Over 1/2 Million New Members to be received into the Holy Orthodox Church


After months of catechetical and pastoral follow-up, the Archiepiscopal Vicar, the Right Reverend Mitered Archimandrite Dr. Andrew (Vujisić), traveled to Guatemala in January 2010 and received Msgr. Andrés Girón and Msgr. Mihail Castellanos of the independent Iglesia Católica Ortodoxa de Guatemala (ICOG), into the Orthodox Church. At that time, guidelines were also established to facilitate the reception of the ICOG’s 527,000 members, which are overwhelmingly indigenous. The former ICOG has 334 churches in Guatemala and southern Mexico, 12 clergymen, 14 seminarians, 250 lay ministers, and 380 catechists. It also has an administrative office on 280 acres, a community college and 2 schools with 12 professors / teachers, and a monastery on 480 acres. Fourteen students from Guatemala are now enrolled in the St. Gregory Nazianzen Orthodox Theological Institute Licentiate degree program.

In February 2010, the Right Reverend Mitered Archimandrite Dr. Andrew (Vujisić) returned to Guatemala and met with clerics and others who assist in the Church’s pastoral work and outreach. He discussed mission and ministry priorities, and economic development with Msgr. Andrés Girón and Msgr. Mihail Castellanos. He met and encouraged the faithful who collaborate in the diverse ministries in Guatemala, visited schools and institutions, and spoke at length with seminarians regarding matters related to the Orthodox faith, especially the importance of the development of an Orthodox phronema, praxis, and liturgical life. His Right Reverence inspected places of worship, liturgical vessels, vestments, etc. in order to assess the needs of the Church in Guatemala. Twelve full sets of vestments for Priests were given to Msgr. Mihail Castellanos. Catechisms were distributed to the lay ministers and catechists.

In his talks with the clergy and faithful of the ICOG, the Right Reverend Mitered Archimandrite Dr. Andrew (Vujisić) reiterated the message of St. Paul: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your nous (mind), that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12: 1-3). He stressed the importance of formulating an Orthodox worldview through prayer, fasting, repentance, struggle against sin and overcoming the passions, participation in the Holy Mysteries, and the reading the Holy Scriptures and the writings of the Holy Fathers. His Right Reverence conducted impromptu question and answer sessions everywhere he visited. Interest and excitement permeated the discussions.

The Right Reverend Mitered Archimandrite Dr. Andrew (Vujisić) also visited Holy Trinity Monastery (Antiochian Orthodox Church), where he held lengthy discussions with Abbess Inés and Mother María, and later prayed at the magnificent monastery Church, where he blessed the Russian iconographers of the Prosopon School of Iconology. He traveled to Guatemala City and visited the orphanage, Hogar Rafael Ayau, meeting, embracing, and blessing the children, and later having lunch with them. He held meetings with ‘Orthodox seekers’, who represent another 800,000 souls, regarding the straight and narrow path of reception into Orthodoxy. His Right Reverence will return to Guatemala after the Holy and Great Pascha of the Lord for follow-up meetings and discussions.


  1. John Panos says

    I can only hope this is accurate and true.

    Could be the Holy Spirit isn’t’ waiting around for us to make things work here.

    I wonder how many Greeks are in Guatemala, and how much liturgical Greek they’ll be forced to learn.

  2. cynthia curran says

    Well, a lot of Latin Americans are open to try something different. For years the protestants gain on the Roman Catholics. I can see that type of growth with Orthodoxy in Latin America. Its just in the USA, that Orthodoxy tries to hang on to the old ethnic connectons but its harder in Latin America which is good.

  3. Well, Latin Americans are better candidates for becoming Orthodox, in a way, than most North Americans, if only because they are quite poor.

  4. George Michalopulos says

    If this is accurate, it is wonderful news indeed. It would in fact make it easier for the Orthodox Church of Central America to become autonomous in its own right. A word of caution however (echoing John above), if non-indigenous ethnic elements try to overpower the natives (whether Ukrainian or Greek), then this might come to naught.

  5. Fr. Johannes Jacobse says

    Very true George. Constantinople botched its stewardship of the Church of Indonesia, so much so that the Indonesian Church sought relief elsewhere and found it under ROCOR. If Greco-triumphalism is imposed on the Church in Central America as we see in North America, all pastoral decisions will be necessarily subsumed to it and the Church there will languish.

    Here’s a thought: Constantinople’s refusal to defend unborn life plays out differently in countries like Guatemala than it does in the US. The Obama administration, led in particular by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, have reversed all the Bush administration prohibitions against abortion proselytizing in the third world.

    Millions of dollars are being funneled into the third world to break down their deep moral antipathy to abortion by these first world cultural imperialists (American mostly but mediated through the United Nations). (See: Hillary Clinton Promotes Fundraising Push for Pro-Abortion Reproductive Health.)

    What happens when the UN representative comes to Guatemala, starts throwing American money around, or Clinton makes a state visit and promises money if people would start aborting their children?

    Could Orthodox leadership under Constantinople resist this cultural aggression? Moscow could. Antioch could. Almost any Partriachate could. But Constantinople can’t. It has already compromised with the aggressor.

    • Mission in Latin-America is an entirely different ball game from the U.S. The few who ever hear of the Orthodox church think of it as simply an “oriental catholicism that doesn’t accept the pope”. Plus, under the guise of ecumenism, the Romn church puts a lot of pressure in allowing their clergy to *almost* cocelebrate with the Orthodox clergy who allow it furthering that impression. I say almost because they are careful enough to not fully do it so not to be “accused” of uncanonicity. But it is known of priests and even bishops who have received Roman clergy to stand in the altar or even sit at the bishop’s throne. Also, Rome’s “diplomatic pressure” policy of telling their faithful that they are allowed to commune in Orthodox churches puts many a priest “against the wall” for many Romans are supported to go “learn about the eastern version of our church” and simply go to the communion line. If the priest accepts them, he is tacitly aggreeing with the theories that led those people there. If he refuses then Rome grasps the opportunity to make a point that it is the Orthodox who are stubborn and uncooperative. To make things worse, Orthodox education is greatly lacking, at least here in Brazil, and it is very common hearing the faithful commenting that they don’t even understand why the churches are separated. Double baptisms (Orthodox and Roman), double marriages are rather common and, again, the very suggestion that this is irregular is sufficient for many an Orthodox to get scandalized at the “fanaticism” of the person mentioning it. Unfortunately, for example, the Orthodox Church, in Brazil, is known as the “church that marries the divorced”. So people who divorced in heterodox churches go to the Orthodox church just to marry again. They are required a discrete chrismation – which is not even explained as something that means a conversion, but just a blessing – and presto, new marriage.

      Besides that, there is the issue of “mission pro forma“. Not a few in the Orthodox clergy who act mainly with locals feel so deeply unsupported by their jurisdictions (specially when they are converts) that they gladly accept the support of the Roman church. That when they do not deffect to pseudo-orthodoxies, a tragedy I witnessed with the very priest who chrismated me. It’s beautiful to show to the Orthodox world outside that there are native priests missionizing with native people, but apperantly not always it is as beautiful to give them actual human and financial basic support. This priest in question I mentioned had to support the entire parish with his own civil servant retirement. His parish was in a slum and Sunday collections hardly went above 10 or 15 dollars. And not because there were few people. Quite on the contrary, there were plenty of people there, but very poor people who gave as much as they could. After years of unsupportiveness, of being invited to sit at the table below the stairs where noone could see in meetings, he simply accepted the invitation of a pseudo-orthodox group to join them.

