The Mayan Orthodox Church – Father John Chakos – 25/4/15
Christianity among the Mayan Indians is undergoing a dramatic change in places like Guatemala and Southern Mexico. This shifting of religious identity is part of a larger trend that is enveloping much of Latin America. According to the Pew Research Center report, published in November of 2014, “historical data suggests that for most of the 20th Century, from 1900 through the 1960′s, at least 90% of Latin America’s population was Catholic.” Remarkably, however, in just one lifetime, the Pewsurvey indicates that only “69% of adults across the region identify as Catholic.” Up until recently, Orthodox Christianity did not play much of a role in this changing landscape. Most of our parishes consisted of immigrant colonies, established mainly to perpetuate the customs, languages and traditions of their respective ethnic cultures and mother churches in Europe.
The title of a recent article in the Huffington Post by Carol Kuruvilla, however, announces a major shift in this approach to the church’s mission: “The Greek Orthodox Church In Latin America Is Not Very Greek.” Embracing this change and adapting to this new reality, Archbishop Athenagoras, since his 1996 appointment by Patriarch Bartholomew to shepherd the Central American Church, has reached out to the indigenous people of this vast region, encompassing Mexico, Central America, Columbia, Venezuela, and the Caribbean Islands. Of his 52 active clergy, only 3 are of Greek descent. The enthusiastic reception by His Eminence Athenagoras of many thousands of Mayan Christians into the Orthodox fold has transformed his church into a unity of diverse people, sharing one faith, but speaking many native dialects, as on the day of Pentecost. On a recent visit to the village of Aguacate, he was able to begin Holy Week with the Mayan faithful, who now comprise the vast majority of his growing flock in Central America.