History of Orthodox Missions

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The Orthodox Church has a rich and vibrant missionary tradition. Beginning with the Apostles, the Church sent out missionaries to spread the Christian faith to all peoples. The Church at Antioch sent the Apostle Paul and Apostle Barnabas on their first missionary journey to Asia Minor and Greece. The Apostle Paul completed three such journeys, each time extending further out and founding new churches. In addition to the missionary work of the Apostles (and later of bishops, priests, and monks), evangelization took place in a variety of other ways (through trade relations, personal friendships, charity, the inspirational witness of Christians as a role model community, etc.). In other words, laypeople played a highly significant role at the local level of evangelization.

Early Church

Christian communities arose in major urban centers first, before spreading to rural areas through monasticism from 270 onward (first in Egypt and Syria, then elsewhere). The faith spread rapidly, helped by a number of external factors. First, Roman infrastructure greatly aided the speed of travel. Second, the conquests of Alexander the Great and his Hellenization campaign had made the Greek tongue a universal language throughout the Roman Empire, extending even into the Far East. Third, due to the Jewish Diaspora, there were synagogues strewn far and wide throughout the Mediterranean basin and penetrating into Asia and Africa. These pious monotheistic communities provided inroads for the Gospel to be preached, rendering many compatible contexts for the new faith to be embraced.

The Christian faith took root in all corners of the Roman Empire, including Spain, France (Saints Irenaeus of Lyons and Martin of Tours), Britain (Saints Augustine of Canterbury and Aidan of Lindisfarne), and North Africa. The Apostle Mark had founded the Church in Egypt in the 1st century. In the 4th century, Saint Frumentius of Axum preached the Gospel to the Ethiopian royalty at Axum, and was later consecrated the first Bishop of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church by Saint Athanasius of Alexandria.

Large parts of Asia were also evangelized very early on, including Georgia (Saint Nino of Cappadocia), Armenia (Saints Gregory the Enlightener, Mesrob Mashtots, and Isaac the Armenian), Syria and the Middle East, Persia, and even India (Apostle Thomas evangelized the Hindus; and later Saint Pantanaeus of Alexandria).

In Europe, the situation became dire for converts as early as the 2nd century. The Romans began major campaigns of persecution against Christians in France in the 2nd century and in Spain in the 3rd century. Britain’s first martyr, Saint Alban, died in 303. However, with the adoption of Christianity as the official religion of the Empire in 380, Christian evangelists were given free reign to spread the faith.

Medieval Church

As the power of the Roman Empire declined, the faith of the Church deepened, in large part due to monastic influences. Beginning in the 5th century, monasteries in Ireland became training centers for missionaries, who evangelized Britain more extensively. From Ireland and Britain, missionary monks were sent to mainland Europe. In this way, France was more thoroughly evangelized, and the Christian faith reached pagan tribes in modern-day Holland and Germany (Saints Willibrord and Boniface). In the ninth century, bishops played a key role in pioneering the evangelization of Scandinavia as well as Central and Eastern Europe.

The ninth century was the century of the most famous missionary saints of the Orthodox Church: Saints Cyril and Methodius. The Patriarch of Constantinople, Saint Photius the Great, sent the Thessalonian brothers to evangelize the Slavs of Moravia, thus following in the footsteps of Saint John Chrysostom, who as Archbishop of Constantinople had sent missionaries to preach Christ to many pagan peoples, including the Slavs, the Goths, the Phoenicians, the Scythians, and the Persians.

Saints Cyril and Methodius devised an alphabet for the Slavic people and translated the Scriptures, the Divine Liturgy, and other liturgical texts into Slavonic. In the end, their work in Moravia did not survive them, as the Pope of Rome ruled against the use of Slavonic in the Church. The brothers’ disciples were expelled. In 907, Moravia was invaded and conquered by the pagan Magyars. The Slavonic language died out among the Moravians, and within two centuries the Slavonic mission in Moravia was all but gone. However, by divine providence, the disciples of Saints Cyril and Methodius (including Saint Clement of Ohrid) had fled to Bulgaria, whose king had adopted the Christian faith. There the Slavonic translation work of Saints Cyril and Methodius bore much fruit. Within almost a century of Methodius’ death in 885, the nations of Bulgaria, Serbia, and Kievan Rus’ (Russia) converted to the Christian faith.

