Orthodox Christianity in Guatemala

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Although the dominant religion in Guatemala is historically Roman Catholic, in recent decades other Christian denominations have gained adherents there. Eastern Christianity (both Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox) in particular has been growing in recent years due to the movement of entire schismatic Catholic groups into Orthodoxy.

As of 2015, there are three distinct Orthodox groups with Guatemala. The Antiochian and Greek groups are part of Eastern Orthodoxy and the third is Oriental Orthodoxy.


According to an Guatemalan Orthodox monastery, Orthodox Christianity arrived in Guatemala at the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century with immigrants from Lebanon, Russia, and Greece.[1] In the 1980s two Catholic women, Mother Ines and Mother Maria, converted to Orthodox Christianity and established a monastery. 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]

"The Catholic Apostolic Orthodox Antiochian Church in Guatemala" was founded in 1995 as part of the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch's Archdiocese of Mexico, Venezuela, Central America and the Caribbean and its first temple was dedicated in 1997.[2][3] In 1996, the Ramiro de León Carpio administration negotiated with the "The Catholic Apostolic Orthodox Antiochian Church in Guatemala" to privatize and renovate and operate Guatemala's official orphanage, "Hogar Rafael Ayau".[3]


A different, mostly indigenous Mayan, group was accepted into the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople in 2010. These 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 representative of unelected but appointed congressional deputies,[4](p141) as a senator in 1991.[5] 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 joined the Society of clerks secular of Saint Basil,[6][b] He and his followers, who numbered between 100,000 and 200,000,[third-party source needed] moved first to the Society of Secular Clerics and then into the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, which received them 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 the country to educate and catechize the newfound converts.[9][10][11][12]

The membership estimates for Girón's group, which was accepted into the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople in 2010, varies widely over several years.[c] As of 2015, an estimate is that "there are thousands of people, but not hundreds of thousands" and "it is one of the largest mass conversions in the history of Orthodox Christianity."[13] Although "most people do not fully understand the church that they have joined," there are "roughly 40,000 people and 100 parishes" in Guatemala and Mexico ministered by six priests and guided by "a few hundred" lay catechist who "know very little about the church that they have joined."[13]


In 2013, the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch announced that as many as 800,000[third-party source needed] former members of the "Renewed Ecumenical Catholic Church of Guatemala" had been received into Syriac Orthodoxy. Most of these converts are poor indigenous Maya.[14]

The Arquidiócesis de Centro América de la Iglesia Católica Apostólica Siro-Ortodoxa de Antioquía (ICASOAC), was prior to 2013 the Iglesia Católica Ecuménica Renovada en Guatemala (ICERGUA), a movement led by Eduardo Aguirre-Oestmann, a former priest of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Guatemala. In 2003, Aguirre formed a charismatic independent catholic church.[15] In 2006, Cardinal Rodolfo Quezada Toruño, archbishop of the Archdiocese of Guatemala, excommunicated Aguirre and adherents of his group,[16] for schism and Aguirre also for distancing himself "from the communion and the norms of his priesthood" by founding the Comunión Ecuménica Santa María del Nuevo Éxodo in 2003.[17] As of 2015, ICASOAC, the Syriac Orthodox archdiocese which was established in 2013, has not published membership figures but includes a 2009 estimate of ICERGUA membership on its website.[18][d]

In 2007, Aguirre was consecrated as bishop of ICERGUA by a bishop of the Brazilian Catholic Apostolic Church at the parish church in San Juan Comalapa.[23] ICERGUA was a member of the Worldwide Communion of Catholic Apostolic Churches.[24]


  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.[4](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.[7][8]
  3. ^ Various self-reported figures were published: 120,000 members in 2004;[5] 550,000 members of which 5,000 are Greek in 2015.[12]
  4. ^ ICERGUA claimed to have an estimated 50,000 members in 2004;[19] an estimated 120,000 members in 2005;[19] an estimated 175,000 members in 2006 with one parish in San Juan Comalapa, Guatemala, and an unspecified number of oratories (las otras son casas de oración) in the Sololá, Quiché, Totonicapán, and Huehuetenango departments of Guatemala.[20] an estimated 300,000 in 2008,[21] and an estimated 350,000 in 2009.[22]


  1. ^ a b "History of The Orthodox Church and Monastery in Guatemala". Hogar Rafael Ayau. Retrieved 12 April 2015. 
  2. ^ "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. 
  3. ^ 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. 
  4. ^ 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. 
  5. ^ 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. 
  6. ^ "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. 
  7. ^ "The Society Of Clerks Secular Of Saint Basil". louisianacorporates.com. Archived from the original on 2015-10-04. Retrieved 2015-10-04.   This is a tertiary source that clearly includes information from other sources but does not name them.
  8. ^ "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. 
  9. ^ 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 2013-02-01. 
  10. ^ "Guatemala". goarchmexico.org. Naucalpan, MX: Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Mexico. n.d. Archived from the original on 2014-05-07. 
  11. ^ 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. 
  12. ^ 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. 
  13. ^ a b "F.A.Q.". mayanorthodoxy.com. Jesse Brandow. Archived from the original on 2015-10-06. Retrieved 2015-10-06. 
  14. ^ "Syriac Orthodox Church receives as many as 800,000 new converts in Central America". scooch.org. Standing Conference of Oriental Orthodox Churches in America. 2013-05-06. Archived from the original on 2013-06-18. 
  15. ^ Thorsen, Jakob Egeris (2015). Charismatic practice and Catholic parish life: the incipient pentecostalization of the church in Guatemala and Latin America. Global Pentecostal and Charismatic studies 17. Boston: Brill. p. 32. ISBN 9789004291652. 
  16. ^ "Sacerdote que fundó secta en Guatemala quedó excomulgado". aciprensa.com (in Spanish). Lima, PE: ACI Prensa. 2006-10-18. Archived from the original on 2015-10-01. Retrieved 2015-10-01. 
  17. ^ Peters, Edward (2014-12-03). "Excommunication blotter". canonlaw.info. Edward Peters. Archived from the original on 2015-09-22. 
  18. ^ "Estadisticas actuales". icergua.org (in Spanish). June 2009. Archived from the original on 2015-10-09. Retrieved 2015-10-07. 
  19. ^ a b "Asamblea Nacional 2005". icergua.org (in Spanish). November 2005. Archived from the original on 2008-10-07. 
  20. ^ Catalán Deus, José (2006-10-20). "Un sacerdote excomulgado en Guatemala por crear una rama cismática que afirma contar con 175.000 miembros". periodistadigital.com (blog) (in Spanish). Madrid, ES: Periodista Digital. Archived from the original on 2007-11-17. Retrieved 2015-10-01. 
  21. ^ "Estadisticas actuales". icergua.org (in Spanish). June 2008. Archived from the original on 2008-10-07. Retrieved 2015-10-07. 
  22. ^ "Estadisticas actuales". icergua.org (in Spanish). June 2009. Archived from the original on 2010-09-20. Retrieved 2015-10-07. 
  23. ^ "Ordenacion Episcopal". icergua.org (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 2008-10-07. 
  24. ^ "CICAM/WCCAC". icergua.org (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 2010-09-20. 

See also[edit]

External links[edit]