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Orthodoxy in South America - need for missionary activity


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#1 Acacio

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Posted 19 April 2006 - 03:54 AM

My dearest Fr. Seraphim and dears Julio, Zé Lauro and all

As my friend José Lauro tould you, it is true the situation of our Holy Orthodox Church is Brazil is a desperate one! As far as I know Brazil has about 30.000 Orthodox Christians, but most of them came from traditional Orthodox contries, like Russia, Greece, Rumania and so on. They and their children and grandchildren (some of them still regard themselves as "Russians" or "Greeks" rather than Brazilians citizens, although NOT ALL of them think like that!)firmly insist that our Divine Liturgy and other Divine services must be held in their native languages (Russian, Greek, Arab...), not in Portuguese, and that Parishes should be a kind of a "cultural centers" for their meetings and nationalistic Feasts. I think the most troublesome problem is not the language itself and culture, but many Brazilians who are not descendants of traditional Orthodox people and would like to convert to our Holy Orthodox Faith give up because they cannot understand a single word from the Divine Services and they are not willing to become a Slavonic person!

What José Lauro told you about some cities do not have a single Orthodox parish is altogether real! For instance, I live in the third largest city of Brazil - Salvador - and it does NOT have a single Orthodox parish! Even my Bishop got surprised when I toold him that! On Wednesday I am going on a trip to Recife (the nearest city to Salvador and where there is an Orthodox Parish)and Recife is about 800 miles away from here!

Worst of all, at Salvador, Roman Catholicism has mingled with pagans religions, so even Our Most Holy Lady is believed to be the same deity as the pagan goddess Yemanjá (this goddes is a mermaid!!!). In some days when Our Lady is commemorated, according to Roman Church calendar,people from Salvador go to the churches to pray in front of Mother of God´s staute in churches and after that they go to the sea in order to throw away flowers and roses, because they FIRMLY believe if Yemanjá appreciates their "gifts" she will grant them what they ask. I am telling all of it just for curiosity so that you, dear friends, can see how the religious situation is disgusting in my town!

Otherwise, dear brothers and friends, amongst this thorny situation, God has blessed us! Few parishes and Orthodox missions have been built and created by converted Brazilians and their services are performed in Portuguese, for example. My own parish is totally "made-in-Brazil": all our clergy are Brazilian priests, all the parishioners are Brazilian people (except one who is a Nigerian guy)and we can understand the Divine Liturgy performed in Portugese (of course, everybody knows what "Kyrie eleison" means!). Surprisingly, it belongs to the Eastern American Diocese of the Holy Serbian Orthodox Church! I think the fact of belonging to the Glorious and Holy Serbian Orthodox Church is to grant ecclesiastical canonicity to us. We are very happy.

Also God has blessed us with a young generation of faithful Orthodox Christians who wholeheartedly wants to change things to better, so that Orthodoxy becomes more accessible to the Brazilian people. But, we cannot go further due to the lack of assistance by some of our Hierarcs and laity. But, we have a strong faith in our souls and we are doing everything to see "Nossa Santa Igreja Ortodoxa" grow up more and more, God willing!

Please, dear brothers and sister, pray for us all and, please, help us by your prayers!

We just want Brazilians see the wonderful blessings we have saw and to hear what we have heard

In XC
Acácio
P.S.: Sorry, I tried to post this thread on "Bringing a OCA parish to South..." but I couldn´t. Please, sorry

#2 Angelos

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Posted 24 March 2010 - 02:07 AM

I know this is an old thread but the poster has really touched the biggest issue about the survival of Orthodoxy outside Eastern Europe and Greece. In the USA Orthodox are only 0.3% of the population (a rounding error in surveys really). Their inability to attract people outside their home countries is the cause of their small numbers. This inability is exactly driven by what the above poster mentioned about Brazil. You go to a Greek Church in the US and everything is in Greek and people, to a very large extent, go to church to talk about Greece and socialize with Greeks. Somehow the Orthodox Church(es) outside Eastern Europe and Greece need to become more local and at the same time more ecumenical. Protestants and Catholics are spreading the word of Christ in Africa, Latin America and Asia with great success. Unfortunately, for the most part the Orthodox haven't had much success (or made a serious effort) evangelising.

#3 Nina

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Posted 24 March 2010 - 04:03 PM

You go to a Greek Church in the US and everything is in Greek and people, to a very large extent, go to church to talk about Greece and socialize with Greeks.