With the fall of Constantinople in 1453, the Byzantine Church faced economic pressure, discrimination, and outright persecution from their Islamic overlords. Missions fell by the wayside in this new state of affairs, as Greek Christians strove to preserve the faith and pass it on to the next generation. This struggle lasted until 1821, when Greece gained its independence. But due to continuing pastoral needs as well as issues of nationalism, missionary work remained a low priority for the Greek Church until the 20th century.

With the decline of Byzantium came the ascendancy of the Russian Church. From its inception, the Russian Church had embodied the apostolic zeal of the Early Church. The vast stretches of the Russian lands called for continuous missionary endeavors, especially in the harsh Arctic terrains in the North and the trackless East. Even during the Mongol occupation, Russian Orthodox missionaries strove to convert pagan tribes (Saint Stephen of Perm), including the Mongols themselves (Bishop Mitrophan of Sarai). The Russian approach to missions reflected the Orthodox Church's incarnational missiology and methodology epitomized by the Apostles to the Slavs, Saints Cyril and Methodius. First, Russian missionaries used the vernacular language as much as possible in evangelism, instruction, and worship, transmitting the Scriptures and the full dogmatic heritage of the Orthodox Church in a language the people could understand. Second, they worked hard to make the faith indigenous so as to ordain native clergy as soon as possible. Third, they labored towards establishing a functional regional Church that could sustain and rule itself (rather than being subjugated to a distant authority figure such as the Pope of Rome).

Modern Church

The seventeenth century saw Russian missionaries go to China. The Chinese Orthodox Church would produce a number of martyrs during the Boxer Rebellion (St Mitrophan Yang of Beijing) in 1900. On the whole, however, the Russian Church’s missionary fervor languished during Russia’s period of westernization in the 17th and 18th centuries.

A remarkable revival took place in the 19th century, corresponding to widespread spiritual renewal in the Church (due in large part to the translation of the Philokalia into Slavonic by St Paisius Velichkovsky). At the Kazan Academy, established in 1842, numerous translation projects were undertaken and native clergy received training (Ilminsky). In 1793, a small group of monks from Valaam monastery was sent to evangelize Alaska, a Russian territory since 1867. The most famous members of this small group are Saint Herman of Alaska and Saint Juvenal of Alaska. Saint Juvenal was martyred by a heathen Alaskan tribe whom he sought to convert. Most of the company died or returned to Russia, and in the end only Saint Herman remained, choosing to stay in Alaska out of love for the native inhabitants, the Aleuts. He lived as a hermit on Spruce Island and cared for the poor Aleuts, guiding them to Christ and raising many orphans. Saint Herman’s missionary career spanned 40 years.

Perhaps the most famous missionary of 19th century Russia is Saint Innocent of Alaska. A simple parish priest, he moved to Alaska with his family in 1824 and began ministering to the Aleuts. From the outset of his missionary career in Alaska, the saint studied the languages and cultures of the Alaskan native peoples with the scholarly acumen of an anthropologist. In 1832, he was transferred to Sitka, where he ministered to the Tlingit people. He undertook many long missionary journeys by ship or kayak, preaching, catechizing, and providing the sacraments to the faithful. Having mastered a number of Alaskan dialects, the saint provided invaluable translations of Holy Scripture as well as liturgical service texts. After the death of his wife, he took monastic vows in 1840, receiving the name Innocent in honor of Saint Innocent of Irkutsk. He was appointed Bishop of Kamchatka and the Kuril Islands in Russia and the Aleutian Islands in Russian America. In 1850, he was elevated to Archbishop. His diocese expanded to include Yakut, located in the Russian Far East. There he traveled immense distances by dog sled to minister to the Yakut peoples. In 1867, Saint Innocent was appointed Metropolitan of Moscow. In his new position, the saint founded the Russian Orthodox Missionary Society in 1870. He died in 1879.

Saint Innocent of Alaska mentored two other great missionary saints: Saint Jacob Netsvetov of Alaska and Saint Nicholas of Japan. Saint Jacob was born in Alaska to a Russian father and an Aleut mother. Thus, he grew up knowing both the Russian and the Aleut languages and cultures. After completing his studies at a seminary in Russia, he was ordained to the priesthood by the same Archbishop who had ordained St Innocent a priest. St Jacob longed to return to his native Alaska to preach Christ to his own people. He and his wife traveled to Alaska in 1828. His first parish encompassed five islands. In this role, he founded a school and trained the future leaders of the Aleut Church. He corresponded with St Innocent regarding translation issues, and himself undertook the translation of the Scriptures into the language of his parishioners. After the death of his wife, he requested permission to join a monastery. Instead, by God’s providence, he met Saint Innocent, Bishop of Kamchatka at the time, who counseled him during this difficult time. In the end, Saint Innocent appointed him head of the new Kvikhpak Mission. Saint Jacob traveled hundreds of miles along the Yukon and Kuskokwim Rivers to proclaim Christ to the Yupik Eskimos and the Athabascan peoples. Over the course of 20 years, he learned various Alaskan languages, invented a new alphabet, baptized hundreds, built churches, and developed Christian communities. Yet towards the end of his life, the saint was slandered and had to undergo ecclesiastical investigation at Sitka. While at Sitka, Saint Jacob served at the Tlingit chapel. Though he was cleared of charges, he died before he could return to the mission field, in 1864.

