Interview with Archpriest Alexis and Rafael

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In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Glory to
Jesus Christ!

I am Father Pedro from Brazil. I am currently a student at Saint Tikhon’s
Seminary. I came here to talk to you about the Brazilian Orthodox Church.

As you know Brazil is located in South America. Here is the map.

Slide 1 - South American Map

Here is also the map of Brazil.

Slide 2 - Brazilian Map

Now let me tell you how we have become Orthodox and how the Orthodox
Church has started in Brazil. In the 1970s a counter-cultural movement
occurred all over the world and in Brazil, as well. Opposed to the Vietnam
War, it was a movement which also strongly contested institutions. During
that period, however, there was a great search for other spiritual expressions;
there was enormous concern for, as well as great interest in, other traditions.
Therefore, an entire orientalist movement appeared which included studies
about Taoism, Buddhism, Islam, in addition to other movements like yoga,
Zen Buddhism, etc. We belonged to a group interested in this spiritual
search.

We sought a spiritual tradition different from what we already knew. This
group was led by the same person, Eduardo Maia, both in Pernambuco and
in Rio de Janeiro. These were two groups with the same interest, both of
them having devoted themselves to the study of cosmology, metaphysics,
symbolism, mythology, and others disciplines.

In 1985, a Portuguese journalist, Antonio Carlos Carvalho, the translator of
Rene Guenon into Portuguese (Rene Guenon is one of those thinkers whom
we had studied), came to Brazil to deliver some lectures about symbolism
and tradition in Rio de Janeiro and Pernambuco. We were pretty interested
in this theme. At this time we had learned that Antonio Carlos Carvalho was
also a priest of the Orthodox Church in Portugal, Archpriest Athanasius. In
this course, Archpriest Athanasius also spoke about Orthodox Christianity.
Thus, we had learned that Orthodox Church has the true and original
Christianity therefore it is a traditional religion. By the grace of God, we
found Orthodoxy through him. This happened in September of 1985.

In December of this same year Archpriest Athanasius returned to Brazil in
order to give specific courses about Orthodox Christianity. Since that
moment we began to study Orthodoxy, which for us quickly surpassed our
interest in all the other spiritual expressions. The first Orthodox author
whom we studied was Serge Bulgakov, author of the book Orthodoxy.

Slide 3 – Metropolitan Gabriel

In December of 1985, we received an invitation from Metropolitan Gabriel
of Lisbon to visit Portugal, which we did six months later in June of 1986.

Slide 4 – Metropolitan Gabriel

Nine people traveled to Portugal; five from Pernambuco and four from Rio
de Janeiro, all of them interested in Orthodoxy.
Slide 5 – Map of Portugal

This group stayed for 30 days at the Orthodox Monastery in Mafra, Portugal,
coming to know and learn the Tradition of the Orthodox Church.

All of them were baptized in the Orthodox Church in Portugal. There, they
requested Metropolitan Gabriel to send a priest to Brazil, but he told us that
it was necessary for the Church to be a local church. Therefore, Metropolitan
Gabriel invited two people to be ordained priests: Father Paulo, who was
Eduardo Maia the leader about whom I have already spoken, and Father
Alexis. So, they returned to Brazil.

Slide 6 – Map of Pernambuco

In Pernambuco and Rio de Janeiro there was a group of people interested in
Orthodoxy, but they did not travel to Portugal. Some members of this group
accepted to be baptized without having ever attended the Divine Liturgy.

At the end of July 1986, seven people were baptized in Rio de Janeiro. On
August 8th 1986, twenty five people were baptized in Recife, the Capital of
the Pernambuco State.

Slide 7 - Recifense Map

A little time later Metropolitan Gabriel created one parish in Aldeia, the
Holy Trinity Parish. Aldeia is a neighborhood of Camaragibe in the
metropolitan area of Recife. He also created another parish in Rio de
Janeiro, the Virgin Mary Parish. It was then that the local Orthodox Church
in Brazil finally emerged, with services in Portuguese. It was at this point,
with these people, that our history started.
The local Orthodox Church developed and grew under the Portuguese
Orthodox Church in time. We are the first Brazilian Orthodox Church that
was created specifically for Brazilians. There are several Orthodox Churches
in Brazil, but they minister primarily to specific ethnic groups, to
immigrants. For example, the Russian Orthodox Church, Greek Orthodox
Church, Antiochian Orthodox Church, Ukraine Orthodox Church.

