BEIJING (USA Today) — In the latest sign of warming ties between Moscow and Beijing, the Russian Orthodox Church ordained its first Chinese priest in 60 years, with the blessing of China's atheist, Communist rulers.
The rare move in the politically sensitive area of religion, which is tightly regulated in China, underscores how the two nations have moved closer at a time when each faces growing friction with the United States.
Yu Shi, a former banker also known as Aleksandr from the northeastern city of Harbin, took his vows at a ceremony in a church in St. Petersburg, Russia, this month following three years of training in a seminary there, church spokesman Dmitry Petrovsky told USA TODAY.
A video of the event posted on social media shows Yu, dressed in white robes, entering the Church of St. John the Evangelist in a procession of ornately dressed clergymen and speaking Chinese as he vows to devote his life to God.
He then kneels before a bishop in gold brocade who asks the congregation to pray “that the Holy Spirit and the grace of God descend ” on Yu, 42, who is married and has one daughter.
Petrovsky said Yu’s ordination was carried out with the full knowledge of China’s Communist authorities and that Yu would be allowed to work in the mainland when he completes his education.
“He will serve in the Church of the Protection of the Mother of God in Harbin,” Petrovsky said. China’s Religious Affairs Bureau declined to comment.
The ordination follows major deals signed by Russia and China on gas, aerospace and infrastructure in the last two years, as they find a common interest in opposing what they consider American hegemony in world affairs.