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New Church for Chile

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Concepcion is Chile’s second-largest city with a population of 1.5 million. Among the Orthodox Christians living there are Russian emigres of the post-World War II period and their descendants, Russian and Ukrainian immigrants after the fall of the USSR, Palestinians, as well as Chilean converts.

Orthodox services have become a regular occurrence since March, 2006, in a building in the Arab section known as Estadio Arabe. They are conducted mostly in Spanish, some prayers are read in Church Slavonic and Arabic. Concepcion’s Protopriest Alexei Aedo Vilugron of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia conducts the services. The parish belongs to ROCOR’s South American Diocese under His Grace Bishop John of Caracas and South America.

Fr Alexei is Chilean by birth, having accepted Orthodox Christianity with his heart and soul. By his efforts and persistence, his focus and a great deal of labor, with reliance on God’s help, work on building the first-ever Orthodox Church in the south of Chile commenced in August 2011.

The consecration of the cornerstone and erection of a cross on the site of the future church was performed by Vladyka John on December 5, 2010, in the presence of representatives of the local authorities and of the Russian Embassy.

The Palestinian community of Concepcion donated the parcel of land for the church (costing approximately US $144,000 and measuring 758 sq. m.).

Donations by the parishioners covered all the expenses of the preliminary construction stages (planning and documentation). In July 2011, the community received aid from the Chilean government in the amount of 30M pesos (about $63,000). The funds covered closing the perimeter of the property, excavations, foundation (1.5 m deep and 1.1 m wide), and the metal framework for the walls. Concepcion is in within Chile’s earthquake zone: the last earthquake, which struck in February 2010, measured 8.8 on the Richter Scale. For this reason, construction standards here are stringent and costly. Construction has been temporarily halted due to a lack of funds. The second stage of construction will cost $135,000. We would be grateful for any help in building our church to the glory of God. Donations can be made by visiting

Source: ROCOR


Written by Stephen

February 5, 2013 at 12:37 pm

Posted in Chile, ROCOR, South America

Antiochian Orthodox Life in Argentina

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Met. Silouan of Argentina

Met. Silouan of Argentina

The following is a transcript of a talk given by Metropolitan Silouan of Argentina about the youth in his diocese, though he also talks about other aspects of Orthodox life there. The talk can also be heard here on Ancient Faith Radio.

Metropolitan Silouan: Your Eminence, I am very glad to be with you today. I am glad for the opportunity I have been given last year to be at the convention and to receive all your love for the few words I could speak last year. I am most blessed today to be with Your Eminence, with all Your Graces, and all the priests of this Archdiocese.

It is a blessing for me and my church to be present here only for one thing: to be in communion, not only in the holy chalice in this holy communion, but also to share with you who we are, because you don’t know us, and I feel it is my duty to let you know who we are. Metropolitan Philip asked me to speak about the youth in my church. I will do this presentation. And he asked me, too, to have some time for your questions, so I will divide in half my presentation. The one that you will see on the screen, and the other half will be yours so you can ask the question you feel you need to ask.

I have a lot of words in my heart to say. I will speak about people that I love, and I am speaking to people that I am coming to love, to you. I should continue what Metropolitan Philip started to say about many of you and your parishioners who came to Orthodoxy, to this church. This year I discovered something that I transmitted to His Eminence, and to some of you, some of the priests, I am glad for three reasons.

The first one, that you encounter the truth that we chant at the end of the Liturgy: “We have encountered the true Faith.” Fr. John yesterday explained to me what he and many of you have found: the true grace of God. I feel this is important, but what is more important to me is to notice that your family, your children, are at church, not only at church, but they have adopted what for you what was your life; it is now their life, and not only this, that they are eager to serve the Church as their own personal option. For me, this is a second motive to be glad for you and to share it with you. The third one is to see what is happening up this hill, this transfiguration of the youth that come here and they are eager to learn about their faith and to be a real community, a real community of Christians. For me, this is a very beautiful testimony that I will bring to me there. I will share with you mine in Argentina; you will see it now.

I have seen with my own eyes how these young people are serving the Church, and this I will cherish very much. I am glad for you, for your present and your future, because you are in a good path, in a good way. I pray that you can fulfill your ministry. After the words I have heard on Monday evening, what you have been saying about the youth, about your own struggle in your own parishes, in your own realities, words for me that are very precious, I don’t know what I can tell you [except] to share some of our experience in Argentina, and hopefully it will be of some utility for some of you. I hope it will not be a boring presentation, but I feel as brothers you are eager to see what’s happening in this far land.

We will start with this presentation. Welcome to Argentina! You see the map, and this is the logo of our youth: “Unión de la Juventud Ortodoxa Argentina.” La juventud Ortodoxa Argentina tiene… [laughter] The youth in Argentina has a great story, and a great history that I don’t know. I came to know it by the day of my election. They have told me that they went to the great synod of 1993; they were present in Balamand at that time, and they spoke about the youth in Argentina.

This is the other logo of our Christian education, the catechism in our parishes, where our youth are working now. I have asked them to work in catechism because we need people in our Sunday school. This is one of the pictures of general meetings of EN.Mí.-C.O., which is a national encounter of instructors of Sunday schools. This is the first meeting that we had done. They were so serious that I asked [it] to be done each year, not every two years. In 2010, 2011, and 2012, we had more than 65 present in these national, archdiocesan meetings. They learn their faith through these meetings, and they teach, too.

We are trying with Balamand next year to make a teaching program of our general program, S.O.F.I.A., that we have on the internet, with all the Archdiocese of South America, so that they are able to be instructed in their faith and be better instructors. We are trying to have some material for Sunday school that the priest, along with the instructors, are preparing.

We have made some utilities. This is a puzzle about St. George for the children in Sunday school. The Bible you have in English was translated by the Greek Archdiocese in Spanish. “Los niños lean la Biblia—the kids read the Bible.”

All our youth meet on a yearly basis. We go to many parishes. In 2008, in Salta, in the north of Argentina, this is one of the meetings; 2009 in the same parish, in Salta. We divide them in two groups: one of teenagers and the other one of young adults. We are not so many, but they are eager to work in the Church. This was in Córdoba, the second city of Argentina: teens and young adults. This was in Tucumán last year. In this national encounter, two brothers from Kansas were present there, the Chipi brothers, and they were well-welcomed there. Their presence had a great influence on all the youth, because they behaved excellently with them. This was this year in Santiago del Estero. These are the young adults, and these are the teens.
I have written what happened in each encounter and made these as letters to our young people. I don’t have time to let you know what is the transformation that is taking place in them, but we have this problem that you have, that their energy will last one month, two months, three months, and later on, we should have something done again, but we cannot. We have another problem with the youth, that not all our priests are able to accompany them. They are like you: They have a lot of services; they go to see ill people. We have one priest in one state, so it is a reality beyond our forces, but still they are present at church, and I have a lot of hope for them.

They started as instructors in Sunday schools; I want to form choirs now. We have the book of the Liturgy, a defined text of the Divine Liturgy, and I am seeking what kind of music we can do with them that people can chant, because the people in our parishes chant with the choir. We have small choirs, so this is the second step that I want the youth to do.

You will see the youth in each parish. This is Argentina. Argentina is a long country. It’s like Europe: from north to south, this is the farthest point of the earth. Salta: from Buenos Aires you need twenty hours by car to get there. I go by plane; it is two hours to get there. We have two parishes in this state. There are more than 200 people in Sunday school.

Some of their activities: they make some—I don’t know in English—a one-day picnic or something like that. They distribute vestments to poor people, and they form the choir of the church. These young people are not the choir of the church, three or four of them. It is a good publicity! Not all of them are the choir, three, four of them. And one of them will go this year, hopefully, to Balamand as a seminarian.