      Syncretism also plays a big part and it’s very common to find Roman devotions in Orthodox parishes, specially the non-ethnic ones. This one is possibly one of the hardest tasks, since the simple people simply cannot grasp how that “saint” could not be a saint. The very suggestion of the idea is sometimes offensive and scandalous. That, of course, when the syncretism is with Romans. Things get a bit ugliers when people mix Orthodoxy with African or Indian paganism, although I have never seen this case institutionalized. As institutions go, there are clergy who are admittedly masons and I suspect that they and their groups would be also scandalized by the idea these two things are incompatible.

      Yet, there are promissing initiatives in terms of missions in Brazil, specially from the Polish and Serbian missions. These are groups made mainly of Brazilians and have a missionary focus. Please, pray for them and for the clergy in other jurisdictions who know that Orthodoxy is meant for all nations.

    • George Michalopulos says

      Fr, good points all. I’m quite ignorant of what happened in Indonesia, but what I’ve heard is abominable. Perhaps the EP learned from his mistakes there? I can only hope. However, to bring this to full circle, you are right: if these natives believe that the EP is a cultural liberal (or at least does not fight cultural liberalism), then they’ll do what Indonesia did and bail into ROCOR, the OCA-Mexico, or even the ROC.

      Getting back to Indonesia, Fr Daniel Byantoro is true champion of Orthodoxy.

      A little off-tangent: I’ve really been giving this phenomenon some thought. This is really gonna make it hard for any US jurisdiction to ever again slam the door in the face of indigenous proto-Orthodox groups (such as the former Campus Crusaders) who wish to come into the Faith with their folkways, clergy and even hierarchy intact.

  6. George Michalopulos says

    More good news: the population of Guatemala is 13.2 million. Assuming that the numbers for IGOC are true and that there will be no attrition, then the Orthodox population constitutes 3.9% of the population of Guatemala. Let’s say 4%. That means that the Orthodox share of the population in that country is three times what it is in the US. This also means that if these trends continue (more indigenous becoming Orthodox), then the Greek, Slavic, and Arab numbers will be overwhelmed. In fact, this may indeed be the case now.

    Also, the fact that these men visited with the Antiochian abbess Ines is to the good. More good news will follow if they make a trip to Mexico City and meet with the OCA and Antiochian bishops there. (Indeed, the model may well be the OCA diocese since that is primarily native, unlike the Antiochian.)

    This means that unlike the US, in which the Arab and the Greek jurisdictions are retrenching into their ethnic cores, this can’t happen in Central America. Even though I’ve been a critic of the EP, I must commend him on this evangelistic coup. Not only is it right for its own sake, the incursion of these natives into Orthodoxy through the jurisdiction of the EP will make it very difficult for ethnocentrists to deride these people.

    It’s ironic isn’t it? The Anglo-Americans of the EOC were prevented from entering the jurisdiction of the EP by then-Metropolitan Bartholomew because of the request of the Greek gov’t and the Greek-American elite of the GOA (back in the 80s) because of the possibility of them overwhelming the Greek element of the GOA. Now this probably will happen in Central America. I wonder how the GOA elite will accept this phenomenon? The fact that the Guatemalans are protected by their geographical distance is to the good, however what will happen when North American Christian confessions want to become included into Orthodoxy and maintain their “distinctive” traditions, hierarchy, folkways, etc.? It’s going to be difficult for the GOA/EP to deny them this.

    I wonder therefore if this is going to be advertised?

  7. Isn’t this the same group the OCA was speaking with? Any news on what happened with that dialog?

  8. Wasn’t this same group also speaking with the OCA, Met. Jonah and Fr. Oleksa? Or, is this another group?

    • This does appear to be the same group, as both groups mention their ‘Metropolitan’ as being Andrés Giron, a former Catholic priest who was apparently laicized for a long-shot presidential candidacy as an advocate for impoverished Mayas. That is to say, I don’t think Fr. Johannes’ concerns about the EP’s leftward political stances are going to be unpalatable to a group whose ultimate origins are in leftward-leaning Latin American Catholic indigenous movements of the 80’s.

      On Giron’s career: http://www.nytimes.com/1988/12/27/world/guatemalan-priest-s-daring-crusade.html


      Giron’s group has a Spanish-language website: http://www.iglesiaortodoxalatina.org/

      The website seems pretty typically vagante, recruiting candidates for ordination and giving a long explanation of its apostolic succession. It does not, however, give a parish directory. I think we’re safe to assume that the 500,000 member figure is imaginary, as are all religious membership figures. When I heard the OCA’s stating that this group had 50,000 members, I also assumed that was an exaggeration. Who knows. It does seem that, unlike most vagante groups, it has vastly more faithful than clergy, which is a sign of sane management. Their publications section is also interesting, because it does seem like they are active in catechizing their faithful, though with material that is rather imperfectly Orthodox.

      This effort by the EP is interesting. It is led by Fr. Andrew Vujisić, who according to his OrthodoxWiki entry is bishop-elect to some titular see. In practice, he is one of a couple priests at the only Orthodox mission in San Juan, and adjunct faculty at some university there. Fr. Andrew, a Montenegrin, is apparently also the vicar for Slavic and indigenous Orthodox in the Metropolis of Mexico. From the website, which is curiously only in English, it seems that he is making a deliberate effort to court indigenous quasi-Orthodox groups, a marked change of EP policy. There is also a bilingual correspondence-seminary, whose instructors are all priests with PhD’s from online or correspondence colleges.

      From experience in the US, the receiving of largish eccentric groups into Orthodoxy is always a messy process, but one that has borne good fruit when handled correctly……

      • He was supposedly consecrated Bishop of Tralles in November by C’ople to organize multiethnic immigrant-Orthodox parishes throughout Latin America, apparently in/for both Greek Metropolises(?). I note his “GENERAL SECRETARIAT FOR PAN-ORTHODOX MINISTRIES” website is down at this time. IIRC he was fluent in Spanish, though JONAH spoke to seminarians in Russia about learning Mayan. I guess a funny thing happened on the way to … something…. Giron met once or twice with the OCA Synod and seemed to think he was not long for this world and wanted to nail it down fairly quickly(!).

  9. George Michalopulos says

    Now that you mention it, I believe it was. Or was it a group of Mayans in Mexico? Anybody? Regardless, the fact that they were brought into the Faith is what’s important. The repercussions of this are many and varied, specifically the fact that they were a group that arose independently and are allowed to keep their traditions. This may very well be the next-to-the-final nail in the coffin of foreign/ethnic domination in North America.

    • Isa Almisry says

      I hope so. I am afraid, however, that this might be a ploy to breathe new life into the Patriarch of the Barbarian myth. I pray not, but I am curious, why was it the EP’s Russian and not the regular (i.e. Greek) who went? The EP has a Archdiocese of Central America, where were they? What happended with the talks with the OCA?

      There was a to do (or is it too do) between the Antiochians and the EP’s jurisdiction in Australia over the Philipines a while back. I don’t know if that has been resolved. I wonder if we see a new one in the making. As long as the newly chrismated stay in the Church, I’m not worried, but I do worry if politics would drive them away, or if another agenda is joining another agenda, creating a nightmare for the work of evangelization.

      I would hope that “the fact that these men visited with the Antiochian abbess Ines is to the good. More good news will follow if they make a trip to Mexico City and meet with the OCA and Antiochian bishops there. (Indeed, the model may well be the OCA diocese since that is primarily native, unlike the Antiochian.)” might come true. But how much contact does the GOA (in particular its ACROD arm) have with the OCA?

