Thursday, February 28, 2013

Orthodox Mission in the Far East - in Volos

On Sunday evening, our Metropolis hosted a fascinating presentation about Orthodox missionary work in the Far East, featuring the Metropolitans of Hong Kong and Singapore (Ecumenical Patriarchate), who also happen to be brothers according to the flesh (pictured above).

Metropolitan Nektarios of Hong Kong spoke with the aid of a PowerPoint presentation full of photos and videos. It was an excellent presentation, no doubt given many times around the world in an effort to raise funds. In both metropolises, which cover about 3 billion people, including China and India, there are a total of 47 Orthodox communities, with 25 Orthodox temples for worship. I found that there were actually many similarities to the missions in the US - many of the worship spaces are converted spaces, and many are temporary, having to be set up every week. The "Metropolitan Cathedral" itself in Hong Kong occupies a single floor of a skyscraper, with half the space devoted to the temple and half to the offices of the metropolis.

Unlike the US, though, the surrounding cultures are not already Christian, and thus explanations of Christianity start from a much more basic point.

As you can see from the photo above, there was a quite a crowd to hear the presentation, and I would say that everyone was fascinated by the presentation. When they heard of people in Taiwan (where there is only one church serving 23 million people) traveling 5 hours each way by train just to attend Liturgy on Sunday morning, many were moved.

From the official press release:

The event, which was organized by the Volos Academy for Theological Studies, in collaboration with the Orthodox Missionary Association “The Three Hierarchs,” took place on Sunday evening, February 24, in the large hall of the Spiritual Center of the Metropolis of Demetrias. In addition to the invited speaker, Metropolitan Nektarios of Hong Kong, the event was also attended by Metropolitan Constantine of Singapore and Metropolitan Ignatius of Demetrias, as well as a large crowd of clergy and laity. The Director of the Volos Academy, Dr. Pantelis Kalaitzidis, opened the event with introductory remarks about the central importance of mission in the very constitution and life of the Church, as well as the inherently dialogical nature of theology. The philologist Ioannis Patrikos, President of the Missionary Association “The Three Hierarchs,” which co-sponsored the event, then spoke about the association’s history and missionary endeavors.
            His Eminence Metropolitan Nektarios of Hong Kong then took the podium and delivered a multi-media presentation on the missionary work being carried out under the aegis of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in the countries of the Far East, and particularly Hong Kong, Singapore, India, Indonesia, Taiwan, and the Philippines. He described the organization and structure of those Orthodox communities, the number of members/faithful, as well as the problems and challenges they face, especially the lack of missionaries and clergy, the immense geographical area covered by just two Orthodox metropolises of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the urgent need to translate liturgical texts into the dozens or even hundreds of local languages and dialects, the economic pressures and poverty, ethnophyletism, religious fanaticism and fundamentalism, and more. The Metropolitan also presented the missionary activities of the two Orthodox metropolises of the region (Hong Kong and Singapore), which include, among other things, translations of liturgical and theological books, seminars for clergy, classes for catechism and iconography, an online Theological Seminary (, missionary visits to different regions for the celebration of the sacred services, scholarships for potential future clergy, talks on Orthodox theology at schools and universities, presentations of Orthodox books, exhibits of Byzantine iconography, the publication of the quarterly journal “The Censer,” and catechetical materials in different local dialects. His Eminence also emphasized the importance of humanitarian and medical aid to peoples who often live in abject poverty and destitution, in those countries of the Far East with widely disparate economic and social inequalities.
            The event ended with concluding remarks by Metropolitan Ignatius of Demetrias, who, after recalling the deep spiritual bonds which unite him with the Metropolitans of Hong Kong and Singapore, who are also brothers according to the flesh, warmly thanked the missionary hierarch for coming to Volos and assured him of the full support of the Metropolis of Demetrias for the important work being done in the Far East.

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