We have a problem that after Sunday school, we don’t have a continuous Sunday school from the first grade till college. We have a sacramental Sunday school, which means that the fourth and the fifth grades who come to church have their Sunday school time. We don’t have places. We don’t have instructors. We don’t have material for the other grades.

In this parish in Salta, the priest cannot cope with the teens. He thought maybe and he spoke with me about creating for this period of time in their life to be as scout-boys and scout-girls. We are evaluating this experience in church. We need the boy-scout for two or three years. We don’t know yet what is the impact in the life of the church. They are behaving well. Some of the mothers are participating to help us.
This province is Tucumán. Tucumán is the smallest state in Argentina. It is twice the superficies of Lebanon. It is our place where most of the clergy came in Argentina. We have three churches there with one priest. It is sixteen hours by car from Buenos Aires. Some of the responsible of the Sunday schools in this parish, they have a small mission. I don’t like to speak about a mission; it is an established parish without a priest. They give food to poor children of this area, for about one hundred poor children that come there. Many of them receive some instruction at Sunday school.

The other province is Córdoba. It is eight hours from Buenos Aires. We have a school there with 700 children. We have four schools and one kindergarten in Argentina, belonging to the church. The priest who serves there is 74 years old. There is one young priest who came from Lebanon two years ago to help him. They make picnics out with the young of the college, but also with the people of Sunday school. This is a photo with the young there. Some camp, the priest was Fr. Antonios. This is when we greeted Fr. Antonios two years ago when he came from Lebanon to Córdoba.

We will go now to the province of Buenos Aires. We have the cathedral in the capital, and in the province of Buenos Aires we have three parishes. In this parish, we had a lot of problems, but, God willing, it will be the best parish in Argentina. We have a priest who is 65 years old. He and his khouria are making a wonderful work. We have a school with—I don’t know—more than 700 students. In catechism, we have 120 children in Sunday school.

This is a real mission there. It is an established parish since more than 75 years, but the behavior of the parish now, they are coming to Orthodoxy better than before. They are eager to know about our faith. It is the only parish where all the parishioners are eager to listen about Orthodoxy. Some pictures of the work done in the parish.

The other one is Pergamino. Pergamino is in the province of Buenos Aires. The priest died three years ago. He died at the age of more than 80 years. The parish is still existing by the effort of one couple, Marcelo and Alicia, who are instructors in Sunday school. These are people at Sunday school; they have 100 people. I don’t know how people have faith to work without a priest, and to be alone without any help, but they are eager to do this work. This is a procession on the day of St. George.

The province of Mendoza, very well-known for its wine, like California here. Ten hours from Buenos Aires. There is one priest who is 76 years old. They are surprising the young there. There are two girls, 15 and 16 years old, two sisters. Three years ago, they wrote all the material for the classes of Sunday school for the fourth and fifth grade. They made it by themselves during summertime, and they presented it to me.
In Argentina there is something beautiful that Sunday school makes in Nativity. They make a presentation about the Nativity of the Lord, and here in Mendoza, they are vested like angels, like Mary, like the Magi.

They made the oak amps [17:50]. The priest does not know how to behave with these young people. They are asking for help, but we try to give them some remote help. They are collecting vestments and comida, food for poor people.

We go to Santiago del Estero. Santiago del Estero has a superficy of Syria. 50, 60 years ago, all the deputies of this state were speaking Arabic during their sessions. Now very few are speaking Arabic. We have one priest, we have two churches there. One is the oldest on the continent. Twelve hours from Buenos Aires. This is a picture of one of the activities of their Sunday school. They have 250 children. One of their camps. The Liturgy.

We go to the province of Santa Fe, not Santa Fe of Mexico or New Mexico. We have one school and we have five parishes, with one priest attending them. The school has 600 students. Youth there are working. There are very few youth working in this parish, but they are missionaries like their priest. They accompany him six hours in the car to celebrate the Liturgy in the parishes of this province. There are those who are in charge of the choir. This is the church of St. George in Rosario, where next year we will be having our annual youth retreat. This is Fr. Alejandro, and behind him, three, four youths who accompany him in his travels. Preparing some food for an activity. This is a church and some of the Sunday school.

We go to the cathedral in Buenos Aires. In Buenos Aires we are very few. I am with two other priests and one deacon who last Sunday was ordained as a priest. We work for all Argentina. We make everything for Argentina. Here is a photo when we make a DVD about the Holy Week in the Orthodox Church. Some of them helped us making this DVD.

This is our Sunday school at the cathedral. This is the saloon of the cathedral. This is a choir. It is not the choir of the cathedral; it is the choir that was formed from all the states at the ordination last Sunday—from Santiago, from Salta, from Tucumán, from Buenos Aires. Some of them are Americans who are living now there, like this boy with the lance in the middle. They collect vestments to give to poor people.

This is in the ordination of Padre Gabriel. I don’t know, I can’t see Fr. Michael. Fr. Michael Corbin from Ohio went there because he was and is a friend of Fr. Gabriel. He can tell you what he saw there. He is a witness. For this ordination, 190 people came from all Argentina to attend this ordination. Half of them were the youth. They don’t have money, but they are eager to serve the Church and to care to come to this ordination. We have ordinations one each ten years. This is my first ordination, but there is a lot of hope. My work here is to transmit to you and to share with you this hope.

We have courses on the internet for our youth and for all our parishioners. This is what we had done in the Antiochian Archdiocese of Southern America: S.O.F.I.A., Seminario Ortodoxo de Formación para IberoAmérica. We have taught eight courses during the four last years: iconography, Liturgy, Holy Fathers, Orthodox spirituality, lives of the saints, Byzantine music. Three courses of Byzantine music, not occidental music, of Byzantine music. Many of the youth learn Byzantine music.

We have another course that the University of Balamand is doing: Cursos Bíblicos del Balamand. It is the Holy Scripture that is done twice a year. Twelve months is each course. It is the sixth year, and we are those who give these lessons. This is a website done by one of our youth. It was lately updated. You can follow us, get attuned to our activities and our notices. You will see your photos in our website. I was taking note of everything I was hearing and listening to, to be able to transmit and share it with our parishioners and our priests there. I hope I can be faithful to what I have seen.

We have made some publications, mainly to teach our youth the basic things. A book of prayer, of daily prayer: El Consuelo Espiritual. The Book of the Divine Liturgy that we have edited in September last year, and this DVD of the Holy Week. We have a Sunday bulletin, edited on a weekly basis, for all the Archdiocese, a good teaching material for all the youth and parishioners. We have in this bulletin many things translated from Greek, from French, from English, material like the writings of St. John Maximovitch. They know him. About Mother Gabriela, The Ascetic of Love. Those books that you know. Some of Fr. Thomas Hopko, about the Liturgy. A lot of material is being translated and edited in this bulletin.

How can we help the youth? We have made something very small, like you have the Order of St. Ignatius. We have called it Manos en el Arado, what St. Luke says in his Gospel: our hands on the plough. And some people accepted to make a monthly contribution, debiting their accounts, and it is a good way to finance these meetings, this work, this editing, and people who are not able to, attend this way.

These are the priests. They are not twelve; they are eleven priests and one deacon. This is last year at our convention. We celebrated together. There is one priest missing. These are some of the women in our Archdiocese that help us. We don’t have an order for them. We call them “En Amor—In Love.” We had last year a national meeting for them. Now, in August, we will have the second one, and it will be preceded by the meeting of the khourias for the first time in Argentina.