      • George Michalopulos says

        Isa, the reason that the go-betweens were Slavic is because they are hard-core (in a good way). Read carefully what they say about “conquering sin, the passions, ascetism, etc.” This ain’t the GOA or GOCA model. You’re right, if this is politics, then it’ll come to naught. I’ll go so far as to say that I fear that if they sense that the GO Metropolis of Central America is as unserious as the GOA then they’ll be bailing in no time.

        Personally, I give these Indians a lot of credit. They were in talks with the OCA and the MP (check the website of Guatemala, the main church –which is Antiochian–looks like it was transplanted lock, stock, and barrell, from the forests of Russia). They probably decided that if they go to the Slavic jurisdictions of the EP then they’ll avoid all jurisdictional problems. Like I said, look to see if the GOA or the GOCA make any mention of this. I rather think that the GOA is going to keep this one under wraps as it will dredge up memories of the Campus Crusaders. (As well as make them uncomfortable about ACNA and any other US Protestant jurisdictions that want to come in.)

  10. Scott Pennington says

    First, if it’s true, it’s wonderful. I’m habitually sceptical of numbers coming out of Latin America. Pentecostals claim 400,000,000 adherents there – – which is absurd. But regardless, if one, a thousand, ten thousand etc. are received into Orthodoxy, it is a cause for celebration.

    “The Anglo-Americans of the EOC were prevented from entering the jurisdiction of the EP by then-Metropolitan Bartholomew because of the request of the Greek gov’t and the Greek-American elite of the GOA (back in the 80s) because of the possibility of them overwhelming the Greek element of the GOA.”

    I’ve never heard this explanation of why the EOC was not received by the Phanar. If it is true, it is utterly deplorable and aggressively unchristian – – something which they will have to answer for on the last day.

    • I hadn’t heard that explanation. In fact, I am pretty sure (it was a bit before I converted), that Metropolitan Maximos was very welcoming. My understanding is that the GOA was, in fact, willing to receive them, but with certain (not unreasonable) conditions or requests – conditions that the Antiochian jurisdiction did not impose. I’m sure that others can provide more detail. Yet the important point, here, is that the Gospel IS being served in this case, in Guatemala, and for this I give wholehearted thanks.

      • George Michalopulos says

        Chrys, Scott, read Fr Gilquist’s book, Becoming Orthodox.. As for myself, I had the pleasure of meeting one of the attendees at that awful day in Istanbul. Yes, +Maximus was the standout, but he got sandbagged by other bishops in the GOA. At the behest of the Greek gov’t. Groan.

  11. George, I believe they spoke to this group. I know that our priest, Fr. John Chakos (GOA), met with them at least once. He has been active in missions and very active in his support of the Hogar Raphael. The orphanage is also very dear to my wife, who spends a week or so there every year, as well as to many people in our parish. Thus, what I have heard generally comports with the information in the article, though I can’t speak to the numbers involved.

    On a side note, while the Hogar is Antiochian, it has a very good relationship with a variety of jurisdictions (including the GOA, OCA, etc.). In many ways, working with the orphanage has offered members of different jurisdictions the opportunity to experience that unity in service that we discussed on another thread.

    My concern in this case is that every possible effort is made to provide the level of pastoral care – both quantity and quality – that these people will need. I am glad to see that the article describes some of the attention and effort being given to this need. As a convert myself, I recognize that while converts often bring a high level of energy to the faith, they may also require considerable care – at least initially. If you will excuse the somewhat crass manner of expression, we “bought” the Orthodox faith and we want it full strength and undiluted. At the same time, we may still carry some less-than-Orthodox assumptions and expectations. As a result, we often want and require additional catechesis, individual guidance and ongoing formation. All of this can impose some rather heavy pastoral demands on the clergy. My heartfelt prayer is that they will receive the care they need so their conversion becomes a deep blessing for them, offers a powerful witness to their countrymen and brings glory to God.

    • George Michalopulos says

      Chrys, these people need good bishops. If this is nothing but an attempt to breathe new life into a dead body (in Isa’s memorable words, “Patriarch of the Barbarians”) then it will be exposed soon enough. Just because these people are from a third world country doesn’t mean they aren’t sophisticated. I would like everybody to do a google search on Orthodoxy in Guatemala: you will be surprised at what they’ve accomplished. That church that Mother Ines built, is a stupendous site to behold.

      • George, by all accounts (and the pictures I have seen) the new monastery is indeed amazing and beautiful. I hope that nothing I wrote implied in any way that they were not sophisticated. My concern was only to note that converts require considerable, concentrated pastoral attention – often because of the study, the commitment, the desire and the issues that they often bring with them. (I doubt any of this is news to the priests who post here.)

        Invariably, a large group of converts will bring a variety of needs with them. Though it may or may not be typical, my own search took years and constant (sometimes nearly compulsive) study, and an incredible amount of conversation involving a variety of theological, historical and scriptural issues. (My godfather was incredibly generous with his time and is, fortunately, quite a scholar.) Yet, as difficult and exhilarating as the search was for me – and as demanding as it probably was for the others who helped me – finding the Path was relatively “easy” compared to the process of actually walking it. This is as it should be, of course: the sacramental ascetical path of the Church is a process of ever-deepening crucifixion – and the fallen self does not die easily. To (again) quote St. Macarius:

        The heart itself is but a small vessel, yet dragons are there, and there are also lions; there are poisonous beasts and all the treasures of evil. But there too is God, the angels, the life and the kingdom, the light and the apostles, the heavenly cities and the treasuries of grace—all things are there.

        Such a daunting, difficult and often subtle challenge requires an adept spiritual father – or, in this case, fathers and mothers. Thus, my point – or rather my hope – is that they will receive the high level of pastoral care they both want and need in order to become trophies of grace. You are right, though, that this requires very dedicated bishops, who will in turn attract, support and foster dedicated priests. My fear – which you point to – is that this will be in any way treated like a political coup, like a feather in the cap. (One sees this happen on the individual level with “celebrities” when they embrace faith – especially in the Evangelical world – and it does no one any favors.) Frankly, that would be a tragic corruption of the divine mandate and a dereliction of their pastoral duty. I trust, however, that this is moving forward as it is because all involved have tested, found and developed the trust needed to make this kind of commitment.

        On a side note, the whole idea of having one bishop for dozens of priests is a management nightmare. There is no way a bishop can actively cultivate or coach these men – which, it seems to me, should be a top priority if the bishop is to actually BE an Overseer, a true spiritual father. (I would think that one bishop for, say, twelve priests would work. I mean, there’s a pretty good precedent for that particular number. Just saying is all.) When the supervision is the over-extended, the position inevitably devolves into an administrative post, and he can not offer the support, feedback, guidance, or coaching needed to nurture effective leadership. He certainly can’t productively foster any meaningful kind of accountability. Rather each is left to his own devices, which in turn opens the door to internal – and interminable – political pressures. Unusually good men can sometimes compensate for unworkable systems, but this is not a good long-term solution; it almost certainly de-motivates even the best. I think Warren Buffett offers some helpful wisdom here. The structure should be small enough “so that even a fool can run (it), because someday a fool will.” This is not to ignore the power and calling of God; it is just to recognize that super-large dioceses don’t seem to work for the priests, the bishops or, by extension, the parishes. Just my two cents (five after inflation).

