Lives of Saints - Saint Innocent of Irkutsk Christianity - Books
And if thy hand cause thee to stumble, cut it off: it is good for thee to enter into life maimed, rather than having thy two hands to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire.                where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.                And if thy foot cause thee to stumble, cut it off: it is good for thee to enter into life halt, rather than having thy two feet to be cast into hell, where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.                And if thine eye cause thee to stumble, cast it out: it is good for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell;                where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.               
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Saint Innocent of Irkutsk

Saint Innocent (John in the world) was born in a nobleman’s family that lived in Volyn, but because of Polish oppression, they had to move to Chernigov province in the 17th century. Innocent was born there in 1680. He studied at the Kiev Theological Seminary and on graduation he became a monk at the Kiev-Pechora Caves monastery. In 1710 hieromonk Innocent became a professor of the Moscow Slavic-Greek-Latin Academy and in 9 years, being the most educated monk, he was appointed a cathedral hieromonk of the ship "Samson" in the port of Revel. Then Innocent was promoted to the position of chief hieromonk of the fleet in the town of Abo, where he directed the work of the clergy on the ships. In 1721 he became governor of the Alexander Nevski Caves Monastery.

From the time of Yermak’s conquest of Siberia at the end of the 16th century, there was a continuous migration of Russian people to those parts. By the beginning of the 17th century Orthodox believers needed a special Siberian eparchy with the cathedra in Tobolsk. In 1650 a Cossack chief Habarov occupied the Chinese town of Albazin on the left bank of the Amour river, and from that point the Cossacks kept control over the whole river. In 1685 a large army of Chinese with artillery besieged Albazin. One hundred soldiers were killed in the unequal battle and about 300 Cossacks were captured. Some prisoners of war together with their wives and children adopted Chinese citizenship, after which the emperor Kancy (1665-1722) kindly welcomed them and allocated a place for them live in the very heart of China – Beijing. It was they who started the first Russian mission in China.

In 1718 the confessor of the Orthodox community in China died, and the Holy Synod appointed hieromonk Innocent to succeed him. At the time a catholic mission supported by the emperor was active in China. It was the "Society of Jesust" founded in 1539 by a Spanish nobleman Ignatius Loiyola for propagation of Catholicism among heretics and pagans. When the Holy Synod informed the emperor Peter the 1st that hieromonk Innocent was appointed bishop to the state of China, his resolution was: "Let him be ordained archbishop, but it would be better not to mention town titles…lest the Jesuits cause him trouble."

In 1721 hieromonk Innocent was tonsured a bishop, with the emperor Peter I attending the ceremony, and in several days bishop Innocent accompanied by few clergymen and church singers headed towards Irkutsk as a missionary. A year passed before he reached the town. In the meanwhile, the Chinese government incited by Jesuits refused to grant a visa to "church official and very important person" Innocent. So he had to settle at the Trinity monastery in Selenga near the Chinese border. Bishop Innocent found himself in a very hard situation and had to ask for the Synod’s help.

At the end of August 1727 the Synod appointed Prelate Innocent to be a bishop of Irkutsk and Nerchinsk. He confronted many difficulties in his ministerial work, such as closeness to Chinese border, vast underpopulated areas of his eparchy, inhabited by many various nations like Buriats, Mongolians and other ethnic groups who were not enlightened by Christianity, bad roads and poverty. Through neglect of the Senate and the Empress Katherine he received no salary until death and he was very hard up. Even under such conditions some of the meager means of the Irkutsk Holy Ascension Monastery were allocated to provide for the two schools that were founded by him: a Russian school and a Mongolian one.

Prelate Innocent took every care for those schools to keep going, finding good teachers, and supplying the students with books, cloths and food. He incessantly was working on improving material and spiritual life of his parish. Many recorded sermons, pastoral messages and resolutions testify to it. In hardships and deprivations he always retained spiritual steadfastness. He was famous for his humbleness and sagacity. There happened a bad harvest in his eparchy in 1727, then the drought started, and people feared hunger. Sermons began to be served in the churches of Irkutsk asking for rain and the akathist to Holy Virgin Mary was read. Prelate foretold: "We should stop praying on St. Elijah’s day." Indeed, on the 20th of July, the day of prophet Elijah, Irkutsk had a stormy rain of such strength that its streets were covered with knee high water. The drought was over.

It was under Prelate Innocent that the reconstruction of the old wooden church into a stone one, in the monastery of Holy Ascension began. But Prelate’s health was failing him. Because of severe climate and hardships St. Innocent died on November 27, 1731 at the age of 50. He was buried in the monastery of Holy Ascension five miles away from Irkutsk on the bank of the Angara river.

In 1764 during repair works at the Tikhvin church of the monastery his sweet-smelling relics were uncovered and since that time healings started to ensue from them continuously. Prelate Innocent helped people not only in Irkutsk, but also in remote places of Siberia. In 1801 under the emperor Paul I, the Russian Church canonized Prelate Innocent.

Bright light of the Church, illuminating the country with the radiance of thy kindness,/ thou art glorified for the many healings received by those who come to thee with faith in God,/ we pray to thee, O Holy Father Innocent, that through thy intercessions this town be protected from all calamities and trouble.


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