Metropolitan Kirill to consecrate an Orthodox church in North Korean capital city
- 11 August 2006, 12:43 Metropolitan Kirill to consecrate an Orthodox church in North Korean capital city
Moscow, August 11, Interfax - A Russian Orthodox Church delegation led by Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, head of the department for external church relations (DECR), is to fly out to Pyongyang on Friday for the consecration of a church of the Life-Giving Trinity built at the personal instruction of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.
The consecration of an Orthodox church in the North Korean capital is a great event in the religious life of this country and in relations between the Korean and Russian people. Our Church also attaches a special importance to the development of Orthodoxy in the Korean peninsula, Archpriest Nikolay Balashov, a member of the delegation, said to Interfax.
The priest also informed the agency that the initial impulse to build the church came from the North Korean leader Kim Jeng Il, who visited St. Innocents church in Khabarovsk four years ago and after that visit stated his wish to build an Orthodox church in Pyongyang to become a symbol of friendship between the Russian and Korean people.
It is assumed in the DECR that the parish will consist of not only diplomats from the Russian and Romanian embassies in Pyongyang but also locals from among followers of Russian missionaries who came to the country in the early 20th century or their descendents as well as Orthodox foreigners visiting or residing in the country. The Orthodox Committee has its own spacious facility built next to the church in the Chongbak district in Pyongyang.
August 11, 2006
KIM JONG-IL AND RELIGION
North Korea Builds an Orthodox Church
The first-ever Russian Orthodox church will open in Pyongyang, North Korea this weekend. It's an odd project considering that freedom of religion exists almost exclusively on paper in the closed communist country.
Has Kim Jong-Il found religion?
North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il is supposed to be a communist atheist. So why has he made promoting the Russia Orthodox Church his latest pet project?
On August 13, the country's first Orthodox church is to be opened in the capital city of Pyongyang. Russian Metropolitan Bishop Kyrill, second in command within the Church after the Patriarch, will travel to Pyongyang to christen the new house of worship.
"The consecration of an Orthodox church in the North Korean capital is a great event in the religious life of this country and in relations between the Korean and Russian people. Our Church also attaches special importance to the development of Orthodoxy in the Korean peninsula," Archpriest Nikolai Balashov, a member of the delegation, told the Interfax news agency.
But in North Korea, freedom of religion exists only in name, and the reasoning behind Kim's current favoring of the Orthodox religion remains unclear. What is known is that the dictator first came up with the idea of building the church on trip to Russia in a 2002 during which he visited an Orthodox house of worship.
The next year, he sent four young men from the newly established North Korean Orthodox Committee -- all of whom had worked for the North Korean intelligence service -- for spiritual training at the Orthodox Seminary in Moscow. During a crash course, the men were taught to become servants of the Church. There, they exchanged their dark suits with Kim's insignia for priests' robes. Following their visit to the seminary, the freshly baptized Christians, who had previously known nothing but the personal ideology of Kim Jong-Il and his father, were sent to the far eastern Russian city of Vladivostok for practical experience. Fyodor Kim, one of North Korea's new Orthodox deacons, admitted that it had been "very difficult" to adopt the Orthodox religion. But he didn't have much choice: the "Dear Leader" had already made the decision to build the church.
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