In 1992, Metropolitan Gabriel was concerned about the Brazilian Orthodox
Church. Therefore, he created a Diocese in our country with a local bishop.
However, in 1997, Metropolitan Gabriel, who was the pillar of the
Portuguese Orthodox Church, passed away. For this reason, a new
metropolitan replaced him. This replacement brought some difficulty and
problems, which caused many people to leave the Church. In 2000, the
clergy and faithful of the Holy Trinity Parish in Aldeia, Pernambuco,
decided to ask to be received into a new jurisdiction.

Slide 8 – Bishop Mitrophan

The first church that we looked to was the Serbian Orthodox Church. In
2000, Archpriest Alexis visited His Grace, Bishop Mitrophan and asked Him
to accept us into the Serbian Orthodox Church. Our request was accepted a
year and a half later in February of 2002. His Grace Mitrophan, Bishop of
Eastern United States and South America, decided to accept this parish with
its entire clergy. So, since 2002 we have belonged to the Serbian Orthodox
Church.
This month we have had again the great joy and blessing to receive Bishop
Mitrophan’s visit. He came and stayed with his flock for one week. Let’s see
photos of his visiting.

Slides 9, 10, 11 and 12 – Bishop Mitrophan’s visiting

As I said the first parish that was created in Pernambuco was the Holy
Trinity Parish in Aldeia. We have here some slides of it.

Slides from 13 to 21 - Aldeia

Because Aldeia is far from downtown Recife, it is difficult for people to
come by bus. Thus, two years ago with Bishop Mitrophan’s blessing we
rented a room in downtown Recife and started a new parish, the Dormition
of the Theotokos.

Slides 22 and 23 - Dormition of the Theotokos.

It is always a great joy to receive any guests in our community, but some of
them are very special for us because we have close tie of love with them.
Abbot Gerasim and Archpriest Michael Dahulich are two of those who we
love in a special way. Thus, let me show you their coming to Brazil in order
to visit us and to share their love for Christ and His Church with us.

Slides from 24 to 46 – Father Gerasim and Father Michael

Slide from 47 to 57 – Map of Pernambuco

Beside the Holy Trinity Parish and the Dormition of the Theotokos Parish
we also have two missions, one in Caruaru, Pernambuco, which is two hours
drive from Recife, and another in Belo Jardim, Pernambuco, which is three
hours drive from Recife. Let’s see some photos of these missions.




Because the Roman Catholic Church has been the predominant church since
the colonization of Brazil, there was little room for the Orthodox Church to
be known. Moreover, before our church begins, the Orthodox Churches in
Brazil have been established for the descendents of immigrants who wished
to preserve their religious and cultural identity. However, now the Roman
Catholic Church is shrinking due the emptiness of its spiritual life and many
people are looking for other religions. Thus, we must keep in mind that there
have always been such people that have wanted to know about Orthodoxy
because they feel that something is missing which Orthodoxy can provide
them with spiritually. Therefore, there is a lot work to do in Brazil.

Because our church is an open church for everybody, we need to make it
accessible and visible for people. For that reason, although we have a church
built in Aldeia, we need to build our church in Recife. Aldeia is far away
from Downtown Recife, and access to it is difficult. Most people do not have
the ability to get there because it is so far. It is located in a very rural place.
Some people need to take three buses and sometimes to spend three hours to
get there. Moreover, the church in Aldeia is small. It is important for people
to be able to reach the church easier. Moreover, we need to a real Orthodox
temple in Recife to depict properly our presence. Thus, people will come to
know where the Orthodox Church is. This way, our purpose of bringing
people to the Orthodox faith will be viable.
Despite the many difficulties we had to endure, we are happy. Our first joy
is to live the true faith. When we find the true faith, it is impossible to give it
up. Another joy is the assurance that the merciful God will care for us. In a
context like Brazil where there are many Protestants, and where Roman
Catholicism has not worked, we see that we are working despite our many
difficulties and in spite of our poverty. We want to invest in the Church, we
love the Church and are committed to working for it within our limitations.
Even with so many difficulties that we have to endure we are trying to make
this desert where we live blossom by watering it with our tears and
supplications for the grace of God.

				
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