Orthodoxy in Taiwan

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Orthodox Christianity has had a small presence in Taiwan since at least 1901, when a parish was established by St. Nicholas (Kasatskin), Archbishop of Japan. [1] Little is known about these early years. Nicholas (Saiama) of Ramenskoe was born 1914 in Taihoku (Taipei). [2]

In 1949, a number of Russians arrived from China (e.g. Shanghai, Harbin, Xinjiang) in the wake of the Chinese Civil War, and began gathering in Taipei's Cafe Astoria. Mention is made of a Korean War-era funeral led by Bishop (later Archbishop) John (Shahovskoy) of San Francisco, then a U.S. army chaplain en route from Korea to the USA. Archbishop Ireney (Bekish) of Tokyo (later New York) made annual visits to Taipei between 1957 and 1959, celebrating divine liturgy in a private home at No. 18, Lane 132, N. Jianguo Road, called the Church of the Forerunner. In 1960 he ceded these duties to an American military chaplain, Fr. Nikolay Kirilyuk. 1965 saw a visit by Metropolitan Vladimir (Sagosky) of Japan (later San Francisco), American military chaplain Archpriest Peter Zurnovich, and Fr. Kirill Arihara. The number of Orthodox faithful in Taiwan has been variously estimated at 50 (in 1960), 100 (in 1958), and 200 (in 1965).[3] The Russian community's most famous member, ROC President Chiang Ching-kuo's Belarussian-born wife Chiang Fang-liang (née Faina Ipat'evna Vakhreva), did not attend services (and may have nominally affiliated with her husband's Methodism). By the 1970's the church had again dwindled into inactivity.

In 2000, a Greek hieromonk, Fr. Jonah (Mourtos) of Gregoriou Monastery (Athos), arrived, under the auspices of the recently-created Orthodox Metropolitanate of Hong Kong and Southeast Asia (OMHKSEA, f. 1996, and affiliated with the Ecumenical Patriarch), and with financial backing from the Kosmas Aitolos Missionary Society of Greece. He had previously been posted to missionary churches in Zaire and Calcutta. A small congregation of perhaps 30 people (swelling to more than a hundred at Christmas and Easter) formed as the Holy Trinity Orthodox Church (Taipei), aka the Orthodox Church in Taiwan, which formally registered with the government in 2003. It originally met in hotels and borrowed Catholic church buildings, then in a rented storefront in Taipei's Tianmu district, before moving to a fourth-floor apartment in Xindian. The congregation has included a mixture of Russians and East Europeans, as well as Chinese and Western converts. Liturgy is conducted in English, with parts translated into Chinese, Russian, and/or Greek. A satellite group, led by a lay reader, has been meeting in Taizhong.

In 2005, INTERPOL contacted Taiwan authorities in an attempt to apprehend drug smuggler / Christodoulos aide Apostolos Vavylis, notorious for his role in the church scandals which made worldwide news that year. [4] Vavylis had been traveling on false identity documents obtained through the assistance of church leaders, including Fr. Jonah, who traveled to Greece to testify to his lack of criminal intent. Vavylis indicated that he had traveled to Italy via Thailand with the help of (unnamed) "Taiwanese friends." [5]

In 2012, Russo-Canadian hieromonk Fr. Kirill (Shkarbul) founded the Church of the Elevation of the Cross, aka the Taiwan Orthodox Church, as a metochion of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR), and with the blessing of Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, and the head of his Office for Institutions Abroad, Archbishop Mark of Yegorievsk. Presenting itself as a reactivation of the 1901 parish, it meets in an apartment at No. 22, Lane 88 Hulin St. in Taipei's Xinyi District. Liturgy is conducted in Russian.

In 2013, Bishop Nektarios (Tsilis) of Hong Kong (OMHKSEA) responded by excommunicating Fr. Kirill and one of his parishioners, on the charge of uncanonical behavior and "ethno-phyletism." [6] At issue is whether Taiwan ought to fall under the jurisdiction of Moscow (by virtue of the Russian church's historic privileges in China and/or Japan), or the Ecumenical Patriarch (if the island is to be considered independent). An OMHKSEA press release specifically rejects arguments in favor of "parallel Orthodox jurisdictions" (as in the USA), adding a note on the political background:

The Orthodox Metropolitanate knows who is protecting him [Fr. Kirill], as well as all the bad things that he and his collaborators are doing in order to gather followers. We do not want to make any disclosures yet, so as not to scandalise the faithful. [...] Finally, to those who speak of the presence of the Church of Russia in South East Asia and its supposed canonical rights, the Orthodox Metropolitanate of Hong Kong and South East Asia states once again its unwavering and clear position that the presence of the Church of Russia in South East Asia is uncanonical and that any decision of the Synod of the Church of Russia concerning the Far East is considered invalid. At some future point, the Orthodox Metropolitanate will comment on the so-called historical arguments presented by the Church of Russia to support its uncanonical actions. [7]

Also in 2013, the ROCOR-affiliated church briefly attracted media attention for the blessing of a ship. [8]


Material taken from Wikipedia: "Orthodox Christianity in Taiwan"

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