Freitag, 21. März 2014

A brief history of Orthodoxy in Guatemala

Mayan Orthodoxy

Father Andres Giron, the founder and leader of the Guatemalan Orthodox Church. Fr. Andres has a long history of working on behalf of the poor in Guatemala. He left the Roman Catholic Church about twenty years ago and joined (out of ignorance) a non-canonical Orthodox group. Thousands of Guatemalans, mostly indigenous Maya people, who had become disillusioned with the Roman Catholic Church, asked Fr. Andres to be their leader, so he received them into his non-canonical church. When he came to a better understanding of Orthodoxy, he sought to bring his group into canonical status. In 2009, the Guatemalan Orthodox Church was received into canonical Orthodoxy by the Greek Metropolis (Archdiocese) of Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. 

The Bishop over Guatemala is Metropolitan Athenagoras.

Before this mass conversion, the Orthodox Church in Guatemala consisted of a few scattered believers and the Holy Trinity Monastery and associated House of Rafael Ayau orphanage near Guatemala City, headed by Mother Inés (Ayau). Now, the Guatemalan Church has between 40,000-150,000 members in 338 parishes. This is the largest mass conversion to Orthodoxy since the Baptism of Russia in 988. It is the greatest missionary challenge of our time. This vast number of new converts presents a huge pastoral challenge. The Orthodox Church in Guatemala has only eight priests, so each priest is responsible for about fifty parishes. The most urgent need the Orthodox Church in Guatemala faces is to train new clergy for all of their parishes and to further train the few clergy that they already have.  A second need is to translate Orthodox services and instructional material into the several Mayan languages spoken by the new Orthodox believers, most of whom speak Spanish as a second language, or not at all. 

Father John Chakos (left) with Father Peter Jackson (right).

Father Chakos is a retired Greek Orthodox priest from Pittsburgh and a member of the board of directors of the Orthodox Christian Mission Center. OCMC is the official missionary agency of the Assembly of Bishops (i.e. all canonical jurisdiction in the US). Fr. John and Presvytera Alexandra make periodic trips to Guatemala and are laying the groundwork for the Saints Peter and Paul seminary.  The Jacksons will work full time at the seminary, training clergy and leading translation work. Fr. Peter Jackson is a cleric of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, and will be on loan to the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean.

Father John Chakos' web site is at

Father Peter Jackson with Father Evangelos, one of the eight priests in the Guatemalan Church.  Fr. Evangelos is the director of a school in his town, and he will be sending a number of next year’s high school graduates to the Saints Peter and Paul seminary.

Father Jose Adolfo and Presbytera Lilian Rivas. The Guatemalan priests are mature, dedicated, pious men, willing to live in great hardship and travel great distances to serve their many parishes.

Father Alexios is a Guatemalan priest and gifted artist. He spent a year learning iconography in Greece, where he also became fluent in the Greek language.

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