Innocent (Figurovsky) of Beijing

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Metropolitan Innocent (Figurosky) of Beijing and China led the Russian Orthodox Mission in China from 1896 to 1931 and as Bishop of Beijing was its ruling bishop from 1902 to 1931.


Ivan Appolonovich Figurovsky was born on February 22, 1863 into a family of a priest, Apollo Iosifovich Figurovsky, in the village of Panovsky in Siberia, Russia. His mother was Matron Gavrilova, who died in 1911 as the nun Manefa. His father was a priest of the Church of Kiriko-Iulitinsk in the Diocese of Yeniseisk. His pre-theological education was at a church school in Kransoyarsk. Upon completing his pre-theological education in 1878, young Ivan entered the theological seminary in Tomsk. He only completed three years of study before leaving the seminary.

In 1883, Ivan was appointed to the position of chanter in the Church of the Presentation in the town of Blakhtinsk. There he met Anna Petrovna, the eldest daughter of the priest, Peter Simonov, of the Presentation Church. They were married on November 11, 1883. In the following year, 1884, he was ordained a priest in the Yeniseisk eparchy (diocese) in Siberia.

After the death of his wife, Anna, probably in late 1885, Ivan left his parish, in 1886, and entered the fourth year class at the St. Petersburg Theological Seminary. After completing his classes at the seminary in 1888, Ivan entered the St. Petersburg Theological Academy. In 1890, Ivan was tonsured a monk with the name Innocent. Innocent completed his studies in the academy in 1892 and received the degree of candidate in theology. He was appointed inspector of the spiritual school of Alexander Nevsky.

Having been ordained to the priesthood, Fr. Innocent was elevated to archimandrite in 1894 and appointed rector of the St. Petersburg Theological Seminary. During 1895, he was the priest-in-charge of the Holy Protection missionary monastery in Moscow. In 1896, Fr. Innocent was assigned as the eighteenth leader of the Orthodox mission to Beijing, China. Fr. Innocent traveled to China through western Europe visiting missionary groups to familiarizing himself with missionary activities. His travels included visits to Mount Athos and Palestine before continuing on to the Far East. He arrived in Beijing in March 1897. On arrival he found the mission disorganized and immediately set to establishing order in the organization, setting rules for missionary operations, establishing Chinese as the language for daily services, energizing preaching the Gospel in Beijing, organizing parish activities, and initiating charity efforts in Beijing.

In 1900, the Boxer revolt brought serious problems to the Orthodox mission, as well as to other christian groups in China, as the Boxers destroyed the property of the mission. During the revolt over 200 Orthodox were killed by the Boxers. In 1901, Fr. Innocent was called to St. Petersburg to report to the Holy Synod on the state of the mission. With support from Metropolitan Anthony, the mission was continued and Fr. Innocent was elected Bishop of Beijing. His consecration was held in the Holy Trinity Cathedral at the Alexander Nevsky Lavra on June 3, 1902. In August 1902, Bp. Innocent returned to China. The area of Bp. Innocent’s jurisdiction was large, extending along the Chinese-Eastern Railway and all the churches in China including Mongolia and Manchuria.

As an after effect of the Boxer revolt, nearly all of China was opened to spreading of the Gospel. Under Bp. Innocent’s leadership missions and parishes were opened throughout the northern part of China. The first female monastery was organized in Beijing in 1903. By 1915, over 5,500 Chinese had been baptized. A translation commission actively produced translations of the Scriptures. Bp. Innocent himself was fluent in Chinese and had mastered some 62,000 Chinese characters.

In March 1918, Bp. Innocent was elevated to Archbishop of Beijing and was placed as the ruling bishop of the Diocese of Beijing and China created in 1922. In 1928, Abp. Innocent was awarded the dignity of Metropolitan of Beijing and China. He reposed on June 28, 1931 and was buried in the Church of the All Holy Martyrs in Beijing.

Succession box:
Innocent (Figurovsky) of Beijing
Preceded by:
Metropolitan of Beijing and China
Succeeded by:
Archbishop Simon (Vinogradov) of Beijing
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