Ha ha ha this huge, big generalizing statement is also a false assumption. If I want to talk about Greece, I do not go to church for it because (since you are Greek you might know it) there are hundreds of sylogoi all over US for that. Also if I want to socialize with Greeks I go to Greece and not to a community which is actually Greek-American.

Plus please let me understand, you are Greek from Greece and were Greek Orthodox and now are a Byzantine Catholic?

#4 Angelos

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Posted 24 March 2010 - 05:48 PM

OK I apologize if that came across as too negative. This was my personal experience from a couple of churches I went to in New York. I guess there's nothing wrong about Greeks going to a Greek church, but the problem remains that we need more "local" (English or Spanish speaking) Eastern Orthodox Churches, if Orthodoxy has a chance of spreading out beyond its ethnic enclaves in the US and yes you understood well I'm Greek from Greece and were Greek Orthodox and now are a Byzantine Catholic. The "Byzantine" part was automatic. A Greek Orthodox coming into full communion with Rome automatically becomes a "Byzantine" Catholic. Someone would need to petition later on to become a Roman Catholic if they wanted to do that. In any event, Byzantine and Roman Catholics are in full communion with each-other and are both part of the Catholic Church. My coming in full comunion with Rome has only to do with the peculiarities of my personal journey of rediscovering christianity. I do hope that the two churches will one day reunite.

#5 Eric Peterson

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Posted 24 March 2010 - 08:03 PM

Actually, Orthodoxy is spreading a lot in Africa and Latin America. In the past 50 years, the Orthodox Church in Africa has grown exponentially, not through immigration but through missionary work, and from non-canonical groups being received into the Church. There is also much growth in the USA and Canada not tied to immigration. Besides all that, immigration to the USA and Canada is not dead, but continuing, so there is the issue of bringing together and serving recent immigrants, descendants of immigrants, new converts, and descendants of converts. The Orthodox Church is and has always been a missionary church. However, unlike some groups, the Orthodox do not generally use evangelism as a form or support for colonization. Mostly, our missions are organic affairs, at the grass-roots level, with minimal funding from either the state or church hierarchy. As a matter of fact, this was also the case in Alaska, even when it was administered by the Russian Empire. Funding and missions were done by the Native Alaskans and Creoles themselves. Very little money or manpower, in proportion, came in from the government. This is quite different from Roman Catholic (and Byzantine Catholic) and Protestant missions.

#6 Nina

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Posted 24 March 2010 - 08:22 PM

Thank you, Eric. Why are some people suddenly painting gloomy pictures about Orthodoxy? Orthodoxy is alive and well. It was as glorious in the time of Noah when he was the only righteous one in the world, as it was during the reign of St. Constantine the Great and the same for today. Since Christ is the Head of the Church and to Him belongs glory. Orthodoxy does not start from my neighbor, or from the people walking on the street, but it starts from me. Each of us is responsible for Orthodox mission with our presence where we are. Caring for one's soul is the best we can do for Orthodoxy and for its spreading. Saint Seraphim of Sarov, a Great Saint of Orthodoxy said: "Acquire the Holy Spirit and thousands around you will be saved." This is Orthodox philosophy. I can do all the mission I can in the world, but my shortcomings will interfere with that mission and will hinder other people from seeing and embracing the Truth. "Preach the Gospel and if necessary use words." Mission today is not only to go to a far away land, mission is how we allow the Light of Christ shine through us (if we can) to all people we come in contact with. People in Africa are in need of salvation, but the same is for the people in my neighborhood. Everywhere we are there is a chance for proclaiming the Gospel... through our actions.

#7 Kosta

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Posted 25 March 2010 - 12:52 PM

The best way of conversion is through marriage, where an Orthodox brings a non-Orthodox spouse into the church and rear their offspring within the faith. A perfect case study of this is in NY, where the largest and fastest growing parishes are of the GOARCH after 1980, meaning the growth has occured after greek immigration has ended.
Brazil is simply not ready for christianity, every christian sect in brazil is plagued with problems and orthodoxy is no exception. I can honestly tell you that i would only attend an old calendarist Orthodox church if i lived in Brazil, the emergence of a pan-pseudochristianity in brazil are simply the fruits of ecumenism coupled with weak leadership in a liberally social society. Roman catholicsm is shrinking in Latin America as more and more join charismatic protestant sects, theres also a rise in islam in Latin America. Ironically i just read an article where 500,000 guatemalans are to be recieved into the Orthodox church in the next few weeks, It maybe the largest mass conversion ever in the new world, someome im sure will post the article.