This is our last convention last year in Mendoza in September. Good people from all the parishes. I hope that someday we can do the same as you do, gather all the families to come to the convention, but distances are too big and the costs are too great so I don’t know if we can afford doing it, but we work in the hope of it.
And this is a great thank-you for you. [applause]

I leave the time because it’s eleven, so that you can ask questions. I don’t want to speak more. I have a lot to say, but I give you the opportunity if you have any questions.

Q1: How many parishes do you have in Argentina?
Metr. Silouan: We have nineteen churches in eight states. Two of them are closed since 40 and 60 years ago. I have said that we have twelve: eleven priests and one deacon to serve them. Each one lives in his own state. They suffer of loneliness. Not all of them have studied theology. Many of them, like today Christopher who was made subdeacon, they studied some courses, either at the Catholic university or some Protestant seminary, and read some of the books available in Spanish—we don’t have a lot—and they started to work like this.

Two years ago in February 2010, I went with half of them to Syria and Lebanon, and we had some courses in Balamand, the faculty of theology, and they came to know His Beatitude, their Eminences, the parishes, institutions, the archbishops there, to come to know whom they are serving. They love Antioch. They didn’t know it, but they loved it from afar, but when they came to know it, they loved it more. But when they came back, for six months they didn’t speak with me. I didn’t know why, but I discovered the reason later. They said we should have come there twenty years ago, not now. We have seen something very beautiful, and we are down below. They felt that they are not good priests, that they are not serving as they do. They do not have the knowledge that they need to have. But when I discovered it, I gave them some pills they won’t have a headache.

2: It’s not your fault.
Metr. Silouan: I am glad with these priests. We are what we are, and we are glad to share what we have, and we are trying to improve our service. It is not the best, but not the least.

Q3: How do the priests survive financially?
Metr. Silouan: Some of them have to work. The others are full-time priests. By the grace of God. Two of them are living well, but the others not: they have to struggle for everything. They have to struggle for everything. They cannot have their own car. It is very expensive for them. But we are trying to make something that you will do this night, about retirement and social security. We are trying to provide them with these things. I have made so in our cathedral, and we will continue doing it so that the priests will not have to think about material things but to spread the word of God.

Q4: If you have any questions, please come to the microphone so people can hear you. But I have a question first: Sayidna, it sounds like you still need especially laypeople educated in our theology to teach until you can get the priesthood at the point where you want it. Am I right? It’s the ministry of the laity if ever we’ve seen it.
Metr. Silouan: We need a lot. We lack of resources: of priests, of laity people, of material, of everything. We are trying this internet program, S.O.F.I.A., that we are converting to the module we are trying to have next year with Balamand is an attempt to instruct people about our faith and enable them to be better servants in our church. There are some laity who are the right hand of the priest, but they are good faithful, but we need people who know their faith. I am counting on youth and on some women to do so, but it is a long process before getting there. We should have patience.

You have seen a lot of annual conferences, about catechism, about youth, about women, about men. This year we had for men of parish councils, for the first time in history there, and they were surprising. Every time we do something, people are surprising. I cannot tell, not the emotions, but the transformations that are occurring. They are similar to what you know upon this hill. You will understand me better.

Q5: Sayidna, I have two questions. The first one: you had mentioned many times that we have schools. Do these schools have an income and the Archdiocese make any use of this income for the clergy or for the church? And the second question is: what is the nature of the Orthodox there? Are they all from Arabic origin or do you have some native converts?
Metr. Silouan: We are the unique Archdiocese in southern America to have such colleges. They were created so that all the Orthodox people from Syrian and Lebanese origin will get their children educated there, but they prefer to send them to better schools: to the Roman Catholic schools. They are not nowadays a place for evangelism and mission. We are not prepared to do so. This is the first part. The second part, the financial part, we cannot have the priests on the income of these schools for many reasons, but I cannot detail them now.

I am trying to work during the four past years with the catechism Sunday school in order to prepare young people to prepare material that will be the base for what the catechism might be in our schools. We don’t have time, we don’t have people, so I need to wait a little more so that our schools may be more Orthodox than they are now. People who work at our schools are not Orthodox. This is another problem for us. It is not our community who serves there, so I need to prepare instructors before entering [that]. We are trying to audit somehow these schools and to work on an educational project for these schools. There are people who are helping me who are professionals, but it is taking time. Time there is not like in Syria and Lebanon or in the United States. What you make in one week there needs two months, three months, four months. I should be patient.

The other question is: our people, the Syrian Orthodox descendants have left their churches there. Few of them have stayed. The immigration has now about 150 years in Argentina since the time of the massacre in Damascus in 1860. After that massacre, many of them came to Argentina. We have lost the first generation. They were more Orthodox than [those] who live now, because they were waiting for the priests to come once a year to celebrate Pascha, the Resurrection, to make baptisms.

But after 40, 50 years, they became Catholic, because they have the church nearby their home. Their children are being educated in Roman Catholic colleges. It is better for them not to be Orthodox, because the church will ask them money to sustain herself. It is better to go there, because they will have a more social connection with people, with the high society, I don’t know. It is this inferiority complex that they felt at the very beginning that made them rapidly into great Argentinian society. They are not too eager to know about their faith.

One or two priests talked on Monday evening about how to live an Orthodox way of life. I feel that we don’t live an Orthodox way of life. We are trying to explain it, to teach about it, to live it concretely with people. I myself, the priests, and those who are at Sunday school, these people who are present, the men, we are trying. The actual energy we have in our church are those I may say converted. We don’t have a massive conversion. There are people who come in personal form to the Church for some reasons. I will not explain them now; we have no time for that. But they are helping us, living, in catechism, in attending our church, in helping the priest. These are the ministry of the laity in our church.

Those of Arabic descendancy are more skillful in administration, organization, and fundraising, and they are helping us in the parish councils, but they don’t have idea about the mission of the Church. It is a thing that we are living with, little by little, so they might be conscious about the changes in our church. We cannot continue thinking like our grandfathers 60 years ago, what the Church is, what the priest is, what his role is about. Now our circumstances have changed, and we need to change, too, in order to be able to have a good present and a better future. They are listening. Some of them are cooperating. I hope things will be better in the future.

Q6: Fr. George asked me to ask you: Have the IOCC helped there in your church? And the other question: Is there any other ethnic Orthodox churches, like Greek or Russian?
Metr. Silouan: We don’t have any help from outside Argentina. The only exception is His Beatitude, when I went with the priests and the other case is Metropolitan Philip last year and this year [who] is eager to help us.

The other question is: we have all the denominations there: Greek, Russian, from the Patriarchate of Moscow, from the ROCOR. We have Serbian, Romanian. There are some Maronites, some Melchites, too. There are some Syrian, but we are the biggest so far between the Orthodox, between the Catholic from the East, and the Muslims. As an institution, our church is the biggest in Argentina. In extension, in people, in institution, in presence, in every area, we are the biggest, but we are still in the minority there.

7: Any other questions?
Q8: Your Eminence, the immigrants who came to Argentina, 150 ago, as you state, did they plan to come or did they get there by accident?
7: Did you hear Sayidna’s question, everyone? He asked, 150 years ago, when the people went to Argentina, did they go there intentionally or by accident? Am I right, Sayidna? That was your question.
Metr. Silouan: Maybe some of them came intentionally, but some of them didn’t know where to go. The ship came to Buenos Aires. His brother came to Brazil, the other one came to Boston. This is what happened with people there. Immigration has stopped since the early 1970s.

For 40 years, we don’t have any immigration to Argentina. I don’t know really the reasons, but there are two or three. The first one is the political situation of Argentina is not a stable one, first with the dictator and later on with the social movement. The second one is the economical situation of Argentina. You have heard what happened in 2001. It is a disaster. There is no stability in the economy. We have inflation each year. In 2010, 23% last year; 25 or 30% this year. This year they speak about 25%. It is unbelievable how they are living there. They told me that it is like a wheel. Each ten years it goes up and then it goes down. We are now down. I hope we will be someday up.

