The historical background of the monastery in Kolwezi, Congo (DRC)

“History teaches us that it is from monasteries that sprang up all church missions, and that missionaries founded monasteries wherever they traveled.”

– Archimandrite George Capsanis

Since Orthodoxy is inconceivable without monasticism, in November 2006 the abbot of Gregoriou Monastery on Mount Athos, Archimandrite George, gave us a blessing-mandate: to celebrate a sarantaleitourgo (40 consecutive days of Divine Liturgy) at the monastery’s dependency of Saint George in Thessaloniki, and use the “revenues” from it  for the establishment of a male monastery in Kolwezi, Congo (DRC).

The sarantaleitourgo was held in January-February 2007 and brought in a lot of blessings, while the contributions on the part of philomonastic people were continued intermittently in the following years.

The Blessing Service of the foundation stone was celebrated by Bishop Meletios Gregoriate in September 2009, and in 2012 most of the work at the holy monastery was completed. In October 2012 the Patriarch of Alexandria, Theodore II, conducted the established Blessing Service during his missionary tour in the Congo.

Η Ιερά Μονή Αγίων Αποστόλων Kolwezi
The Holy Apostles monastery in Kolwezi

Fr. George commissioned the worthy monk Fr. Barnabas Gregoriate as the  abbot of the new monastery, and prior to his departure on November 4, 2013, he blessed him, giving him inspired counsels. The enthronement took place on April 21, 2014 and already the Congolese monastery is run according to the “typikon” (set of rules) of Mount Athos with three indigenous novice monks.

Arch. George Capsanis participated in the divine life and love and, having experienced the “spiritual change in Christ”, he had accepted the global vision and the apostolic responsibility of the Orthodox Church in the modern world at the command of Christ “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations …” (Matt. 28: 19). This is why he believed that “Mission is the evangelism of those who have never met Christianity as well as the re-evangelism of those belonging to the Church in name only”, and considered it to be a need of the united to Christ soul, according to Paul’s maxim, “For if I preach the Gospel, I have nothing to boast about; for necessity is laid on me; but woe is to me, if I don’t preach the Gospel…” (I Cor. 9: 16)


Fr. George could give “no sleep to his eyes or slumber to his eyelids” in order to contribute to the evangelism of our brothers, those living nearby, but also those afar, in the Congo. So in 1978, when the late hieromonk Cosmas Gregoriate (Aslanides) asked him to authorize his participation in the mission of Kolwezi, he pioneered as an Athonite abbot and immediately accepted his proposal, saying: “But go thou and preach the kingdom of God”(Luke, 9: 60) to our brothers in the Congo. And on the occasion of this event, he organized the missionary team for the city of Kolwezi, which he unfailingly directed until his last days.

He said the same words to his successor hieromonk Meletios in 1989 and recently to hieromonk Barnabas, when he sent him to undertake the office of hegumen: “propagate the Word of God and hand down in the African land the spirit, the prayer and the life of the Holy Mount Athos”!

The history of the modern missionary era will have a lot to record as regards the contribution of Gregoriou Monastery to the Congo, especially that of the prime mover of this God-inspired activity, the abbot Fr. George, because he renewed in our time the old missionary policy concerning the establishment of holy monasteries by contemporary missionaries.

It would be a truly admirable and pious work, if the renewal of this policy were made by other monasteries as well –male and female–, which would allow some of their members to continue their sanctification in a brother monastery abroad. This would be the greatest, the most pious act of charity (a form of spiritual almsgiving) of the parent monastery to all the faithful brothers of our Church. This, in our humble opinion, would be a clear manifestation of our obedience to the Lord’s commandment, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations …” and of our belief in the contribution of monasticism to the Church. The necessity of both is also confirmed by the establishment of 17 monasteries in North America.


Some people say, “When your garden is thirsty, do not pour the water out.” But, my brothers, we must not forget that our garden is none other than the garden of Christ, and that according to the Orthodox teaching and worship, this garden is the whole world!

Archimandrite George visualized all the above, lived them and put them into practice, both “in words and in deeds”.

Our wish, then, also wish of all missionary divisions, those that cannot find monks or nuns in order to start two monasteries in their diocese, is that the example of the late abbot George Capsanis should be followed and find many imitators… God grant it!

Fr. Georgios Kougioumtzoglou

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