#8 Eric Peterson

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Posted 25 March 2010 - 02:09 PM

Kosta,

I vigorously disagree with you on two counts--that marriage is the best way to convert non-Orthodox and that a place, like Brazil or anywhere else, is not "ready" for Christianity. Both historically and today, large numbers of people are becoming Orthodox, miracles are being worked, and whole communities and societies are changing for the better because people are turning to God. They are converting not through marriage (these numbers are always very few), but, as people have become Christians since the time of Christ, by hearing the word of God, and this taking root and growing in them. This is not an issue of readiness, but of need. Was the Roman Empire "ready" for Christianity? When people were sacrificing to demons?

I don't agree with the sentiment that somehow ecumenism, blight that it is, is somehow a darker, more hopeless force to be reckoned with than the paganism of old, or the real paganism in places like Africa, for example, where Orthodoxy is thriving. The Truth does not need a special moment or friendly circumstances. God knows the heart, is sneakier than the enemy, and orders things so that, even in clouds of darkness, people are saved. To reserve conversion for a certain time, place, or circumstance and leave it at that is, I think, tantamount to blasphemy.

As for the thought that somehow things are safer with the Old Calendarist schismatics, this is a gamble. For, while some have managed to preserve Orthodoxy, they have not preserved unity. Others have more serious problems. There are problems anywhere, for sure, but to think that one's affiliation gives a modicum of safety (or security) is madness.

#9 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 25 March 2010 - 02:31 PM

I have to go with Eric on this. Marriage between Orthodox and heterodox is an economia, NOT an evangelistic tool. And how are the circumstances in Brazil any different than what the early Christians faced in the Roman Empire, without the direct and open persecution? The early church had to deal with gnostics and heresies as well. We really should not be writing entire cultures off simply because, in our uninformed opinion, they are somehow, "not ready". That is the Holy Spirit's call, not ours!

Or so it seems to this bear of little brain

Herman the Pooh

#10 Kosta

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Posted 25 March 2010 - 03:39 PM

the differences between brazil and the roman empire is night and day. Brazillian culture has taken christianity and turned it into a hodgepodge of syncretic religions with the local clergy having a hand in it.. In the roman empire, apostles took the gospel message and debated the philosopers in the major intellectual cities of the empire. The problem with brazil is christianity itself, where the gnostics, the heterodox, the common culture and much of the Orthodox are one and the same. In Africa, you are preaching Christ amongst pagans, in brazil you are battling a christianity which says carnality is sanctioned thru the incarnation and syncretism is another way to show love. In Brazil, Lent is what determines the date of Mardi Gras as a national celebration rather than anticipation towards Pascha. In brazil you have to battle your fellow priests and christians, in Africa you dont. Africans have a better sense as to what religion is, brazil is a completely diferent animal.

#11 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 25 March 2010 - 03:55 PM

so how is this different than dealing with Nestorians and Arians and Manicheans and Gnostics and Apollinarians and iconoclasts, and, and...?

#12 Kosta

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Posted 25 March 2010 - 04:28 PM

Nestorians and Arians were a faction within the church which arose out of a christological controversy. In brazil christological controversy is irrelelvant, for many in brazil it is the product of hateful ignorant people (the Fathers) and that christian fusion is the way. In the empire morality wasnt the problem with these sects, the ethos was the same, thats another element added to the difficulty with evangelizing brazil. In the empire you could convert an influential leader who could steer the people in the right direction. This was the case of King Agbar and the Emperor Constantine and Prince Vladimir. In democratic societies this is long gone, and have no such influence. In Africa missionaries can work with local tribes, a leading tribesman still has that influence amongst his people. Last i heard the fastest growing religion in Brazil was buddhism and most likely thats simpy a fad as well which will find some of its practises into christianity. As a brazillian politician once said, Religion is important to brazillians (all the varieties) but second to futbol." Spreading christianity in the roman empire and in Africa was/ is a piece of cake compared to brazil.

#13 Angelos

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Posted 25 March 2010 - 04:30 PM

"Jesus answered them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." Luke 5:31-32
This is Brazil and those who minister there obey Jesus' will

"But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, "Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and 'sinners'?" Luke 5:30
..and these are the people who think are too pure, too good to minister in Brazil

#14 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 25 March 2010 - 04:54 PM

And how is Brazil sooooo different than, say--I don't know--the USA? What has been mentioned about Brazil that is different than the USA? Should we simply leave the rest of the world to itself?