Q8: Your currency is pesos, right?
Metr. Silouan: Pesos.
Q8: Pesos. How many pesos make a dollar?
Metr. Silouan: Officially, 450, but in the black market, I don’t know what today—more than six.

Q7: Sayidna, are you finished there? Sayidna, do you have any of the problems with the youth that you’re hearing us discuss here, like with alcoholism?
Metr. Silouan: I identify with what you were saying on Monday evening. Maybe I can share something—but later in private, not now—about what happens in confession. What happens at the camps, parishes, something that we are trying to do there, but we do not deal with drugs and alcohol. We don’t have people prepared to it. We are not prepared to serve the Church there. We are trying.

Q7: Any other questions, comments, anybody? Well, thank you, Sayidna. Yes, Fr. Anthony? He asked if there is anything our Archdiocese could do to help His Eminence.
Metr. Silouan: I think that churches in communion should be a reality. It is not a mere theology. As Paul did with Jerusalem, we should do this the same. I have told His Eminence that the Patriarchate asked to help the Syrians, [in] this letter that the Patriarch sent in the Great Lent, and I was afraid of what to do in Argentina because we need, and they need, but people and priests said, “We will help.” And we have collected what is about 80% of our budget, of the budget of the Archdiocese, to send to the Patriarchate. We should have this sense of solidarity. It does not matter the amount, but we should have solidarity.

I think that you can help. You can think about it, and I can think with you. Maybe it is not the proper time to do it right now, but I will tell you that all the churches in Latin America are getting help, not from their Patriarchates because they are not able to do so, but from the United States, from North America: the Greek, the Russian, the Serbian, everyone, because they cannot sustain their presence there. They need the help of others. In what you can help me, I am trying to be here to listen to you, to learn from you, to see what the committees, departments you have are doing. Maybe they can be helpful for me.

Yesterday I went down below to see this exhibition about the Holy Land. Our instructors are doing so. I need to take this exhibition, to translate it into Spanish, and to exhibit it there. But maybe we can have some exchange program. I don’t know what type. You can help me; I can help you. We have many things in Spanish done in liturgical books, prayers, translations that can help those priests, those parishes, those converted, who knows Spanish. We can afford it.

I have something with me that people, some priests asked me to share. I will share it with you. I don’t know. I will see the Khouria Stephanie to speak about this meeting of khourias in Argentina, to learn from your experience. I will be in the meetings this weekend of the OCA, of the women, of the youth, to see what you do and to be able to think with you. Maybe money is the easiest thing, but what I need you to help me [with] is to find some projects that you can finance, too, in order to be a sustainable parish for its priests and its activities. I have presented some to His Eminence Metropolitan Philip, and he is eager to help one of these projects. I am grateful and in debt of this, but I don’t know how to present all these things.

I didn’t come prepared for this, but I came here because, as I said last year, I am preoccupied about my church, and I am knocking on doors: for music, for the youth, for the priests, for many things, and for money to come also, but I feel that it is God who is making things, and I have seen his providence each month. I don’t know why he is so generous with us. We are not worthy. I am conscious of this, but I don’t know why he is so insistent that we stay, that we are, that we work, and it is something amazing. I hope that you can keep hoping for us. This is the best thing that you can do: keep hoping for us. Patience is the virtue of those who preceded me, and it should be mine, too, and that of my parishioners there.

Thank you for your attention and for your prayers, because it is the most precious thing that may change our reality into a better one and transfigure it to what we are eager to see and partake, which is the kingdom among us, between us. Many thanks, Sayidna.
7: Thank you, Sayidna. [applause]

Written by Stephen

January 8, 2013 at 6:11 pm

Latin America: Peoples in Search of Orthodoxy

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Orthodox Children in Cuba

I am not sure exactly when this appeal was written, but I think in January, 2011. It is certainly a very exciting snapshot of what is happening in Latin America right now.

by His Eminence Metropolitan Athenagoras of Mexico

Thirteen years ago, when I undertook the (then newly-established) Holy Metropolis of Mexico with only three priests and three mainly Greek-speaking communities, in Mexico, Panama and Venezuela, I would never have expected, let alone conceive the miracle that is unfolding today for our Orthodox Church in Latin America.

We all lived the miracle of Cuba, when Fidel Castro’s government undertook the construction of the Sacred Temple of Saint Nicholas in Havana and officially received Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, who officiated the inauguration of that Holy shrine in January of 2004. In the decade that passed, we experienced the propagating of our faith in the states of Mexico, Colombia, Costa Rica, etc… just as we experienced – and continue to experience – the continuing drama of the people of Haiti, after the catastrophic earthquake of last January. A drama which unfortunately will heal, only after several years have passed.

Greece became acquainted with Christianity and lived its own Pentecost around two thousand years ago, through the Apostle Paul and the other Apostles. Greece is the most blessed country in the world. And this is because – as I point out to our priests – whichever stone you lift, underneath it you will find the relics of a Saint, a Martyr, a holy man, a fighter for the Orthodox faith… We, however, in Latin America are living our Pentecost today. For us – with the exception of the few Greek Orthodox Communities – Orthodoxy has only just arrived in Latin America.

I recall six years ago, when our Ecumenical Patriarch visited Cuba to officiate in the inauguration of the Holy Temple of Saint Nicholas, there were only four Orthodox Cubans, whereas now, more than one thousand Cuban families have been baptized and have embraced Orthodoxy. And every day, there are more – many more – who seek to acquaint themselves with the Faith of our Fathers. Six years ago, with the inauguration of Saint Nicholas’ church, the first Orthodox Community in the land began to function. Now, with the grace of God and the untiring labours of our five priests (one Colombian and four Cuban), some very significant and impressive missionary work is under way in three other cities of this Land. And this, in spite of unfavourable and financially difficult conditions. At this very moment that I am writing, the Hierarchal Commissioner of Cuba, fr. Athenagoras, is in Greece trying to secure vestments and cassocks and chalices for our needs there. Even though the Cubans have given us the exceptional privilege of acquiring our own property (something that is not permitted by their Constitution), unfortunately, there are no funds for us to purchase a suitable building with the necessary thirty-five thousand Euros, to convert it into a Temple for the worshipping needs of the neophytes. We are hoping for God’s grace and are praying for a donor to be found.

When I visited President Fidel Castro seven years ago, to obtain the official invitation with which he was inviting the Ecumenical Patriarch to visit Cuba, I thanked him for that courteous and hospitable gesture of his. I will never forget his response: “No, Your Eminence, the people of Cuba thank you and the Ecumenical Patriarch, for bringing Orthodoxy to our country.”

Cuba, indeed, is “ours”. Haiti is “ours”, Mexico, Costa Rica, Santo Domingo and Colombia, where now, thanks to a lady donor of the Missionary Association “Saint Kosmas the Aetolian”, the first Holy Temple is being erected in the city of Cúcuta of Colombia, in honour of the Supreme Archangels. And now, another miracle: Guatemala….