Saint Innocent of Alaska also directly inspired and personally guided another extraordinary missionary: Saint Nicholas of Japan. While at St Petersburg Theological Seminary, Saint Nicholas volunteered for the request of the Russian Consulate in Japan for a priest. He providentially met St Innocent on his way to Japan in 1860 (and again in Japan in 1861). Saint Innocent graciously mentored Saint Nicholas, counseling him to absorb the language, religious ethos, and culture of Japan with studious dedication. When Saint Nicholas arrived at Hakodate in 1861, Japanese society was hostile towards evangelization, so he spent the next eight years learning the language, customs, and history of the Japanese people. This time was foundational for his work of translating the Scriptures and the liturgical services of the Church into classical Japanese. His small congregation grew slowly. In 1869, Saint Nicholas reported on his work to the Holy Synod of Russia, who decided "to set up a special Russian Ecclesiastical Mission to preach God's Word among pagans," with Father Nicholas as head. The saint returned to Japan and moved to Tokyo, the new center of his missionary endeavors. There he established a number of schools, including a theological school, which became a seminary in 1878. Raising up native clergy was a high priority for Saint Nicholas, and his method was always to catechize converts in such a way that they could effectively share the Gospel with their countrymen as lay catechists. In 1880, he was consecrated bishop of Tokyo. Shortly after his consecration, he ordained the first Chinese Orthodox priest, Saint Mitrophan Yang, who would be martyred in the Boxer Rebellion. Saint Nicholas completed the construction of the Holy Resurrection Church in 1891. By 1911, there were 266 Orthodox parishes; the Orthodox faithful numbered 30,000. The Archbishop, revered by many in Japan and abroad, died in 1912.

With the Communist Revolution of 1917, the Russian Church was forced into a similar situation as the captivity of the Byzantine Church from 1453 to 1821. Discrimination, persecution, and intimidation were the new order of the day for Russian Orthodox Christians. As a result, the mission work of the Russian Church all but ceased, and the energy of the clergy was focused on the preservation of the faith.

Recent Orthodox Missionary Work

Africa

In more recent times, a major development in Orthodox missions has taken place in the Church of Alexandria (its full title being the Patriarchate of Alexandria and all Africa). Kenya and Uganda currently make up the majority of Alexandria’s spiritual flock. There are now large numbers of Orthodox Christians throughout sub-Saharan Africa.

The growth of the Orthodox Church in Africa was a spontaneous phenomenon arising from Africans themselves. Some longed for an authentically African church with no ties to colonial power. Others sought a more apostolic form of Christianity and through their study of Church history discovered Orthodoxy. This was the case with the Ugandan Anglican, Reuben Sseseva Mukasa (later known as Father Christopher Reuben Spartas; he was consecrated Bishop Christopher in 1973). He had initially joined the non-canonical African Orthodox Church in the United States, but broke off all contact with them when he discovered their non-canonical status. After joining the canonical Orthodox Church, he became instrumental in the spread of Orthodoxy in East Africa. In another case, a group formerly belonging to the Salvation Army joined the African Orthodox Church but reconsidered their decision after reading The Orthodox Church by Kallistos Ware. Starting in the 1950s, different groups in East and West Africa providentially discovered the Orthodox Church around the same time. They requested to join the Patriarchate of Alexandria. During the second half of the 20th century, Orthodoxy spread quickly throughout tropical Africa, including Cameroon, Nigeria, and Ghana. Orthodoxy has spread largely at the local level, through “gossiping the Gospel.”

Father Chrysostomos Papasarantopoulos pioneered the Orthodox missionary movement in Africa. As Father Alexander Veronis has pointed out, this faithful servant of God embodied the historic principles of Orthodox mission work, preaching the Gospel in the vernacular and attending to the people’s social concerns.