        • George Michalopulos says

          Chrys, I didn’t even pick up on any inference. I just meant simply that many of us (esp on 70th St) feel that these Guatemalans may be simple-minded and easy to beguile with their fancy dress and galas at the Waldorf. Come to think of it, they obviously think that most of us are incapable of understanding the “complexities” and the “many layers” of these “complex issues” as per the recent interview posted by Fr Hans.

          • Gotcha. Thanks for the clarification. And – as both your note below and mine above – there needs to be a close connection between the bishop, the priests and the parishes. Beyond a certain point, which as we both indicated would be around 12 (I’m sure it’s just a random coincidence), the possibility for meaningful communion is undermined. I am told that communion is kind of central to the faith. Again, just saying.

  12. I wonder how their 12 priests make it to their 300 parishes very often. I was under the impression that the OCA was handling this process; why is the EP involved at all if talks were already underway with the OCA?

    • George Michalopulos says

      turf wars.

    • George Michalopulos says

      P.S. I’ve often felt that the optimum priest:bishop ration is 12:1. Hmmm…where could I come up with such a number? Or at the very least one bishop per city. (Again, those pesky canons.)

    • Over 600 “lay ministers” and “catechists” probably have a huge role in holding down the fort in each village or neighborhood mission-station between priestly visits, if they’re like their Latin counterparts thruout the 3rd World. May well be among the most literate in their communities. I also note that there are two bishops in the group currently, Giron and his auxiliary, not just the one: “Mons.” = “Bishop” in Latinism outside parts of the English-speaking world such as the U.S.

  13. Isa Almisry says

    I hadn’t seen this interview (though I had heard of parts of it) before. Missing link?

    The conversation published below took place in early December 2009, during the visit of Metropolitan Jonah (OCA) to Russia to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Moscow representation of the Orthodox Church in America, and is devoted to the activities of the Church in Latin America.

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

    – The jurisdiction of our Church extends to Mexico. Previously, we also had some parishes in Argentina, Brazil, Peru and Venezuela. But some of them left for the Russian Church Abroad, the others were closed.

    Several communities in Latin America want to join the Orthodox Church in America. We would be happy to take these believers, but there is no one to care for them, because we have very few priests who speak Spanish or Portuguese.

    A priest – I hope he will soon become a bishop – began a mission in Ecuador in Guayaquil, where there settled a major Palestinian colony. Unfortunately, in recent years, his good initiative was dampened. I heard that in Central American countries, particularly in El Salvador, there are many Palestinians. Curiously, they do not go to the parishes of the Antiochian Church, and have been asking to be accepted under our omophorion.

    The Ecumenical and Antiochian Patriarchates prefer to care for the Greek and Arab diaspora. We do not understand this. The Church must give pastoral care, first of all to local spiritual children. This is the principled position of the Orthodox Church in America.

    – When was the Mexican Exarchate established?

    – The Mexican Exarchate exists since the early 1970’s. At that time, the bishop of the Mexican National Old Catholic Jose Church, Jose (Cortes and Olmos), got in touch with our Church, and together with his community came to Orthodoxy. Because of his work, hundreds of Mexicans penetrated the Orthodox faith.

    Recently, 5,000 Indians from 23 localities in the State of Veracruz were baptized Orthodox. However, such a huge mass of parishioners have only one priest. In the Mexican Exarchate there are in general very few clerics. All of them Mexicans, including the ruling bishop – Bishop Alejo (Pacheco-Vera).

    – Have you ever been in Latin America?

    – I just visited Mexico. I’m now planning to go to Guatemala. My friend, Abbess Ines (Aiai), lives there; she is Abbess of Holy Trinity Monastery which is in the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Antioch.

    In Guatemala, my attention is drawn to a group of thousands of people wishing to convert to Orthodoxy. Most of them are Mayan people. If we accept these, my Guatemalans, as well as representatives of indigenous peoples of other countries in Latin America, the Indians, could become the main ethnic group in the American Orthodox Church. Personally, I would be glad.

    – It is clear that you are sympathetic to the original inhabitants of the Americas …

    – I feel very warm feelings for the Indians. At university I studied anthropology, was fond of the Mayan and Aztec cultures. They are great and wonderful civilizations.

    I like Latin America as a whole – its art, music, literature, cuisine. Latinos love life, they are open and hospitable people. I grew up in California – one of the most Hispanicized states in the US. From my Mexican friends I learned a little Spanish (although I speak it badly). The priest, having united me to the Orthodox Church, was a Mexican. His name was Father Ramon Merlos.

    – What are the similarities and differences in the missionary work with the Indians of the United States and Latin America?

    – Frankly, I do not know … Our church has a missionary experience in Alaska, where a wonderful priest, Archpriest Michael Oleksa, serves; he’s an anthropologist by profession. He is Carpatho-Russian, and his wife comes from an indigenous Yupik community. Father Michael wants to hold in Alaska a conference of Orthodox American Indians. It will be an extremely interesting event.

    While serving as rector of the seminary, Father Michael invited the community from Guatemala, which is hungering for Orthodoxy, to send two of its members to obtain theological education. The idea is certainly good, but people accustomed to a tropical climate, are unlikely to bear Alaskan cold.

    – Are there Hispanics among your parishioners in the U.S.?

    – Of course. In California, 35% of the population is Hispanic; in Texas it’s even greater. Latins are present in both the flock and clergy of our Church. St. Tikhon Seminary has a Mexican student with Indian roots; he’s named Abraham. He is a subdeacon. One subdeacon in San Francisco is of Colombian origin. At the end of November of this year, I consecrated a new convent in honor of the Nativity of Our Lord in Dallas — where the abbess is Brazilian.

    – What, in your opinion, attracts Hispanics to Orthodoxy?

    – Latins love our liturgy and icons; they are captivated by a deep reverence for the Mother of God, inherent in the Orthodox Church.

    I must say that the Catholic Church is rapidly losing influence in Latin America, because of her close ties with the upper classes of society. Many of the poor who are the majority of the population of the region are disappointed in the Catholic pastors and joined the Protestants, Mormons and other sectarians.

    Metropolitan Andres (Giron), the head of the Order of white clergy of St. Basil the Great in Guatemala, was formerly a Catholic priest. He saw that his leaders were focused on the rich, and in the early 1990’s left the Catholic Church, because he wanted to work for the people. Recently, Metropolitan Andres told me: “I’m already old and sick. Please, take my people to your church for their salvation.” His community can hardly be called Orthodox, but gradually it will learn the faith and will be united to the traditions of the Orthodox Church. In addition to Guatemala, Bishop Andres opened parishes in Los Angeles, San Francisco and other cities in the United States where his countrymen settled.

    – You are not afraid of a conflict with the Catholic Church? Despite everything, Latin America is still considered the “principal diocese of the Vatican.”

    – There will be no conflict. The Catholic Church is loyal to Orthodoxy. Moreover, I see great potential for co-work with the Catholic Church, particularly in opposing sectarianism.

    Miguel Palacio spoke with Metropolitan Jonah.

  14. cynthia curran says

    Actually, I seen some figues that tied California and Texas. Currently at 37 percent apiece- us census 2008. Texas might by 2020, grow faster in hispanics than California because its cheaper to live. Yet, a lot of California hispanics that could do better in many Texas cities still remain in Los Angeles, or Santa Ana or Anaheim- the largest cities in California with hispanic pecentages. Also, California has a greater white flight problem than Texas which means that both the Hispanic and Asian population in California goes up while the white population even decreases. Asians are third in California and only fourth in Texas.