As in the eras of persecutions, when Christians used to live in catacombs in anticipation of the day they could freely worship the Triadic God, so it is with us here, in all of the countries of Central and South America; for entire decades, innumerable groups of people – who had abandoned the Roman Catholic church – were waiting for the embrace of Orthodoxy. One such large group in Guatemala knocked on the door of our Metropolis several months ago, asking us to accept them in the bosom of the true Church. I didn’t know them. I didn’t even know they existed. And indeed, in this vast region of the twenty states under the jurisdiction of the Holy Metropolis of Mexico it is impossible to know everyone. However, twenty years ago, they had established their own (anti-canonical) Orthodox Church, naturally without knowing full well what they had done, and had endeavoured to survive. They lived incorrectly, in their own particular manner, an “orthodox” worshipping life. They knew and they desired Orthodoxy. They knew that our Church has the true faith – that they had a right to Orthodox teaching and its way of life. They believed that only there would they find the Saviour and Redeemer Christ. So, for twenty years. they walked along a path with the hope that they would eventually reach the truth. Knowing also that it was imperative to commemorate a Bishop in all of their liturgies, during the last ten years they would commemorate our Ecumenical Patriarch.

New Orthodox Church in Guatemala

Twenty years later came the “fullness of time”. After searching, they learnt a few months ago that in Mexico there is a canonical Metropolitan and a Metropolis of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. They found me, and they knocked on my door, asking me to receive them. I sent two priests to go and meet them so that we could determine who they are and if their request is serious and valid. I was stunned. It was a “group” of more than 500.000 people, with 338 churches and chapels, most of whom were natives of Guatemala – and in fact of the ancient race of Mayans! They live in the mountains and the vast plains of the land and even in the southern cities of Mexico. I crossed myself and gave thanks to the Holy Mother for that miracle. I fully understood now what the great byzantinologist and historian of the previous century – Steven Runciman – meant, when he wrote that “the third millennium belongs to Orthodoxy”. Now I also understand the words of a noble Mexican, a University Professor and a faithful member of our Church, when he said to me: “Your Eminence, Orthodoxy is like a shoe that fits us Latin Americans, provided you know how to put it on us.”

So I accepted that group and as a first step, I ordained the two leaders of the group. Now begins the long road of catechism for the hundreds of thousands of those people. It will require several years and a lot of hard work – but a blessed work – to teach those new faithful of ours what the Orthodox way of life involves, and how each of us experiences his own path towards Calgary, which leads to one’s personal Resurrection. By training suitable indigenous clergymen, they will learn to live the worshipful life of the Orthodox Church and, after being baptized and receiving Holy Chrismation, to receive the Immaculate and Sacred Mysteries (Sacraments) – the Body and Blood of our Lord and Redeemer Christ.

You must realize however, that for all this project that is now unfolding before us, we need your help. We need the necessary financial means to send our own priests to Guatemala, to instruct the catechist teachers there how to catechize the faithful. The financial means are necessary, in order to print hundreds of thousands of catechist texts, for children and for adults. In the meantime, many of those people are illiterate. Money is also needed, to prepare videotapes in Spanish, and even in the local dialect of the Mayans, so that they might familiarize themselves with the Divine Liturgy, the Baptism, the Chrismation and all the Services of our Church.

Can you imagine what this means for Orthodoxy? And this is just the beginning. The struggle has only just begun. We truly “own” Latin America. The third millennium truly belongs to Orthodoxy. With the meagre means at our disposal, but with the wide-open, vast and endless Grace and presence of the Holy Spirit, we will continue with our endeavours.

We do however ask for your support. As I outlined above, we need a donation of thirty-five thousand Euros for the purchase of the property in Cuba, where we will establish a Temple and areas for the congregating and the catechizing of the faithful. We will also need another donation of twenty-five thousand Euros, in order to begin catechizing the new faithful of Guatemala: to print catechism texts, prepare videotapes of Divine Services and to send suitable priests of ours to that Land, in order to undertake this very important work.

It is our belief that the Missionary Association “Saint Kosmas of Aetolia”, which has been the main support of our labours and our endeavours all these years, as well as all you pious donors and the members of the Association, will support us in this new venture that God has placed before us.

The Lord God lives, for all eternity!

With wishes and infinite thanks
† Athenagoras of Mexico

Hat Tip: Mystagogy Click here also for more pictures.

Written by Stephen

February 26, 2011 at 12:05 pm

Interview: “Many Clergymen and Laity of the South American Diocese are Isolated from the Rest of the Church”

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A conversation with the First Hierarch of ROCOR,
His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion of Eastern America and New York.

Your Eminence, when did you first visit Latin America?

I first became acquainted with the Latin American region in 1987. The South American Diocese was ruled at the time by Bishop Innokenty (Petrov, 1902-1987). He led an interesting life. Vladyka Innokenty fought in the Russian Civil War and participated in the seizure of Ekaterinburg in July 1918. He was inside the infamous Ipatiev House soon after the execution of Tsar Nicholas II and his family. In 1948, Ivan Petrov (his lay name), made his way to Argentina. In 1957, he became a priest, Fr John. Following the death of Archbishop Afanassy (Martos, 1904-1983) of Buenos Aires, Argentina and Paraguay, he was tonsured a monk and was given control of the orphaned diocese.

Bishop Innokenty spent most of his time in Asuncion, Paraguay, which was why the First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, Metropolitan Vitaly (Oustinov, 1910-2006) sent me to Argentina. I remember that trip fondly. The greatest impression was made by the ceremony of renaming one of the streets of the Argentinian capital in honor of Holy Prince Vladimir, Equal-to-the-Apostles.

I traveled to the Misiones Province together with the Rector of Holy Trinity Church in Buenos Aires, Protopriest Valentin Iwasjewicz, where the Russian Church Abroad has two parishes. Visiting with an elderly Ukranian man known as Don Juan, who grew mate tea, which we tried passing around the calabash gourd with a metal pipe called a bombilla. At a luncheon in the town of Tres-Capones, women sang Ukrainian folk songs, which reminded me of my youth, which I spent among Ukrainian emigres.

In addition to Argentina, I made visits to Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay. In Santiago I was escorted by the Rector of the Church of the Holy Trinity and the Mother of God of Kazan, Archimandrite Veniamin (Vozniuk). He showed me the house of Archbishop Leonty (Filippovich, 1904-1971), the Ruling Bishop of Chile and Peru from 1953-1969, and gave me his vestments, sewn of Japanese silk and embroidered with flowers. In Asuncion, I concelebrated with Vladyka Innokenty at Protection Church, and in Montevido, I celebrated Divine Liturgy in Resurrection Church, the only Russian Church in Uruguay.

In your opinion, when did the South American Diocese reach its historic peak?

The blossoming of this diocese lasted a fairly long time. In the 1920’s, when a wave of immigrants fleeing the Bolsheviks in Russia reached the New World, a flurry of construction of Orthodox churches began. In the 1960’s, there were four episcopal cathedras: Argentina and Paraguay, Brazil, Chile and Peru and Venezuela. It is interesting that Metropolitan Vitaly, Primate of ROCOR between 1985-2001, was the Bishop of Montevideo and Vicar of the Sao-Paolo and Brazil Diocese in the early 1950’s. He established a monastery in Sao Paolo dedicated to St Job of Pochaev, established an orphanage for boys and set up a publishing concern.

What is the current state of affairs in the diocese, in your view?

The South American Diocese is undergoing a profound crisis. There are reasons for this: the lack of clergymen, the infrequent divine services, the dearth of necessary ecclesiastical knowledge, especially in the provinces. All this has had troubling consequences. For instance, in Paraguay, dozens of Russians have married Catholics and now attend Catholic churches. Fortunately, they have not forgotten their roots yet, and when they have the opportunity, they attend Orthodox services.

The problem of not having enough clergymen is an onerous one. The Seminary at Holy Trinity Monastery has had dozens of graduates from Latin America, yet a large number of them settled in the USA. Of course, the Church Abroad has people who wish to serve in the South American Diocese, but some do not speak Spanish or Portuguese, others don’t speak Russian, or, in fact, even know Church Slavonic.

