May 31, 2012

The Necessity of an Orthodox Presence in Latin America

By His Eminence Metropolitan Athenagoras 
of Central America and the Caribbean

“A massive religious transformation has unfolded over the past forty years in Latin America and the Caribbean. In a region where the Catholic Church could once claim a near monopoly of adherents, religious pluralism has fundamentally altered the social and religious landscape." (Steigemga, 2008)i

“The public face of religion in Latin America has been transformed in the last half century.... The Christianity of the future will be marked by vigorous competition and growing pluralism in an increasingly open and competitive civil society and political order.” (Levine, 2007)ii

Current research, explains that Latin America, an area which was predominantly registered as Roman Catholic, is undergoing a radical religious change. The reasons cited by the above research generally falls into one of these three categories: 1. “Catholicism came to Latin America through conquest.” (Levine, 2007) In other words, it was forced upon a population, rather than a spontaneous growth of spirituality from the indigenous population. 2. In the second half of the nineteenth century, the Catholic Church accepted radical changes in order to conform to a newer society. 3. The clergy status was predominantly “restricted to whites of legitimate birth” (Levine, 2007).

Latin Americans have a respect for the Greek culture: its arts, language, and, of recent times, they have grown a deep respect for the ancient Orthodox Christian faith. Additionally, there exists in Latin America a serious respect for the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the person of His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. (His All Holiness has recently visited Cuba, Mexico and Panama where he was officially invited by the Presidents of these Countries and appropriately honored as the Spiritual Leader for World Orthodoxy.) Large groups of indigenous persons who researched the foundations of Christianity have recently asked to be brought into the Orthodox faith. One group in particular in Guatemala has about 500,000 participants.

The Orthodox Church does not proselytize – so how has this come about?

The Orthodox Christian faith may feel comfortable to a Roman Catholic in some ways, as it has a vague similarity to Roman Catholicism with a structured uniform service. However, Orthodoxy varies greatly in aspects which allow a person to express a deep sense of spirituality within the confines of humanity, and a historical tradition extending from Christ and as He is revealed in the Old and New Testaments. As the Roman Catholic Church has made significant dogmatic changes since the year 1054, the ancient Orthodox Christian faith has remained unchanged since her formation as declared by the first Seven Ecumenical Councils.

The Holy Metropolis of Mexico was initially established 16 years ago to serve three existing Greek-speaking parishes of Mexico, Panama and Venezuela. However, since the arrival of Metropolitan Athenagoras and the establishment of the Holy Metropolis of Mexico, the Metropolis is rapidly bringing Orthodoxy to the multitude of indigenous Latin Americans seeking the spiritual comfort and the redemptive message of the Christian East.

Would you consider to partner with us in building the foundation of the Orthodox Church at this crucial point in Latin American church history? Your recurring gift will help our continued support.


i Timothy J. Steigenga and Edward L. Cleary; Conversion of a Continent, 2008.

ii Levine, D. "The Future of Christianity in Latin America", Journal of Lain American Studies 41: 121-145, (2007).