  15. John Panos says

    I’ve only got one more thing to say about this.

    The EP is eating bread they didn’t bake.

    It is cheap and cowardly to swoop in and scoop up the work done by the OCA.

    Frankly, it’s weak.(Hard to imagine that word being used to describe GO bishops, eh? I think the whole worldwide system of Greek bishops is very, very weak, and I hope other bishops will take note).

    May God grant a great grace to those who actually labored to connect these souls to the Holy Orthodox Church. As for the rest, well…I hope the just desserts for their lack of vision and loveless action.

  16. I don’t understand how this could have happened that a group that was being groomed, by all appearances, to enter the OCA, could be scooped up by the EP with only this brief announcement to witness the violation of trust and cooperation between jurisdictions. Who was responsible for this ‘defection’? Did the EP jump into some gap there? It’s depressing to see how the OCA is spurned repeatedly in its attempts to do a godly work in the building of a rationalized American Orthodox administration. Why would the Guatemalans choose the EP, with its track record as such? Is the OCA without human resources, without leadership in these matters? Is it a language issue? Where can we go to have a real discussion with involved parties on this issue?

  17. I don’t understand how this could have happened that a group that was being groomed, by all appearances, to enter the OCA, could be scooped up by the EP

    There is an assumption underlying some of the comments that the OCA was not aware or complicit in how the Iglesia Católica Ortodoxa de Guatemala (ICOG) was received into the Church. Just because it is a surprise to us, doesn’t mean a forthright agreement was not reached between the EP, OCA and the ICOG.

    Met. Jonah foreshadowed much of the result of Chambesy. I would suggest this is due to guidance from the MP and their behind the scenes communications with the EP. It would seem to be that this is a hint at the perhaps already predetermined result of the next Chambesy meeting. (That isn’t to say the OCA is happy about it, but if the MP and EP came to an implicit or explicit understanding…) If Guatemala is already slated to be under the jurisdiction of the EP and all parties wish for the ICOG’s reception sooner rather than later (and with little controversy), then why not simply allow them to be received by the EP today – especially since it seems as if the EP is at least attempting to act like a Church for all nations with the appointment of a Slavic Archimandrite for pan-Orthodox missions in the region. (I have also heard that Mgr. Giron is ill and wanted to settle the fate of his church before his death – don’t know if it’s true or not, but that would explain not wanting to wait until after Chambesy II).

    • Isa Almisry says

      I don’t think there is anything brewing between the MP and the EP, and the OCA isn’t going to be the lamb Moscow throws to the Phanar.

      Unlike the Phanar, the OCA and Moscow do care about canons and jurisdiction. The Tomos of Autocephaly explicitely states that neither claim exclusive jurisdiction over Mexico, let alone the rest of Central America (Art. 7), along with the proviso that “The newly-established local Orthodox Autocephalous Church in America should abide in brotherly relations with all the Orthodox Churches and their Primates as well as with their bishops, clergy and pious flock, who are in America and who for the time being preserve their de facto existing canonical and jurisdictional dependence on their national Churches and their Primates,” based on article XI of the Agreement on the Autotocephaly for The Orthodox Church in America “The parties agree that neither of them now possesses or claims to have exclusive jurisdiction of the Orthodox faith in the continent of South and Central America where the canonical status quo is preserved.”

      The OCA has only reached Mexico (but it did so from the days of St. Innnocent), and hasn’t untl now made any claim or evangelize any other part of Central America. Both Antioch and Constantinople (and perhaps Moscow?) have. If there was a battle, I think Met. Jonah was choosing his (the EA is going to have his hands full). As long as the group enbraces Othodoxy, other issues can be dealt with in due time. But yes, I suspect the EP is grasping at straws to weave a basket to put over the light of autocephaly in North America.

  18. John Panos says

    If Guatemala was ‘ceded’ to the EP then that means the whole of North America was been given over by Moscow. Probably for Europe.

    This means they are dealing with us without regard to the Canons, but only politically as expedient.

    This, frankly, means that Met. Jonah is the only hope for free Orthodoxy in North America. If he fails to defend his autocephaly, there will never be autocephaly in this hemisphere.

    We will only have a Greek Eparchy, of Greeks, by Greeks, for Greeks, and those who can endure their nonsense. The rest of us have just been thrown under the bus.

    We can only hope that Philip and Jonah can see past Chambesy to their own people.

    I’m sorry to say it, but it is the truth.

    • Isa Almisry says

      Well, I have no inside information: I can only say how I see it on the information available, and how I would act.

      I don’t think Guatamala was “ceded” to the EP. No such statement was made, nor do I think will be made. Nor was a Greek put in charge, and the person sent, speaking with the Antiochians (and ROCOR? Who owns that Russian Church in the jungle?) the EP recognized someone else was there.

      The OCA has no bishop there, nor ever had a parish there. Met. Jonah specifically said the OCA’s jurisdiction extends now to Mexico (which is more than the Tomos said). What has happened doesn’t change that. The EP claims nothing more than his exarch in Central America isn’t already claiming, and the OCA exarch isn’t going anywhere. Nothing lost there, and the OCA retains the high ground of not multiplying jurisdictions where others exist.

      The group will be received into Orthodoxy. The question is only holding the grand claims of pastoring to the EP’s (or his spokesman’s) words. Besides the grandios claims of the Ecumenical part of “Ecumenical Patriarchate,” no mention that I have hear of the uberjurisdiction.

      Met. Jonah and Moscow (and I would say us who want a united and autocephalous Church, if not Church(es) in North America) are choosing their battles. This is not one that needs to be fought, at least not at the moment. The EP has embraced a group of non-Orthodox in what it calls the “Diaspora” something it had bitterly criticized others for doing. Well, now the wind is out of that sail.

      Met. Jonah and Moscow’s agreement to Chambesy is going to prove a Trojan horse I believe. Beware of non-Greeks bearing gifts.

      • Fr. Johannes Jacobse says

        A point tangentially related. Indonesia was terribly mismanaged by Constantinople, so much so that the Church there had to break away and come under ROCOR. If reports are accurate, ROCOR doing a very good job overseeing the Indonesian Church.

        There probably should be independent verification to ensure that what happened in Indonesia is not happening in Guatemala.

        • Isa Almisry says

          LOL. Whether Constantinople likes it or not, that will be a major result of the EA. No place to hide anymore.

        • George Michalopulos says

          Fr, were you aware that the OCMC is being taken for a ride in Indonesia? They’re sending monies only to an orphanage that’s run by one of the few priests that did not remain with Fr Daniel Byantaro, the founder of the native church. What’s more, most of the children at that monastery are relatives of the priest who’s running it. And they’re not Orthodox or orphans.

          From what I hear, the aftermath of the scandalous tenure of Metropolitan Nikita Lulias has still not played itself out. The OCMC still makes references to Fr Daniel even though the successor of Nikita, Metropoiltan Nektarios of Hong Kong, tried to defrock Fr Daniel. Of course he failed because Fr Daniel is now under the protection of the MP.

          No doubt there’ll be more info to come down the pike. In the meantime, we should pray for Fr Daniel and pray that the Phanar doesn’t gum up the works like that in Guatemala.

          • Ugh. Having met and heard from the Dean of Indonesia himself, I know just how venal this all has gotten. Whatever happened to putting God and His flock first? You have to be a subtle as serpents to deal with the Phanar crowd. Caveat Emptor.