In January 2010, we suffered a serious loss: a young priest, Fr Rodion Aragon, died, who was recently ordained to the priesthood and appointed Rector of the Mother of God of Vladimir Church in San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica. Before then, we had no resident priests of the Russian Orthodox Church in Costa Rica. Now the parishioners there are left without a pastor once again.

Maybe the crisis of this diocese is a reflection of the difficulties endured by the Russian diaspora in general?

Without a doubt, the two are related. In 1987, I visited that Russian colony in what was a difficult period. Its membership had fallen significantly. Hundreds of Russians, due to material difficulties, left for other places, mostly to the US. Russian organizations faded. The publication of Russian-language newspapers and magazines has almost ceased. Books are no longer being published. Since then, little has changed.

But no matter what, Russian people have not lost their firm faith. The new generations are reason for a great deal of hope. During my first visit to Buenos Aires, I met with Russian youth and saw that they are striving to immerse themselves in the Russian spiritual tradition and learn more about the Russian Orthodox Church. Young people are well aware that the only place around which they can come together is the Orthodox parish. I shared my thoughts on this with them. Several years went by, and Sao Paolo then held the first youth conference of the South American Diocese.

The South American cathedra had remained empty for three years since the death of Bishop Alexander (Mileant, 1938-2005). In June, 2008, Vladyka John (Berzins) was appointed to it with the title Bishop of Caracas, and later Bishop of South America. What changes have taken place in the Diocese during his rule?

The very presence of a bishop is extremely important. As a result of the age and illness of Mitred Protopriest Vladimir Skalon, the only priest of Resurrection Cathedral in Buenos Aires, Bishop John regularly conducts services at that church. The prayers of the Vladyka bolster the spiritual strength of his parishioners.

In September, 2009, the news came that the Argentinian authorities came down in favor of the community of Resurrection Cathedral over the property quarrel with a group of people who went into schism following the reestablishment of canonical communion within the Russian Church in 2007. The schismatics tried to change the Regulations of the Russian Orthodox Association in Argentina, presenting themselves as the juridical person of the Russian Church Abroad with the aim of seizing its property. They removed the President of the Association, Protopriest Vladimir Skalon and introduced new members. Fr Vladimir and Protopriest Igor Bulatov, Rector of Protection and St Germogen Churches in the outskirts of Buenos Aires lodged a complaint against the schismatics with the Ministry of Justice of Argentina. After two years of litigation, the Inspector General restored Fr Vladimir to his post and declared the decisions of the association meetings of 2007-2008 invalid.

What in the signing of the Act of Canonical Communion with the Moscow Patriarchate evoked the dissatisfaction of most of the parishes of the Russian Church Abroad in Latin America?

Many clergymen and laity of the South American Diocese have been isolated from the Church. They are little interested in what is happening in their historic homeland and live with outdated conceptions of the Moscow Patriarchate. Therein lies the reason for the fact that more than half of the South American parishes rejected obedience to the hierarchy and joined the so-called “Temporary Supreme Central Administration of the Russian Church Abroad” headed by “Bishop” Agafangel (Pashkovsky), who was suspended by our Synod of Bishops and defrocked. The parishioners of Sao Paolo have found themselves in a quandary: they are forced to seek spiritual ministry from schismatics, since there are simply no canonical parishes in the city.

What means do you see in healing this ecclesiastical division?

The chief way is to pray for those who separated from fullness of the Church. Schismatics must learn to follow decisions adopted by the one Church inspired by the Holy Spirit. In my opinion, in the near future our erring brethren will recognize that being in schism is a spiritual dead end.

How has the appearance of a “South American Diocese” with its own “bishop,” Gregory (Petrenko) exacerbated the schism?

I think that essentially nothing has changed. “Bishop” Gregory of Sao Paolo and South America bears no animosity towards the Russian Church Abroad. He is taking a wait-and-see approach, and I pray that the Lord shows him the right path.

How important were the Days of Russia celebrated in Latin America in October-November 2008?

This was a very important event for the participants. The bishops and priests from Russia got to know the life of the parishes of the Church Abroad. The Russian-speaking diaspora were able to pray at divine service celebrated by clergymen of both branches of the Russian Church for the first time. Thousands of Latin Americans, through the exhibition “Orthodox Russia,” concerts given by Sretensky Monastery Male Choir and contact with Russian priests, came to behold the riches of Russian Orthodoxy.

How is the relationship between the Russian Church Abroad and the Christian churches of the region developing?

In Latin America, we have good, neighborly relations with the heterodox Churches. These are mostly Roman Catholics, and we cannot ignore the Catholic Church. But the Church Abroad rejects any ecumenical initiatives or joint prayers.

Do you maintain contact with government organs in Latin America?

Yes, the Russian Orthodox Church has contact with government offices as needed. During the Days of Russia in Latin America, the ecclesiastical delegation was received by the political leaders of a number of countries. But mainly, we work with embassies and consulates of Russia, which always help us.

Miguel Palacio interviewed His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion
22 / 04 / 2010

Source: ROCOR
Hat Tip: Byzantine, Texas

Written by Stephen

May 2, 2010 at 7:08 pm

New Spanish-Language Theological School

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August 13, 2009

Message from Metropolitan Hilarion (ROCOR) in English and Spanish:

It is with great joy that I bless the establishment of the Orthodox Theological Study Program in the Spanish language Instituto Superior de Ciencias Teológicas San Basilio de Ostrog. Our Lord’s call to teach and baptize all nations is a summons which the Orthodox Church has faithfully obeyed and fulfilled in the course of its history to the extent that it external condition and circumstances permitted.

The time has now come for a renewed witness of Orthodoxy to be extended to the Spanish-speaking world, especially in the countries of Latin America, South and Central America, and the Caribbean.

The newly instituted program will be easily accessible through the internet and subscribers will have a wonderful opportunity to discover the spiritual and theological wealth of Eastern Orthodox Christianity.

The need for educational materials on the Orthodox Faith in the Spanish and Portuguese languages were first actively recognized by Bishop Alexander (Mileant) of blessed memory, formerly the ruling hierarch of the South American Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.

He began to collect materials and translate seminary text books for the preparation of future candidates for the diaconate and priesthood in his diocese. His subsequent illness and untimely repose brought an end to his missionary and catechization endeavors.

Thanks be to God, the task of providing Orthodox Christian Education in Spanish has been taken up by the Rt. Rev. Archimandrite Dr. Andrew (Vujisic), a clergyman of the Eastern American Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. May God richly and abundantly bless the efforts of Fr. Andrew and his co-workers in developing this study program for all who decide to know more about the Orthodox Church and its teachings and traditions.

May it also educate, spiritually enlighten and strengthen a multitude of new workers in Christ’s vineyard, future priests, deacons, readers, choir directors, and catechists.

This holy task is very necessary and timely, “for the harvest is great but the workers are few”.

Metropolitan HILARION

Es con gran gozo que bendigo el establecimiento del programa de estudios teológicos ortodoxos del Instituto Superior de Ciencias Teológicas «San Basilio de Ostrog». A través de su historia, la Iglesia Ortodoxa ha obedecido y cumplido fielmente el llamado de Nuestro Señor a enseñar y bautizar a todas las naciones, hasta donde lo han permitido su condición y circunstancias externas.

Ha llegado el momento para que un renovado testimonio de la ortodoxia se extienda al mundo hispanoparlante, y especialmente a los países latinoameticanos: Centro América, Sudamérica, y el Caribe.

Este recién instituido programa será fácilmente accesible a través de la Internet, y los alumnos matriculados tendrán una maravillosa oportunidad de descubrir las riquezas espirituales y teológicas del cristianismo ortodoxo.