During his studies in Athens, Father Chrysostomos was inspired by his contact with Ugandans who had embraced the Orthodox faith (including Theodore (Nankyama) of Kampala, who would “become one of the first Orthodox bishops in East Africa”). At age 57, Father Chrysostomos felt a strong sense that God was calling him to become a missionary to Africa. He arrived in Uganda in 1960 and without any aid or infrastructure, began preaching the Gospel to the African peoples. He spent 12 years spreading Orthodoxy throughout Uganda, Congo, Kenya, and Tanzania. Within a year of arriving in Uganda, he was sufficiently fluent to preach in the Swahili language. Soon he began translating parts of the Bible and services into the language of the people. In 1963, Father Chrysostomos started the missionary society "The Friends of Uganda," now known as the Orthodox Missionary Fraternity. With fiery zeal and true holiness, he evangelized the African peoples, always “with God’s help,” as he frequently said.

Through his correspondence from the mission field, Father Chrysostomos inspired many friends in Greece and in the United States to adopt an evangelistic mindset and to consider the missionary vocation, including present-day Archbishop Makarios (Tillyrides) of Kenya. His missionary work, newsletters, and correspondence can be said to have inspired the missionary movement in Greece around the same time, as well as the founding of the Orthodox Christian Mission Center in the United States.

Once, Father Chrysostomos received a letter from someone hoping to become a missionary. The aspirant expressed concerns about the health conditions, the climate, the duties of missionary life, and many other things. Father Chrysostomos simply replied: “My brother, since you heard an inner voice, crush your doubts, close your ears to what others tell you. Make the sign of the cross and begin your journey. As for the rest, leave all in the hands of our heavenly Father…”

He encouraged both men and women to come to Africa to help labor in the Lord’s vineyard. And those who could not join him as missionaries (ιεραπόστολοι), he exhorted to support the work of the Church as senders of missionaries. Towards the end of his life, he wrote the following words: “I beseech you since I have been brought to the midst of the sea, pray and implore that our ‘fishing for people’ may not tarry to fill nets.’ ”

One month before he died, he wrote from Congo: “I love the Africans and am fully convinced that the Lord has brought me here. I hope to use the few remaining days of my old age preaching and teaching here. The place I am now located in is a large city (Kananga) or 50,000 people near the central part of the Congo (Zaire). The people are eager to learn about Orthodox Christianity. But I am old and alone and my capacities are now limited. I don’t know how I’ll manage, but the Lord Jesus will show me, as he always has in the past. Remember me in your prayers.”

In 1973, his friend Archimandrite Chariton (Pneumatikakis) took over his role in Kananga, Congo. Father Chariton’s enduring missionary legacy can be summed up in his last words, “Ring the bells of Orthodoxy in every corner of Africa.”

Another great Greek Orthodox missionary was Father Cosmas (Aslanidis) of Grigoriou. At a young age, he began a correspondence with Fr Chrysostomos. He traveled to Congo (then called Zaire), where the fire of missionary fervor blazed forth in his heart. Under the guidance of Amphilochios (Tsoukos) (in Congo at the time; now in New Zealand), he built an astonishing 10 churches in 14 months. He was advised to receive his monastic tonsure on Mount Athos before returning to the mission field. At his tonsuring, he was named Cosmas in honor of the great Saint Cosmas of Aetolia (+1779), also an Athonite missionary. Renewed in his love for God and in spiritual strength, Father Cosmas returned to Zaire.

First Father Cosmas went to Kananga, to assist Father Chariton and Sister Olga. Then, receiving the blessing of Metropolitan Timothy of Central Africa, he journeyed to Kolwezi. There he began to build many churches. Over the course of his missionary labors, he baptized 15,000 Africans, catechized, preached, provided the sacraments of the Church, abd organized a large agricultural complex that would provide food and jobs for many, including lepers and prisoners. Having learned Swahili and Afrikaans, he faithfully passed on to the Africans the Orthodox Tradition as he had learned it in Greece and on Mount Athos – most especially the Jesus Prayer – for the salvation and transformation of the people and their deliverance from demonic magic.

Three months before his sudden death in a car accident in January of 1989, Father Cosmas told his elder, Father George: “Missionary work is not done for a few months; whoever wants to be a missionary must leave their bones on African soil.” And so it happened with Father Cosmas, whose grave has become a popular pilgrimage site.