Somehow I don't think that was one of the instructions of our Lord to His Apostles...

#15 Kosta

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Posted 25 March 2010 - 04:57 PM

Angel that would be good, but thats the whole problem with what im saying. Those ministering in brazil are the problem. It is these ministers who openly allow these abuses to infiltrate their churches many times they have a hand in it. I can tell you that in the united states i dont know of any Orthodox church that marries or baptises or communes non-orthodox people or anyone who thinks that an icon of the Theotokos is a pagan deity. I have never heard of a priest allowing such a thing. In brazil ecumenism is rampant and anyone can commune or get married in the church including pagans.

#16 Eric Peterson

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Posted 25 March 2010 - 06:53 PM

I've heard anecdotal evidence of great abuses by Orthodox clergy in America. And I have some closer to home experience with liturgical and pastoral abuse. Clearly, Satan is operative everywhere, and has not overlooked the Orthodox in America. It is true, though, that Brazil and America have various cultural differences between them. America has it's own "ecumenist" element going on (and by this I do not mean going to meetings, but actual belief in heresy, not only liturgical abuse). Yet, the "right" side of the political, ecclesiastical, and cultural spectrum is far from showing a modicum of godliness. Basically, people are ignorant and do want not to learn, they are set in their ways and do not want to change. This is the human condition that was present in Roman and contemporary times everywhere. Remember the parable of the sower? It was only those who had good soil and good hearts where the seed sprouted and yielded fruit. Most people did not bear any fruit because of various things they had going on preventing them. It's a big job to evangelize. Maybe it's bigger today. Maybe it's bigger elsewhere. Could be. But, with God's help, it must be done. And it's always done the same way--by us working on ourselves to fulfill Christ's commandments, purify our hearts, love God more than sin, remain committed to truth, and our example, the way we carry ourselves as Christians, the ways in which we're different from the world, will attract those whose hearts are touched. Preaching also will do the same. But, because of our sins, God's name is blasphemed around the world.

#17 Kosta

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Posted 25 March 2010 - 07:39 PM

Kosta,

I vigorously disagree with you on two counts--that marriage is the best way to convert non-Orthodox and that a place, like Brazil or anywhere else, is not "ready" for Christianity. Both historically and today, large numbers of people are becoming Orthodox, miracles are being worked, and whole communities and societies are changing for the better because people are turning to God. They are converting not through marriage (these numbers are always very few), but, as people have become Christians since the time of Christ, by hearing the word of God, and this taking root and growing in them. This is not an issue of readiness, but of need. Was the Roman Empire "ready" for Christianity? When people were sacrificing to demons?

I don't agree with the sentiment that somehow ecumenism, blight that it is, is somehow a darker, more hopeless force to be reckoned with than the paganism of old, or the real paganism in places like Africa, for example, where Orthodoxy is thriving. The Truth does not need a special moment or friendly circumstances. God knows the heart, is sneakier than the enemy, and orders things so that, even in clouds of darkness, people are saved. To reserve conversion for a certain time, place, or circumstance and leave it at that is, I think, tantamount to blasphemy.


Not convert the non-othodox, but sustain and grow the church. I can tell you that the Greek parishes in NY have grown enormously since the end of greek immigration. My parish was almost bankrupt 20 years ago, today it boasts 2200 members and plans are in place to expand. The second nearest greek parsh in Port Jefferson, a few years ago just opened their new larger building, Two miles from the OCA headquarters on the same road a new enormous GOA parish has been established to replace the tiny church the congregation used to worship in. Most of the GOA parishes on Long Island have opened after greek immigration stopped and are composed of the children and grandchildren of immigrants. These parishes are the largest in the country. This is in stark contrast to Antioch which has an almost non existence in NY (which is shocking), in fact last i checked they had no parishes in Queens (the most diverse county on the planet with many arabs) one ethnic parish with an active laity on Long Island and the WR parish has since folded.
Also its not blasphemy to wait, Christ said if a place doesnt recieve the gospel to shake off the dust and move on, unfotunately these priests have joined the party instead.

#18 Luiz E. F. Alves

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Posted 26 November 2012 - 03:30 PM

In the south of brazil most of the population are German, Italian, Portuguese or Slavic descendent. Here we almost dont have sincretism like on Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, São Paulo and other places closed to paganism and afro-culture. I think that maybe is a good idea to start to think that Brazil has many faces. One of these I believe that are open to the orthodoxy




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