La necesidad de materiales educativos acerca de la fe ortodoxa en español y portugués fue activamente reconocido, en primer lugar, por el obispo Alejandro (Mileant) de bendita memoria, anteriomente jerarca de la Diócesis de Sudamérica de la Iglesia Ortodoxa Rusa Fuera de Rusia.

Él comenzó a recopilar materiales y a traducir libros de texto usados en los seminarios para la preparación de futuros candidatos al diaconado y al presbiterado en su diócesis. Su subsiguiente enfermedad y prematura muerte pusieron fin a sus esfuerzos misioneros y catequéticos.

Gracias a Dios, la labor de proveer una educación cristiana ortodoxa en español ha sido asumida por el Reverendísimo Archimandrita Dr. Andrés (Vujisic), un clérigo de la Diócesis del Este de los EE.UU. de la Iglesia Ortodoxa Rusa Fuera de Rusia. Que Dios bendiga rica y abundantemente los esfuerzos del padre Andrés y de sus colaboradores para desarrollar este programa de estudio, que beneficiará a todos aquellos que decidan conocer más acerca de la Iglesia Ortodoxa, sus enseñanzas, y sus tradiciones.

Que también eduque, ilumine espiritualmente, y fortalezca a una multitud de nuevos obreros en la viña de Cristo: futuros sacerdotes, diáconos, lectores, directores de coro, y catequistas.

Esta santa labor es muy necesaria y oportuna, pues «la mies es mucha, mas los obreros pocos» (San Mateo 9:37).

Metropolitano HILARION

Source: Orthodoxy Today
The icon is of St. Basil of Ostrog.

Written by Stephen

January 19, 2010 at 2:08 pm

Interview: Orthodoxy in Latin America

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In early December of 2009, His Beatitude, Metropolitan Jonah of All America and Canada (Orthodox Church of America) visited Russia to celebrate the fifteenth anniversary of the OCA’s representation in Moscow. Correspondent Miguel Pallacio took the opportunity to talk with Metropolitan Jonah about the OCA’s presence in Latin America.

Your Beatitude, in which Latin America countries is the Orthodox Church in America represented?

Our jurisdiction extends to Mexico. We used to have parishes in Argentina, Brazil, Peru, and Venezuela as well, but one of them joined the Russian Church Abroad, while others simply closed.

Several communities in Latin America want to join the American Orthodox Church. We would be happy to receive these faithful people, but there would be no one to take care of them because we have very few clergymen who speak Spanish or Portuguese.

One priest, who I hope will soon become a bishop, began a mission in Ecuador, in the city of Guayaquil, where there is a large Palestinian colony. Unfortunately, his good initiative has fizzled out. I have heard that many Palestinians also live in Central American countries, one of which is El Salvador. It is curious, but they do not go to the Antiochian parishes, and are requesting to be received under our omophorion.

The Constantinople and Antiochian Patriarchates prefer to pastor the Greek and Arab diasporas. We do not understand this. The Church should give pastoral care first of all to its local spiritual children. This is our principle in the Orthodox Church in America.

When was the Mexican exarchate organized?

The Mexican exarchate has existed since the 1970’s. At that time, the Bishop of the Mexican national Old Catholic Church, Jose (Cortez-y-Olmos), strengthened contact with our Church and became Orthodox, together with his entire community. Thanks to his labors, hundreds of Mexicans have become immersed in the Orthodox Faith.

Not long ago, five thousand Indians from twenty-three areas in the state of Veracruz were baptized into Orthodoxy. However, there is only one priest to serve that entire mass of people. In general, the Mexican exarchate has very few clergymen. They are all Mexican, including the ruling hierarch, Bishop Alejo (Pacheco-Vera).

Have you ever been to Latin America?

I have only visited Mexico. Now I am getting ready to visit Guatemala. A friend of mine lives there — Abbess Ines (Ayau Garcia), the superior of the Holy Trinity Convent, which is under the jurisdiction of the Antiochian Patriarchate.

In Guatemala, a group of thousands of people who would like to become Orthodox have attracted my attention. Most of them are Mayan. If we take these Guatemalans in, as well as other members of the native Latin American population, then American Indians may become the largest ethnic group in the American Orthodox Church. I, personally, would be very happy about that.

I see that you sympathize with the original inhabitants of the American continent…

I have the warmest feelings for American Indians. I studied anthropology in the university, and was drawn to the Mayan and Aztec cultures. These were enormous, amazing civilizations.

I like Latin America as a whole—its art, music, literature, and cuisine. Latin Americans love life; they are open and hospitable people. I grew up in California — one of the most Hispanic states in the U.S. I was able to learn some Spanish from my Mexican friends (although I speak Spanish poorly). The priest who united me to the Orthodox Church was a Mexican. His name was Fr. Ramon Merlos.

What does missionary work amongst Indians in the U.S. have in common with that amongst those of Latin America?

To be honest, I do not yet know… Our Church has missionary experience in Alaska, where one remarkable priest serves — Archpriest Michael Oleksa, an anthropologist. He is a Carpatho-Russian; his wife comes from the indigenous Yupiks. Fr. Michael wants to conduct a conference of Orthodox Indians of America. This would be an extremely interesting event.

When Fr. Michael was rector of the seminary, he invited the Guatemalan community that was thirsting for Orthodoxy to send two members to receive a theological education. The idea was, of course, a good one. But people who are accustomed to a tropical climate are not likely to endure the freezing temperatures of Alaska.

Are there Latin Americans amongst your parishioners in the U.S.?

Of course there are. In California, thirty-five percent of the population is Latin American, and the percentage is even larger in Texas. There are Latinos both amongst the flock and the clergy in our Church. Studying in St. Tikhon Seminary is a Mexican with Indian roots, named Abraham. He has the obedience of sub-deacon. One sub-deacon in San Francisco is Colombian. At the end of November, I blessed a new convent dedicated to the Nativity of Christ in Dallas, the superior of which is Brazilian.

What, do you suppose, attracts Latin Americans to Orthodoxy?

Latinos love our Liturgy and icons; they are captivated by the deep veneration of the Mother of God within the Orthodox Church.

I have to say that the Catholic Church is quickly losing its influence in Latin America, and the reason for this is its close association with the upper social classes. A significant portion of the poorer classes, which make up the majority of the region, have become disillusioned with the Catholic pastors, and have aligned themselves with protestants, Mormons, and other sectarians.

Metropolitan Andres (Giron), the head of the St. Basil the Great Order of White Clergy in Guatemala, used to be a Catholic priest. He saw that his Church leaders were oriented towards the wealthy; in the 1990’s he left the Catholic Church, because he wanted to work for the people. Not long ago, Fr. Andres said to me, ”I am old and ailing. Please take my people into your Church for the sake of their salvation.” It would be hard to call his community Orthodox, but it is gradually coming to know Orthodox teachings, and partaking of the traditions of the Orthodox Church. Besides those in Guatemala, Bishop Andres has opened parishes in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and other U.S. cities where his countrymen have settled.

Are you not afraid of some conflict with the Catholic Church? After all, Latin America is still considered the ”largest diocese of the Vatican.”

There will not be any conflict. The Catholic Church relates to Orthodoxy with loyalty. Furthermore, I see no little potential for collaboration with the Catholic Church, first of all in the struggle against sectarianism.

Interview by Miguel Palacio

H/T: Byzantine, Texas. The post here also has pictures of the various people mentioned.

Written by Stephen

January 2, 2010 at 3:01 pm

Interview: Opening a Door for the Lord in People’s Hearts

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19671.pFather Alexy Aedo, Chilean native and archpriest with the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, is the pastor in Chile of two Orthodox communities—that of St Silouan of Mount Athos in the city of Conception, and that of St Nectarios of Aegina in the city of Santiago. While still a youth, being Chilean and Catholic, he converted to Orthodoxy. Father Alexy, a well-known missionary in his country, has devoted a lot of time and energy to preaching Christianity and Orthodoxy among the Chileans.

