Orthodox Christianity in Guatemala
Although Guatemala is a historically Roman Catholic country, in recent years other branches of Christianity have been gaining adherents there. Eastern Christianity (both Eastern Orthodoxy and Oriental Orthodoxy) in particular has been growing in recent years due to the mass movement of adherents from various schismatic Catholic groups into Orthodoxy. As a percentage of the population, Guatemala is by far the most Orthodox country in the Western Hemisphere: between 4 and 8 percent of the population are now Eastern or Oriental Orthodox.
In 2013, the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch announced that 800,000 former members of the Renewed Ecumenical Catholic Church of Guatemala had been received into Syriac Orthodoxy. Most of these new converts come from poor indigenous Mayan communities.
As with Oriental Orthodoxy, most Eastern Orthodox in Guatemala are recent converts and are of largely indigenous background. They had previously belonged to a group which was part of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal movement and had rocky relations with the Roman Catholic Church. Eventually, the group's leader, Fr. Andrés Girón, who had previously served in the Guatemalan Senate and as an ambassador to the United Nations, left the Roman Catholic Church over tensions related to his support for land reform and their support for "liturgical reform". He and his followers, who numbered between 100,000 and 200,000, moved first to the Society of Secular Clerics and then into the Patriarchate of Constantinople, which received them in 2010. According to Fr. Peter Jackson, this may well be the largest mass-conversion to Orthodoxy since the Christianization of Kievan Rus' in 988. The Orthodox Church promptly sent missionaries to the country to educate and catechize the newfound converts.