Sainted Innokentii, Bishop of Irkutsk

Commemorated on February 9, November 26

      Sainted Innokentii, Bishop of Irkutsk, in the world Ioann (John), was descended from the Kul'chitsky line of court nobility. His parents in the mid-XVII Century resettled from Volynia to the Chernigov region. The saint was born in about the year 1680, and educated at the Kiev Spiritual Academy. He accepted monastic tonsure in 1710 and was appointed an instructor at the Slavonic-Greek-Latin Academy as prefect and professor of theology. In 1719 Saint Innokentii transferred to the Sankt-Peterburg Alexandro-Nevsky Lavra with the appointment of arch-priestmonk of the Fleet. In 1720 he bore the obedience of vice-regent of the Alexandro-Nevsky Lavra. On 14 February 1721, PriestMonk Innokentii was ordained to the dignity of Bishop of Pereyaslavl' and appointed to the Peking Spiritual Mission in China. But the Chinese government on the visa gave refusal "for a spiritual personage, a great lord", as the Senate Commission on External Affairs had indiscretely characterised him. The saint was compelled to spend three years at Selingin on the Chinese border, undergoing much deprivation because of the uncertainty of his position, and grief from the disarray of civil governance in Siberia. Diplomatic blunders of the Russian Mission in China by Graf Raguzinsky, and intrigues by the Irkutsk archimandrite Antonii Platkovsky led to this that in China was appointed archimandrite Antonii, and by decree of the Most Holy Synod Saint Innokentii was named in 1727 to be Bishop of Irkutsk and Nerchinsk. And so he entered into the governance of the newly-formed dioceses.
      The proximity of the Chinese border, the expanse and sparsely-settled dioceses, the great number of diverse nationalities (Buryat, Mongol, and others), mostly unenlightened by the Christian faith, the lack of roads and the poverty all this made Saint Innokentii's pastoral work burdensome and his life full of deprivation. Through a strange oversight of the Senate , he did not receive money up until the time of his very death and he endured extreme insufficiency of means. In these difficult condition of scant funds the Irkutsk Ascension monastery still maintained two schools opened under him one Mongol and the other Russian. The constant concern of the saint was directed towards their functioning the selection of worthy teachers, and providing for students the necessary books, clothing and other provisions.
      The saint toiled tirelessly at the organising of the diocese, strengthening its spiritual life, to which witness his many sermons, pastoral letters and directives. In his work and deprivations Saint Innokentii found spiritual strength, humility, and perspicacity.
      In the Spring of 1728 the Baikal region began to suffer a drought. Famine from poor grain-harvest had threatened the diocese already back in 1727. With the blessing of the sainted-hierarch, in May within the churches of Irkutsk and the Irkutsk region for each Liturgy they began to include a molieben for the cessation of the drought; on Saturdays they sang an akathist to the Mother of God, and on Sundays they served a collective molieben. "The supplications, said the saint, should finish on the day of Saint Elias". And indeed on that very day appointed, 20 July, at Irkutsk there raged a storm with such strong rains, that in the streets of the city water stood up to their knees, and thus ended the drought.
      Through the efforts of Saint Innokentii, construction was started on a stone church to replace the wooden one at the Ascension monastery, and the boundaries of the diocese were expanded to include not only Selingin, but also the Yakutsk and Ilimsk surroundings.
      The saint, never noted for robust health, and under the influence of the severe climate and his afflictions, rather young expired to the Lord. He reposed on the morning of 27 November 1731.
      In the year 1764 the body of the saint was discovered incorrupt during a time of restoration work on the monastery's Tikhvinsk church. Many miracles occurred not only at Irkutsk, but also in remote places of Siberia for those recoursing with prayer to the saint. This impelled the Most Holy Synod to display the relics and glorify the saint in the year 1800. And in the year 1804 there was established a feastday in his memory throughout all Russia on 26 November, since on the actual day of his repose is made celebration of the Znamenie-Sign Icon of the Mother of God. A second day in memory of Saint Innokentii is 26 November.

1996-2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos.

Close window

Innokentii, Bishop of Irkutsk

Close window