Father Alexy, tell us how you became an Orthodox priest and missionary.

I had wanted to become a priest from childhood. But I was born in southern Chile, and there it was possible to become a priest only with the Catholic Church. I began to study theology and entered a Catholic seminary. Then I became acquainted with some Orthodox families from Palestine. I saw how people in the Orthodox Church live, how they think. When I would start a conversation on some theological topic, they would tell me what the Orthodox Church teaches about it. So I converted to Orthodoxy and was received into the Antiochian Church. While still a layman, I came here, to Santiago, the capital, to complete my theological education. Once, walking home from the university, I found myself near a Russian church. I entered it, heard the Russian choir, looked at old Russian photographs….All this made a deep, deep impression on me. After that, more than once, the thought entered my mind, “O God, how good it would be if I also could someday serve Liturgy in such a wonderful church!” Later, when I was already ordained a priest, the Russian missionary-bishop Vladyka Alexander Meliant—may God rest his soul—invited me to transfer to the Russian Church. While still carrying on my missionary work in Santiago, I also took the first steps in building a church in the southern part of the country, in the city of Conception. I would like very much for a beautiful Russian church to be there, where my children and other young Chileans could go. And I ask God not to take me to Himself until there is a Russian Orthodox Church in the south.

In addition to Conception, are there any other Orthodox parishes in southern Chile?

In the city of Valdivia, there are Russians and Palestinians who would like to form a parish. There are also Chileans, not only in Valdivia but also in other cities, who want to convert to Orthodoxy. We hope that God gives us the opportunity to build here also, in Santiago, a large church.

You are doing a great deal of missionary work now. Was your acquaintance with Vladyka Alexander a stimulus for this?

Yes. Vladyka Alexander trusted and loved me as a priest. That is the best thing that can happen to a priest—when a bishop trusts him and loves him. For me, it was a gift from God.

In Russia, many people know of Vladyka Alexander through his website and are familiar with the “Missionary Pages” which Vladyka put out.

Both the site and the brochures which Vladyka Alexander published were extremely important and needed by us. They help us understand what Orthodoxy is. Thanks to Vladyka Alexander, we have come to understand that it is both possible and desirable to preach the Gospel through the internet: people hear us better, find out about us, get to know us; through the web, we can keep knocking patiently until the people hear us.

In the main building of Santiago University, you have now built a movable church. Tell us, besides spiritually feeding those students who are your parishioners, do you have any success in reaching other students with the Gospel message?

We carry on missionary work with the students, but, figuratively speaking, not “through an open door” but “through a window.” Formally, we do not have the right to preach in a secular educational institution, because the students don’t come to the university in order to be “missionized”. The founders and professors of this university are laypersons, secular people. But each time an opportunity presents itself, without pressuring or imposing on anyone, we remind them about God … and talk about the faith. Later, students will come and approach me as someone older, as to a father, in order to ask advice or to share their joys and sorrows.

And what is the most important thing for preaching Orthodoxy among specifically Latin American youth?

My feeling is that youth here are seeking religion, seeking the Church, but they can’t find genuine faith. Unfortunately, many join Protestants, or sects, sometimes even non-Christian sects. Young people need people to listen to them, to understand them.

We live in a time when people are weighed down by many sorrows: they are hit by economic difficulties, by war, at times by serious problems with their health. It seems to many people that their whole life is falling apart. People don’t know what they can hold onto for support, what represents authentic values, true moral guidance. Therefore, work with young people should begin with friendship. A person needs to be able to simply listen to them. And when you listen to them, they, without noticing it, begin to hear about Orthodoxy.

Do literature, the arts, and philosophy help to find a common language with youth?

Yes, through philosophy and ethics it’s easier for me to find a common language with youth. Young Chileans are inclined to relate critically to the way things are in their homeland, and indeed, to the world in general. And they want something they can grab hold of, like the tiller on a boat or the helm on a ship, that can help them steer their way through the surrounding world. Through this desire for a true moral compass, it is easy to move the conversation to the plane of philosophy and ethics. The next step up is religion.

After the restoration of canonical relations between the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, several parishes in Chile split off from the Mother Church. What do you think, is this a temporary phenomenon? And what, in your opinion, needs to be done to heal the schism?

This is a very sorrowful, contradictory phenomenon. The deep, painful wounds of the past have still not healed. Many of those who have gone into schism still do not understand that over the course of time, the situation in Russia has changed. However, those dear old priests who have preserved the traditions and cherish tradition have, together with us, embraced reunification, but some young priests have left. It may be that the latter are guided by personal motives—material interests, ambition—in a word, private interests. And at times they forget about obedience to the Church.

One Russian batiushka, a monk, lives on a mountain and abides in silence. Talking with him is like talking with a saint. He also didn’t accept the reunification. But I would prefer that he were a little less saintly and stayed with us.

Tell us, what to you is the most interesting thing that is happening today in the Russian Orthodox Church?

Between the West and the East exists a colossal difference in world view. Here in the West, Church and culture are separated. In the Orthodox East, they [Church and culture] represent a single, united whole. Matushka and I were in Greece. In Athens we asked a Greek, “What is more important to you, to be Greek or to be Orthodox?” He answered that they were one and the same thing. Russians think the same way. And I must explain to the Chilians that I am not Greek, not Russian—I am Orthodox. The Russian Church is a kind of model for us, integrating spiritual life with national culture. And I very much wish that the Chilean people would perceive and assimilate the Gospel of Christ in the way that the Russian people embraced the Gospel and integrated it with their own traditions and culture. O Russia! Help us find the path of how to be faithful to our national culture in the light of the Gospel teaching!

Father Alexy, in Latin America, [the project of] the “Days of Russian spiritual culture” has just been completed. What kind of mark have these days left in the souls of those Chileans who are still not in the Church, who consider themselves to be secular people? From your point of view, could it happen that, after visiting the concerts of Sretensky Monastery’s choir, the exhibition “Holy Russia, Orthodox Russia, and the cinematic festival of Russian films, there will be awakened in them an interest in spirituality, and in true Russian culture, which is closely bound up with the idea of Orthodoxy?

Of course. I think this [project] will also help them draw closer to the Orthodox faith because during this period of the Days of Russian culture, Chileans have had the chance to converse with clergy—with priests and hierarchs. After 20 years in the priesthood, I have come to the following conclusion: people may be very far from the Church, perhaps not even believe in God … until they become acquainted with a priest. The Lord God literally opens for them a little door, tiny and unnoticeable; and—lo!—faith appears. Such a person suddenly turns to us with a request to bless his home, to bless his children. Then he learns about the heights of monastic life, and is beside himself with joy and wonder about it. He starts reading the lives of saints—Seraphim of Sarov, Silouan of Mount Athos, Herman of Alaska, and other ascetics of piety. He learns about fools-for-Christ and begins to study the holy fathers. For confirmation in the faith, people often don’t need concepts and theories, but simply to see the way which God Himself trod. By God’s grace, a person talks with a priest and finds the footsteps of the Lord.

Interview by Hieromonk Paul Scherbachev
11 / 12 / 2008

Source: Pravoslavie
The “Days of Russian Spiritual Culture” refers to a tour lead by ROCOR through Latin America, which showcased Russian Orthodox spirituality and Russian culture. A letter by Metropolitan Hilarion on the commencement of the tour can be found here. News and pictures of that trip can be found here, here, here, and here.

Written by Stephen

August 19, 2009 at 8:55 pm