Eastern Orthodoxy in Guatemala

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Eastern Orthodoxy in Guatemala refers to adherents, communities and organizations of Eastern Orthodox Christianity in Guatemala. Many of the Eastern Orthodox Christians in Guatemala are ethnic Mayans. Although the dominant religion in Guatemala is historically Roman Catholicism, in recent decades other Christian denominations have gained adherents there. Eastern Orthodox Christianity in particular has been growing rapidly, as a number of schismatic Catholic groups have expressed their desire to become Eastern Orthodox and have been received under the jurisdiction of Eastern Orthodox hierarchs. Currently, there are two distinct Eastern Orthodox communities in Guatemala, the Antiochian and the Constantinopolitan.


Eastern Orthodox Christianity arrived in Guatemala at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century with immigrants from Eastern Europe and the Middle East.[1] In the 1980s two Catholic women, Mother Inés and Mother María, converted to Eastern Orthodox Christianity and established a monastery dedicated to the Holy Trinity. In 1992 they were received into the Antiochian Patriarchate and in 1995 the Catholic Apostolic Orthodox Antiochian Church in Guatemala was formally established. The state orphanage of Hogar Rafael Ayau, established in 1857, was privatized and transferred to their care in 1996.[1][2]

The Antiochian Eastern Orthodox Church in Guatemala is part of the Antiochian Patriarchate's Archdiocese of Mexico, Venezuela, Central America and the Caribbean. Its first temple was dedicated in 1997.[3][2]

On 5 November 2017, the Monastery of the Holy Trinity, referenced above, and the associated orphanage, Hogar Rafael Ayau, were canonically transferred from the Orthodox Church of Antioch to the Serbian Orthodox Church, His Eminence Amfilohije, Metropolitan of Montenegro and the Littoral and the Administrator of South-Central America himself coming to Amatitlán to greet Mother Inés. [4]


A different, mostly indigenous Mayan, group was accepted into the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople in 2010. This had been 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, Father Andrés Girón, who had previously served as a congressional representative,[5](p141) as a senator in 1991[6] 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".[a] Girón and his followers, who numbered between 100,000 and 200,000,[third-party source needed] first joined the Society of clerks secular of Saint Basil,[7][b] and later moved towards Orthodoxy, being received into the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople in 2010. According to Father Peter Jackson, this may well be the largest mass-conversion to Orthodoxy since the Christianization of Kievan Rus' in 988.[third-party source needed] The Orthodox Church promptly sent missionaries to Guatemala to educate and catechize the newfound converts.[10][11][12][13]

The membership estimates for Girón's group vary widely. Various self-reported figures were published: 120,000 members in 2004,[6] then 550,000 members (of which 5,000 were Greek) in 2015.[13] Jesse Brandow, one of the Orthodox missionaries in Guatemala, estimates that there are "roughly 40,000 people and 100 parishes" and that "it is one of the largest mass conversions in the history of Orthodox Christianity."[14] He also reports that there is a great need for additional priests, and that "the people self-identify as Orthodox and are generally eager to learn, but they are still at the very beginning of a long process of transition."[14]


  1. ^ Girón carried a pistol at his waist and "was thought to be a violent priest," but his family members were assassinated and he was assigned a four-man sub-machinegun armed bodyguard by president Vinicio Cerezo.[5](pp65–66, 279–280)
  2. ^ Girón was the nominal president of the Society Of Clerks Secular Of Saint Basil when it was incorporated in Louisiana in 2008.[8][9]


  1. ^ a b "Hitos de la Historia de la Iglesia Ortodoxa y del Monasterio Ortodoxo Antioqueño en Guatemala". Hogar Rafael Ayau.
  2. ^ a b "Who we are". hogarafaelayau.org. Villa Nueva, GT: Hogar Rafael Ayau. Archived from the original on 2015-09-10. Retrieved 2015-10-06.
  3. ^ "Guatemala". iglesiaortodoxa.org.mx (in Spanish). Jardines del Pedregal, MX: Iglesia Ortodoxa Antioquena. Arquidiócesis de México, Venezuela, Centroamérica y el Caribe. Archived from the original on 2015-09-11. Retrieved 2015-10-06.
  4. ^ http://www.spc.rs/eng/serbian_orthodox_church_central_america_got_new_monastery retrieved 04/06/2018
  5. ^ a b Ujpán, Ignacio Bizarro (2001). Sexton, James D., ed. Joseño: another Mayan voice speaks from Guatemala. Translated by James D. Sexton. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press. ISBN 9780826323545.
  6. ^ a b Emling, Shelley (1991-09-20). "Priest-congressman works for Guatelala's poor". apnewsarchive.com. Guatemala City, GT. Associated Press. Archived from the original on 2015-10-03. Retrieved 2015-10-03.
  7. ^ "March 2006 Guatemala, consecration of Bishop Fernando Castellanos, and visits to numerous parishes, congregations, Mayan ruins and aviaries". reu.org. 2006-11-28. Archived from the original on 2007-06-23.
  8. ^ "The Society Of Clerks Secular Of Saint Basil". louisianacorporates.com. Archived from the original on 2015-10-04. Retrieved 2015-10-04.  This tertiary source reuses information from other sources but does not name them.
  9. ^ "The society of clerks secular of Saint Basil". sos.la.gov. Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana Department of State. 2015-01-15. 36652332N. Archived from the original on 2015-10-05. Retrieved 2015-10-05.
  10. ^ Maddex, John; Jackson, Peter (2013-09-13). "150,000 Converts in Guatemala!". ancientfaith.com (Podcast). Chesterton, IN: Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America. Ancient Faith Ministries. Archived from the original on 2013-11-09.
  11. ^ "Guatemala". goarchmexico.org. Naucalpan, MX: Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Mexico. n.d. Archived from the original on 2014-05-07.
  12. ^ Brandow, Jesse (2012-08-27). "Seminarian witnesses 'explosion' of Orthodox Christianity in Guatemala". svots.edu. Yonkers, NY: Saint Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary. Archived from the original on 2012-08-29.
  13. ^ a b Kuruvilla, Carol (2015-04-15). "The Greek Orthodox Church in Latin America is not very Greek". huffingtonpost.com. New York. Archived from the original on 2015-04-21.
  14. ^ a b "F.A.Q." mayanorthodoxy.com. Jesse Brandow. Archived from the original on 2015-10-06. Retrieved 2015-10-06.

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