Guatemala: Preaching Christ in the Maya land
In recent years His Eminence Metropolitan Athenagoras of Mexico has embraced under his Omophorion one of the largest groups in Guatemala. This human group was and still is under the spiritual guidance of the Very Reverent Archimandrite Andrew Giron. In order to comprehend and contemplate the beauty of God’s gift to Guatemala in the form of this group of believers that He bestowed on us, it is essential that we get to know their history as well as all the difficulties they went through before finding true faith.
Father Andrew Giron is one of the best-known supporters of the rights of the tribe of Maya Indians and during his 30-year-fight for them, he was opposed by the administration of the Roman Catholic Church and the government of Guatemala. At that time, the religious environment of the Roman Catholic Church in Guatemala incorporated the so-called “charismatic groups”, on the one hand in order to confront the protestant missionaries that arrived from America, and on the other to prevent the believers from leaving the gulfs of the Roman Catholic Church. However, this decision did not bear fruit due to the civil war, and the Roman Catholic Church stopped recognizing these communities, which were obviously imbued with protestant beliefs.
In those crucial years father Andrew took the decision of leaving the Roman Catholic Church and unite all these natives. This mission of love led him to the reconstruction of new villages and to granting property deeds since the government had never granted those titles to them despite the fact that they had been living in and cultivating the specific land for centuries.
Recognizing his struggle and work for them, the people asked him one day: “Father Andrew, what do we believe in? Who are we? What church do we belong to?” That is why he decided to teach them Orthodoxy to the best of his ability and knowledge.
In the end, ten years ago, his un-canonical orthodox church had grown and numbered 350,000 members throughout Guatemala. As you see, God is great and cares for, enlightens and looks after His flock wherever He wants. That is why father Andrew felt deep inside that all the things they had achieved were nothing without true faith. He followed the way that leads to true Church and made the decision to knock on the door of the Holy Metropolis of Mexico in order to be accepted to the Ecumenical Patriarchate along with his flock.
After so many years, the right time had finally come. Seeking truth, they learnt True Faith and in Archbishop Athenagoras they found open the door of our Orthodox Church, which embraced them lovingly and with great hope. Right after that, our Bishop sent two priests there in order not only to get to know them but also to find out whether their wish was genuine and serious or not. The answer took us all by surprise! It was a group of more than 350,000 people, with 338 churches and chapels. Most of them are indigenous to Guatemala; actually, they come from the ancient tribe of Maya. They live in the mountains and the vast plains of the country, even in the southern cities of Mexico.
What we have ahead is a major project throughout Latin America, but for the time being, God has entrusted a groups of souls to us in Guatemala to look after them, teach them, baptize them and glorify Him all together.
Our beloved brothers, we hope for your prayers and your financial assistance. Metropolitan Athenagoras of Mexico appeals to you for help regarding the various projects of our Holy Metropolis as well as Guatemala. It is essential that we have the financial means in order to send priests to Guatemala to teach the catechists there how to catechize the faithful properly. Financial means are also required in order to get hundreds of thousands of catechetical textbooks for children and grown ups printed. Meanwhile, a large number of them are illiterate. Moreover, money is required for videotapes to be prepared in Spanish, even in the local dialect of Maya, so that through these tapes these people get to know the Divine Liturgy, Baptism, Chrismation, and in general, all the Holy Services of our Church. Finally, we have started to give some sort of humble beauty to all the chapels by sprucing them up so that our parishes look neater, which is another reason why we need your assistance.
With the blessings of Metropolitan Athenagoras,
the Colombian missionary priest
fr. Nicholas Antolinez