From the beginning, Orthodox mission work in Africa emphasized the importance of translating church services into the local languages. Archbishop Makarios III (Mouskos) of Cyprus was very active in East Africa, where he personally baptized thousands of people. In the late 1970s, Makarios helped establish a seminary in Nairobi, Kenya. He asked Andreas Tillyrides (now Metropolitan Makarios) to organize the seminary. The newly built seminary opened its doors to students from East Africa in 1982 and later, in 1995, received students from West Africa, Zimbabwe, and Madagascar. During his time as dean at the Orthodox Patriarchal Seminary of Archbishop Makarios III in Nairobi, Andreas Tillyrides began a program which guided students to translate services of the Orthodox Church into more than 15 African dialects. Andreas was tonsured a monk in 1992, receiving the name Makarios. Shortly after this, he was ordained to the priesthood and then consecrated bishop by Metropolitan Petros and Bishop Theodoros of Uganda. As Archbishop of Kenya, he currently oversees more than 430 churches, and is fluent in multiple African dialects. He was instrumental in the consecration of Bishop Athanasios (Akunda) of Kisumu and West Kenya in 2015 and Bishop Neophytos (Kongai) of Nyeri and Mt. Kenya in 2016.

The current Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and all Africa, Theodoros II (Choreftakis) of Alexandria, is renowned for his missionary zeal. In 1997, he served as the Metropolitan of Cameroon, which he greatly expanded through the building of churches, hospitals, and schools. In 2002, Metropolitan Theodoros was called upon to serve the holy Metropolis of Zimbabwe. There, he founded four missionary centers, nursery schools, technical schools, and two additional mission centers in Malawi. He was also active in forming Orthodox communities in Botswana and Angola. Following the sudden death of Petros VII, the Patriarch of Alexandria at the time, Theodoros was unanimously elected to the Throne on October 9, 2004.

Mention should also be made here of the great and ever memorable Orthodox missionaries to Africa, Father Athanasios Anthidis (who served in Congo, as well as India), Metropolitan Ignatios Mandelidis of Pentapolis, Metropolitan Timothy (Kontomeros), Bishop Nektarios (Kellis) of Madagascar, as well as the current Metropolitan Nikiforos (Mikragiannanitis) of Kinshasa, Metropolitan Theodosius of Kananga, and Bishop Ignatios (Sennis) of Madagascar (who also served as a missionary to Korea).

The Orthodox Missionary Fraternity of Greece reports missionary work in many other African nations at this time, including: Rwanda, South Africa, Malawi, Nigeria, Gabon, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, Benin, Burundi, Guinea, Sudan, Mauritius, Zambia, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe.

Albania

During Communist times, Albania had become the first officially atheist nation in history. The Church was severely persecuted; the Albanian hierarchy was destroyed. But with the end of Communism, the Albanian Church was miraculously resurrected under the leadership of Archbishop Anastasios (Yannoulatos) of Tirana and All Albania.

After being ordained a deacon in 1960, Anastasios formed “Porefthentes” (meaning “sent”), a journal dedicated to Orthodox missions that was published in both Greek and English. It provided educational materials related to the history, theology, methods, and spirit of Orthodox missionary work. Although the journal came to an end after ten years, its short existence led to the establishment of an inter-Orthodox mission center. The goal of this organization was to raise awareness among the Orthodox faithful about the missionary role of the Church. Once Anastasios was ordained to the priesthood in 1964, he traveled to Uganda, where he celebrated his first Divine Liturgy. Despite his long-term intentions, Father Anastasios was forced to return to Greece due to his health, after contracting malaria. At the advice of his doctors, Father Anastasios agreed not to return to Africa. Determined to remain active in missions, he pursued academic studies in missiology.

“In 1968, the efforts of Fr. Anastasios and his Porefthentes staff bore fruit in the Bureau of External Missions within the Apostoliki Diakonia of the Church of Greece, the official missionary arm of the Church of Greece.” In 1972, Father Anastasios was consecrated titular Bishop of Androussa and confirmed as general director of Apostoliki Diakonia. In the same year, he was given a professorship at the University of Athens, where he established a center for missionary studies.

In 1980, Patriarch Nicholas of Alexandria asked Bishop Anastasios to help breathe new life into the Archdiocese of East Africa. Bishop Anastasios readily agreed to this task, becoming the acting archbishop for East Africa. He “worked to create a strong Orthodox community through training and establishing indigenous leaders. In 1982, he re-opened the Orthodox seminary in Nairobi that Abp. Makarios of Cyprus had founded ten years before but remained incomplete because of political instability in Cyprus. Over the next ten years Abp. Anastasios ordained sixty two indigenous priests and deacons and forty-two readers and catechists from the graduates of the seminary. These clergy provided the foundation for the renewal of the church in East Africa. By the time he departed Africa in 1991, he left a legacy through his efforts to assimilate with the indigenous Christians and empower them to embrace Orthodoxy as their own.”

