions he maintained two schools, one for the Mongols and the other for Russians, at the Ascension [[Monastery]] in Irkutsk.
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