      • George Michalopulos says

        You know, the rumor that’s been flying around is that the MP and the EP have worked out a deal: +Kirill gets Europe while +Bartholomew gets America. I don’t think that’s realistic. For one thing, +Kirill holds a WHOLE lotta cards in his hand. One of the biggest he’s got is that the GOA is getting antsy about the number of Russians in their back yard (i.e. NYC). These people, like the Guatemalans, know that the GOA/GOCA isn’t serious about evangelism.

        As for the Guatemalans, do we realize that they are now the largest jurisdiction in North America? These guys aren’t going to play any phanariote games.

    • George Michalopulos says

      John, it’s true only if the original premise is true. Otherwise, it’s GIGO. Personally, I don’t think it’s true. As I’ve responded below, the MP is on the ascendant. The EP can’t threaten him with anything. And if the Romanian thing (as stated by Isa below) is true, then the Chambesy protocols will flounder. We were told at the OCL conference in Houston last month, that the one metric of success would be the “imposition” of a solution for the various regions by the Great and Holy Synod if they don’t come up with one of their own. This is contingent on the convocation of said synod. Don’t hold your breath.

  19. Regarding canons and jurisdiction, the tomos of autocephaly granted to the Russian Church by the EP stipulates its jurisdiction as being only within the bounds of the Russian Empire. A canonical case could be made that the sale of Alaska put the Orthodox churches there specifically outside of the jurisdiction of Moscow – though the tomos did not stipulate whose jurisdiction churches formerly in the Russian Empire should then join.

    That is, it isn’t all and only about power and hellenization without any canonical justification at all. That isn’t to say all these things don’t play their part, even a significant or primary part, of course.

    Fr. Andrew Damick had a copy of the tomos in translation, but I can’t find it now.

    • Isa Almisry says

      Bishop Alexander tried to make that argument.
      No, it can’t be made.

      Russia became autocephalous in 1448, when it refused to follow Constinople into schism and heresy at Florence. The Chrysobull of 1589 you refer to was “granted” to a Church that already was independent. If it were to limit the boundaries to Russian territory, then it could be claimed that Russia would have no claim as Alaska was not in the Empire in 1589. The document (it would be nice to have it before us) refers to Moscow and “the Northern Lands,” which Alaska certainly is. The Empire, in the early 1800’s reached down into the San Francisco area. The problem is that the jurisdiction of the Russian Church did not leave when the Czar did: the Cession Treaty’s terms explicitely made the Church here an American entital with legal status, and the successor in jurisdiction to the Czar, not the U.S. state, much like the terms of the Cuba’s independence left Guantanoma Bay with Cuban sovereignty and U.S. jursdiction. I’ve cited relevant case law here:

      The interpretation of canon 28 in force at the time of the evangelization of America cites the authority of an Autocephalous Church to unevangelized lands bordering it. Again, Russia borders North America, and was in it.

      This being question only with the issuance of the Tomos of 1908, in which the EP claimed jurisdiction on ethnic lines.

    • George Michalopulos says

      orrologion: reading the chrysobull, and really, anything coming out of C’pole within the last 800 years is very much distressing and so far off the mark evangelistically speaking. Read their letter to the Russian church in the 13th century, when the Kievans managed to elect a native as metropolitan. It’s so full of special pleading.

      The chrysobull, and the tomos of autocephaly to the church of Greece were so fulll of weasel words that it is clear that a bunch of lawyers (sorry Isa) wrote them. They don’t describe the formation of new churches so much but franchise operations with clearly-limited authority. I hate to be brash, but they’re not serious from an evangelistic point of view. They don’t make sense, and it’s clear that they’re executed in bad faith. In other words, their nullities.

      • Isa Almisry says

        “it is clear that a bunch of lawyers (sorry Isa) wrote them”

        LOL. I’m not a lawyer. God forbid! Though I’ve been told by lawyers that I am like a lawyer who just passed the bar (too focused on what the law says, rather than the courts’ convenience). I’ve had to learn by surviving the judicial jungle, where even the law of the Jungle isn’t obeyed.

        On the Tomos for Greece, this is a good background:
        The Orthodox Church and independent Greece, 1821-1852 By Charles A. Frazee

        It is even more conveluted than you summarized. For one thing, a communicant of the Vatican, the King of Greece, was in charge.

        • George Michalopulos says

          Well, you’ve certainly got a clear, rational mind! Like lawyers in the ideal are supposed to have. (One of the best was Sir Thomas More.) The Phanariotes who wrote these tomes of autocephaly (for Russia and Greece) were certainly not in that category. Their self-serving language is obvious even to a blind man.
          That’s why the ecumenical patriarchate has not been taken seriously for the better part of a millennium. Its aggrandizement has only gotten worse since the reign of Meletius IV of sorrowful memory.

    • Scott Pennington says


      It is true that the tomos granted a (loosely) fixed territory to the Russian Church. That being said, to get to the point where one suggests that activity outside that territory constitutes some canonical violation, you have to posit that the territory where the activity is happening belongs to another see. Canon law says one jurisdiction is not supposed to invade the jurisdiction of another see. If the territory has not been given to any see, it is mission territory and canon law provides that whichever bishops are closest have a duty to send missionaries in or other bishops may intervene.

      It is incorrect to say that a tomos of autocephaly, because it defines the canonical territory of a church, means that the church cannot act outside of that territory. In fact, it has a duty to act outside of the territory in areas close to it which are not under the jurisdiction of another see (a/k/a “the Great Commission”).

      You’re assuming that canon 28 of the IVth EC means what the Phanar asserts; i.e., that Constantinople has universal jurisdiction outside the canonical territories of other sees. That novel notion which owes its existence to Patriarch Meletios IV (during the early 1920’s) has been discredited everywhere outside the Greek Church.

      In the Greek Church, it is, to a great extent, about Hellenization; however, I certainly don’t begrudge the Church of Constantinople the same prerogatives as other churches to expand into mission territory which is not the canonical territory of any other see. The more missionaries the better.

  20. George Michalopulos says

    Isa, all I can say is, I’m glad you’re on our side! 🙂

  21. I’m not asserting anything about Canon 28 of Chalcedon or the EP’s rights. I merely pointed out that the Chrysobull recognizing Russia’s autocephaly delimited its jurisdiction to the Russian Empire. One can argue that the document is inconsequential or self-serving, one can argue its boundaries can and should be ignored.

    I also noted that no clear order has been instituted in Orthodoxy for how missions are to be conducted and then ‘governed’ outside the established boundaries of the local autocephalous churches. This is obvious, and not only due to the actions and opinions of the EP and her captive churches. Antioch, Russia, Romania, Serbia, Bulgaria and Georgia (and others, in the past) all have parishes under their jurisdiction around the world, side by side with parishes under other Orthodox bishops.

    • George Michalopulos says

      Orrologion, this is somewhat tangential but here goes: I came across this interesting passage from St Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain, who was commenting on an earlier canon of Zonaras who was commenting on canon 9 of Chalcedon:

      “If any clergyman has a dispute with another, let him not leave his own bishop and resort to secular courts, but let him first submit his case to his own bishop, or let it be tried by referees chosen by both parties and approved by the bishop. Let anyone who acts contrary be liable to canonical penalties…”

      [Nicodemus]: “…It did not say that if any clegyman has a dispute or difference with the metropolitan of any diocese or parish whatever, they must be tried before the bishop of Constantinople…That is why Zonaras too says that the bishop of Constantinople is not necessarily entitled to sit as a judge over all metropolitans, but only those who are juricially subject to him.”

