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Mayan Orthodoxy in Guatemala and Southern Mexico

 

In 2009, Dr. Vujisić initiated contact with Messrs. Andrés Girón and Mihail (Fernando) Castellanos, leaders of the independent Iglesia Ortodoxa de Guatemala, [i.e., Orthodox Church of Guatemala], henceforth, IOG. After months of catechetical and pastoral groundwork, he traveled to Guatemala on 1 January 2010, and after securing a 27-point agreement with the IOG leadership, (sanctioned by His Eminence, Metropolitan ATHENAGORAS), received the said leadership into the Orthodox Church on 4 January 2010, thereby initiating the process of reception of the clergy, seminarians, lay ministers, catechists, and affiliated membership of the IOG into the canonical family of the Holy Metropolis of Mexico, Central America, Colombia, Venezuela, and the Islands of the Caribbean. For media coverage see 527,00 New Orthodox Christians in Guatemala and The Greek Orthodox Church in Latin America is NOT very Greek, (cf. the enthusiastic, but nevertheless approximative report Desetine hiljada ljudi preveli u pravoslavlje in Novosti).

 

The following day, on 5 January 2010, the official report submitted to Metropolitan ATHENAGORAS stated:

 

The IOG, an offshoot of the Roman Catholic Church, was established some 18 years ago, [i.e., in 1992], under the very capable and dedicated leadership of Msgr. Andrés de Jesús Girón. Its membership primarily consists of indigenous people of Maya descent, who as a first language speak Achi, Akatek, Chuj, Ixil, Jakaltek, Kaqchikel, K'iche', Mam, Poqomam, Poqomchi', Q'anjob'al, Q'eqchi', Tz'utujil, or Uspantek, with Spanish as a second language. Currently, the IOG has 334 churches, chapels, and centers throughout Guatemala and southern Mexico. There are 12 clergymen, 14 seminarians, 250 Ministros de la Fe, [i.e., Lay Ministers], 380 catechists, and a number of nuns, professors, teachers, and ancillary staff. The IOG operates two elementary schools and a university on a 14,000 sq. meter property in Escuintla, Nueva Concepción. There is also an administrative center on 280 acres nearby. The monastery is located on 400 acres in Huehuetenango. Additionally, 3 gas stations are owned and operated. The profits sustain the IOG's many ministries. The official membership is 127,000, and adherents number another 400,000, for a grand total of 527,000. The associated Movimiento Campesino, [Peasant Movement], alone has approximately 250,000 members. The Youth Movement boasts some 8,000 members. This is undoubtedly one of the largest mass-conversions to Orthodoxy since the Baptism of Russia in 988, (see Image Gallery).

In 2011, the Very Reverend John Chakos, (who retired after 31 years of service at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church in Mount Lebanon, PA), relocated to Guatemala in order to assist in the arduous task of preparing men and women for leadership roles in the newly established canonical Orthodox Church in Guatemala. His work is based upon the primary goal-intention of the Archdiocese, which includes the creation of an environment that fosters respect for indigenous Maya culture and the pursuit of the ontological dynamic of the acquisition of the Holy Spirit through the advancement of knowledge in the Orthodox faith, and through the development of Orthodox phronema and orthopraxia. In 2013, the Very Reverend Doctor Peter Jackson, (on loan from the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia), joined the team in Guatemala and became the first full-time instructor at the Pastoral School, overseeing the translation of Orthodox liturgical and instructional material into the languages of the Maya. His wife, Matushka Styliana, assists in teaching seminarians' wives and laywomen. For additional information, see Missionary Jesse Brandow's blog Mayan Orthodoxy in Guatemala and Southern Mexico. Other websites of interest include Mayan Orthodoxy (YouTube) and Mayan Artisan Studios. On 17 February 2014, Archimandrite Andrés Girón, the 'Father of Orthodoxy' in Guatemala, after years of struggles on behalf of the poor, reposed in the Lord following a lengthy battle with diabetes and heart disease.

 




Even if we have thousands of acts of great virtue to our credit, our confidence in being heard must be based on God's mercy and His love for men. Even if we stand at the very summit of virtue, it is by mercy that we shall be saved.

St. John Chrysostom 


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