      The plain text is obvious. What is ironic is that this is the same Zonaras who is quoted on the website of the ecumenical patriarchate and whose words are twisted to equate “nation” with “barbarians,” in other words, the supremacist interpretation of canon 28.

  22. George Michalopulos says

    Orrologion, I see your point but Scott is right: canon 13 of Carthage mandates that an unevangelized territory is the responsibility of the bishop closest to it. If he doesn’t, then he has give 6 month’s notice to get off the stick. If he still doesn’t then the next closest bishop has to step up to the bat.

    As far as canon 28 of Chalcedon, that’s been dealt several deathblows, not gonna waste any more time on that one.

    As for the formation of churches, once a church is given autocephaly, the fullness of the faith resides within it. All its sacraments are valid. As are all its acts. Therefore its territory cannot be delimited ahead of time. Implicit in its charge is that if it does evangelize another territory, it is its duty to grant autonomy to a daughter church, especially if that new church is in a different political territory. That’s because the canons (1 and 34 of the Apostolic Canons) state that ever polity should have its own church. (“Let the ecclesiastical model follow the civil model.”)

    If this doesn’t prove that the Holy Spirit guides the Church, nothing does. There are to be no super-bishops, no churches with no authority to grant autocephaly, no supremacy of any kind.

  23. Do you mean CANON XVII of “The Canons of the 217 Blessed Fathers who assembled at Carthage”?

    That is:

    That any province on account of its distance, may have its own Primate.

    IT seemed good that Mauretania Sitiphensis, as it asked, should have a Primate of its own, with the consent of the Primate of Numidia from whose synod it had been separated.(1) And with the consent of all the primates of the African Provinces and of all the bishops permission was given, by reason of the great distance between them.



    Mauretania Sitiphensis, on account of the great distance, is permitted to have its own Primate.

    This canon is Canon iij. of the first series of canons enacted at Hippo in 393.

    You wrote: “There are to be no super-bishops”.

    I wonder what this means, actually. The same canons you cite confer on the primate of areas and regions specific authorities. The more junior bishops must receive approval from the primate for certain important activities. For instance, even on a not so important issue, Canon XXIII (Greek xxvi) of the same Council says, “That bishops shall not go beyond seas without consulting the bishop of the primatial see of his own province: so that from him they may be able to receive a formed or commendatory letter.” Other more weighty canons have been elucidated regarding the recent situation in the Antiochian Archdiocese and how bishop and primate are to interact, and on what matters. Per above, the primates of Numidia and all of the African Province, as well as all the bishops, had to approve setting up a primatial see for Mauretania Sitiphensis.

    It would seem that the consensus of all the autocephalous churches is coming down on the side that a local church does not have an undisputed right to grant autocephaly without the approval of the other churches.

    • Isa Almisry says

      Look at what I have posted. This is going to be interesting on that “consensus.”

    • Scott Pennington says


      I haven’t yet been able to find the canon George and I are referring to. It’s difficult because I don’t know of a list where they are indexed by subject matter. However, the canon isn’t any of the ones quoted above. It explicitly states what I referred to above: That missionary work in unclaimed territory is to be conducted by the closest church and that if they don’t do it within a reasonable time then other bishops might become involved. That’s not the exact wording but it’s pretty explicit. When I find it, I’ll post a reference/link.

      • George Michalopulos says

        Scott, it’s canon 13 of Carthage.

        • Scott Pennington says


          I thought so too but that canon seems to only apply to territory already under a bishops jurisdiction – – not unallocated mission territory:

          Can. 13 “If a bishop takes no pains to win over to catholic unity those places which belong to his jurisdiction, he shall
          be exhorted to do so by the neighboring bishops. If he does not do so within six months from this warning, they shall
          belong to the bishop who wins them to the Church…In disputed cases, arbiters shall be chosen by the primate or by
          the parties themselves.”

          • Isa Almisry says

            Combine that with Chalcedon canon XVII:
            Outlying or rural parishes shall in every province remain subject to the bishops who now have jurisdiction over them, particularly if the bishops have peaceably and continuously governed them for the space of thirty years. But if within thirty years there has been, or is, any dispute concerning them, it is lawful for those who hold themselves aggrieved to bring their cause before the synod of the province. And if any one be wronged by his metropolitan, let the matter be decided by the exarch of the diocese or by the throne of Constantinople, as aforesaid. And if any city has been, or shall hereafter be newly erected by imperial authority, let the order of the ecclesiastical parishes follow the political and municipal example.

            Trullo Quinsext/Pentheke XXV:
            Moreover we renew the canon which orders that country (ἀγροικικὰς) parishes and those which are in the provinces (ἐγχωρίους) shall remain subject to the bishops who had possession of them; especially if for thirty years they had administered them without opposition. But if within thirty years there had been or should be any controversy on the point, it is lawful for those who think themselves injured to refer the matter to the provincial synod.

            Given that we are, in the Americas outside of Alaska and part of the Pacific Coast, Western Europe, Australia and NZ, we are dealing with the call to Catholic unity, the canon 13 of Carthage applies, as I believe Moscow pointed out. Since I doubt the EP lodged a complaint, 30 years was way up before 1908, even IF he had a valid claim.

          • Geo Michalopulos says

            Scott, this may have been the context given that the “whole world” was the Roman Empire and that Christianity resided within its boundaries. Therefore the idea of missionary expansion may not have been operative here since the “church” was coternimous with “Rome.”

            p.s. it’s possible that since we are talking about the Roman polity, that the civil dioceses constituted the “episcopal” boundaries even if there were no bishops there (or even Christians for that matter). One gets the very real impression that the canonists were mightily concerned with ecclesial order operating within civil bounds (legally and morally). “Dioceses” after all were Roman civil terms for legal subdivisions. As such, it is clear that a church could only be consituted where the writ of the Empire already extended. This would put this canon in context: “Let the ecclesial model follow the municipal.” Does this mean that the church follows the state or that the state precedes the church in existence?

            This type of equation of Rome = Church was carried out even as the Byzantine Empire was disentigrating. When the Russian clerics stopped commemorating the Byzantine emperor, the EP, Antony IV chided Grand Duke Basil of Moscow, saying “my son, there cannot be a church without an emperor.” Why was this idea so ingrained that the Church needed the Empire in the 13th century? Probably because this was the view of late antiquity (i.e. 5th century) when the Church was coming into its own.

            What do you think about this line of reasoning? At first I was speculating but reading the various documents about the primacy of the pope of Rome and the emperor in Byzantium, it is always flatly declared that there was only “one Rome” and that both men held their respective office (sacerdotium and imperium) in trust of this great civilization. This is one reason why the Byzantines went ballistic in AD 800 when Charles the Great was crowned Emperor of Rome by the pope. (And also explains later while during the Crusades the Emperor of Byzantium was denigrated by the Holy Roman Emperors as “a king of Greece.”

            The “one episcopate” was itself derived from St Cyprian of Carthage who state that there was only “one bishop” and that all bishops shared equally in His power. Somewhat of a digression, sorry. Anyway, that’s thumbnail, probably not the whole story. Please respond, we really need to flesh this out.

          • Scott Pennington says


            The thirty years reasoning makes sense to me in light of the fact that the Russians arrived on the continent first and in light of the fact that there was a widespread, although not universal, understanding that America was under the omophorion of the Russian Church. From what I know of the earlier period (which, I’m sure, is far less than you know) what you’re saying seems sound regarding the one Rome and the then common view of the empire and Christian civilization being seen as manifestations of each other.

            I’m not an expert or scholar in these matters, but if 13 of Carthage is construed to mean what we asserted above, it adds positive weight to the notion that a local church can and should expand into nearby unallocated territory. But even if it is not construed that way, it does not hurt the case we’re making.

            It is true that all things should be done in decent order. However, absent some conciliar agreement on exactly what this orderly expansion looks like, it seems to me obvious that each local church should expand, if at all possible, into unallocated territory. This is nothing less than obedience to the Great Commission. It strikes me as a strange and somewhat contorted view of the Church’s duty of evangelism to insist that each local church is restricted to evangelizing only that territory that is given to it explicitly by canon law. This would leave the situation such that without some conciliar authority, or agreement of all the primates, no expansion could take place.

            I can’t imagine that such an unchristian result could obtain from sound canonical reasoning.

            This is why it seemed to me that the canon 28 rationale of the Phanar was implicit in Orrologion’s reasoning. If Constantinople’s jurisdiction is only that specified in the canon (i.e., the three provinces mentioned plus any other territories under it at the time of the IVth Council), and if Russia is confined to it’s European and Asian territories, and if the other local churches are confined to those territories given them in their tomes, etc., then we’re at a standstill mission wise, except within those territories.

            There seem to me to be two theories on the table (not addressing the ethnic idea of the Romanian Patriarchate for the moment):

            1) Constantinople’s current interpretation of canon 28.

            2) The idea that local churches can evangelize outside their canonical boundaries, especially in nearby regions, so long as they do not intrude on the canonical territory of other churches.

            I, for one, cannot take the Phanar’s reasoning seriously since I can’t find any evidence for this interpretation prior to its assertion by Patriarch Meletios IV. Moreover, he himself disregarded it when he was the exiled head of the Church of Greece and formed GOARCH. Besides lack of any serious foundation, the other problems with this interpretation are that it seems to contradict 1) the canon itself and 2) the opinions of some of the commentators on the canons. It also would lead to a number of unintended absurd results were it to be followed.

          • Peter O'F. says

            The Carthaginian Canon was dealing with bringing a specific heretical Church — Donatists or Docetists, I always confuse them — back into THE Church. ISTM “his jurisdiction” would’ve referred to their congregations and bishoprics (if plural) within the commonly-recognized and consistently-ordered boundaries of his own recognized Bishopric. “Catholic unity” = “returning from heresy to THE Church.”

            The Chalcedonian 30-year statute of limitations seems to address relatively minor ‘outlying’ congregations, in places where perhaps the boundaries between Bishoprics would be contested — having in mind the typical model where a Bishopric consists of the congregations in a Roman/Byzantine city, its outlying towns, villages, and waysides … ‘the next one over’ starting with ITS waysides there, and moving inward to its villages, towns, and city (and hence “One Bishop, One _City_”). This seems it would’ve been applicable to Alaska 1867-97, but once you get down to the ContigUS you’re clearly dealing with “cities”: San Francisco, New York, Pittsburgh, Boston, Detroit, Chicago, etc., and mostly their outlying towns and countrysides. Whatever maybe should’ve happened, clearly in such a chaotic situation as has been allowed/promoted here, the mandate of Nicea seems most appropriate, that all the Bishops here should convene, recognize one as their Primate, and establish 1B1C, just like at Nicea where the Church was recovering from the Age of Persecutions, Sectarianism, and (to some) uncertain Orthodoxy.

  24. George Michalopulos says

    Orrologion, primates are simply “first bishops.” Presidents of episcopal councils. They cannot interfere in the life of a diocese. This is because every bishop is an ordinary, he “equally shares the seat of Peter,” as St Cyprian of Carthage stated. (I realize auxiliaries are problematic but they were a relatively late addition.)

    A classic example would be the 10 “suburbicarians” who constituted the Church of Rome. The bishop of Rome was the metropolitan only over these ten bishops. His writ did not even extend to Gaul. He was allowed to appoint “vicars” for Thessalonica, Gaul, and other places in “the West” but these vicars were elected locally.

    The augmentation of certain archbishops over other archbishops is an even later phenomenon. I believe it was Patriarch Juvenal of Jerusalem who seized authority over three nearby regions via the right to “ordain” their metropolitans. And of course the infamous canon 28 of Chalcedon gave this same right for the patriarch or Constantinople (to “ordain” the metropolitans of Thrace, Pontus, and Asia.) Notice the key word here: “ordain.” Literally that means to participate in their enthronement, not to elect them.

    These are distinctions that we have lost much to our detriment.

  25. George Michalopulos says

    Scott, you’re absolutely right on all points. Esp the speciousness of Phanariiote supremacy. Recall that the tomos of Greek Church autocephaly “confined” them to their borders as well. Yet Metaxakis told them to “evangelize” America. What we’re dealing with at base here are the typical Phanariote games in which they make things up as they go along. They are, and have been, since the decline of Byzantium incredibly self-serving. There is no core there, nor decent regard for facts, logical consistency. No philosophiical integrity whatsoever.

  26. Isa Almisry says

    Actually Meletios claimed it was operating under the Tomos of 1908, which gave jurisdiciton of the “diasopra” to the Church of Greece. Part of his grabing of North America was rescinding this Tomos. The real contradiction comes in Meletios’ tenure as Pope of Alexandria: he expanded Alexandria’s jurisdcition all over Africa, without the EP’s approval, in the 30’s, not in 2002 as the Chief Secretary claimed at Holy Cross.

  27. George Michalopulos says

    Isa, my point exactly. According to the tomos of Greek autocephaly, the tomos of 1908 was illegitimate. That’d be like a state of the Union instituting slavery in 1965 one hundred years after the 15th Amendment banned it.

  28. Fr. Johannes Jacobse says

    Note 18.1.1. Fr. John wrote:

    Ugh. Having met and heard from the Dean of Indonesia himself, I know just how venal this all has gotten. Whatever happened to putting God and His flock first? You have to be a subtle as serpents to deal with the Phanar crowd. Caveat Emptor.

    I’ve only heard about this recently. This needs to be investigated and the facts known. It appears there was a serious failure of leadership by Constantinople in their handling of the Indonesian Church.

    • Peter O'F. says

      A couple years ago I gathered from oblique references in more than one Web source that Fr. Daniel (Byantoro) and others left the EP’s HK Metropolis over Hellenism-related issues, jumping to ROCOR … but that the EP retained a handful of parishes/missions and clergy, not only an orphanage as noted above. Maybe the situation has continued to evolve. Considering the switch, I was surprised at how little I could find, like maybe nobody wanted to make a big deal about it outside that region. But sometimes it feels like Estonia, where certain folks will only discuss one jurisdiction, as if the other one doesn’t even exist, vs. a reality of tacit mutual toleration (or better). Maybe the info has improved too … it’s getting kind of late for me to go looking today….

      • Geo Michalopulos says

        Peter, it was more than simply Hellenic ethnocentrism that caused the scandal. It was something far more scandalous.

  29. Peter O'F. says

    Along with apparent lead-priest Fr. Andrew (Vujisic) from Puerto Rico, at least one priestmonk from Greece has been helping out in the new Central American mission situation, according to Al Fragola, an American now living on the Isle of Paros.

    –Leo Peter

  30. Are these people going to be pretend Greeks or pretend Russians?

  31. Johnk956 says

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  32. Daniel Rentel says

    Had spoken with His Grace PAUL of Chicago on the matter. I wish that I had read the article first. Succinct yet thorough, I know it would have help guide the conversation.
    Thank you.
    Archpriest Daniel

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