In 1991, after the fall of Communism, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew appointed Anastasios to oversee the all-but-destroyed Church of Albania. Enthroned as Archbishop of Tirana in 1992, Anastasios became the spiritual leader of all Orthodox communities of Albania, regardless of ethnic origin (thus, under his aegis, there are today various Romanian, Serbian, Greek, Macedonian, and Albanian parishes). Archbishop Anastasios initiated what has been called the resurrection of the Albanian Orthodox Church, establishing a seminary, ordaining numerous native clergy, renovating dilapidated churches, and constructing new churches throughout the nation. Under his inspired leadership, the Orthodox Christian Mission Center has joined him in renewing the Christian faith of the Albanian Orthodox and preaching the Gospel to the Albanian Muslims.

Orthodox Christian Mission Center

By the gracious providence of God, Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology (Brookline, Massachusetts) began accepting students applying from Africa in the late 1950s. A number of students formed a Missions Committee to support these students and to raise awareness about the missionary work of the Orthodox Church in Africa. This student movement was led by (Father) Alexander Veronis, who later became the founding President of Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC).

What began as a small committee in 1962 became the Greek Orthodox Archdiocesan Mission Center in 1984. The Mission Center was first based in New York, then transferred to the St Photios shrine in St Augustine, Florida, where Greek Orthodox Christian immigrants had first stepped foot in North America in 1768.

Starting in 1987, the Mission Center sent short-term mission teams to East and West Africa, later expanding to 25 other countries. At the suggestion of Charles Ajalat, Archbishop Iakovos “moved forward the idea” to make the Mission Center an agency of SCOBA (Standing Conference of the Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas). “This concept was embraced by all involved,” and in light of its taking on a pan-Orthodox nature, the GOA Mission Center was renamed the Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC). “By 2014, 2500 short term and 115 long term missionaries have served in thirty different countries under the OCMC,” consisting of “clergy, physicians, nurses, teachers, catechists, social workers, church builders, translators, and volunteers of all ages.” The approach OCMC takes in cross-cultural missionary work is to seek the blessing of the Orthodox hierarchs in the sending nations and to work closely with and support the initiatives of the Orthodox hierarchs in the receiving nations.

Other Recent Orthodox Mission Work

Since the fall of Communism, the Russian Orthodox Church has also been very active in sending missionaries around the world, often alongside Greek missionaries. Orthodox churches under the direction of Russia or of the Ecumenical Patriarchate have been founded in the following countries in Asia: South Korea (where there is a native clergy), the Philippines, China, Hong Kong, Cambodia, Indonesia (Father Daniel (Byantoro)), Pakistan (Father Joseph Farooq), India, Thailand, Singapore. The Orthodox Church also is actively growing in Central and South America, especially in Cuba, Mexico, Haiti, and Guatemala. The case of Guatemala is particularly noteworthy: 200,000 Guatemalan “Indians” mass converted to the Orthodox faith under the spiritual guidance of the charismatic social justice figure, Father Andres Giron. There is currently an Orthodox orphanage in Guatemala City (Hogar Rafael Ayau) run by the Monastery of the Holy Trinity (Guatemala), as well as a medical clinic in Aguacate. The Greek Orthodox Bishop of Australia, Amphilochios Tsoukos, who previously served in the Congo, has established churches in Oceania, including New Zealand, Fiji, Tonga, and Samoa.

Orthodox Missionary Saints

Missionaries and Evangelists in the Bible:

The Apostles (the Twelve):

1. Apostle Peter

Apostle Paul

2. Apostle Andrew

3. Apostle James

4. Apostle John

5. Apostle Thomas

6. Apostle James

7. Apostle Philip

8. Apostle Bartholomew (Nathaniel)

9. Apostle Matthew (Levi)

10. Apostle Simon

11. Apostle Thaddeus (Jude, Lebaeus)

12. Apostle Matthias


The Seventy Apostles


St Mary Magdalene, Apostle to the Apostles


Other Orthodox Missionary Saints:

  • Thekla, Equal of the Apostles (Asia Minor)
  • Columban of Luxeuil (France, Switzerland, Italy)
  • Boniface of Crediton (the Netherlands; Germany)
  • Ansgar the Apostle of the North (Scandinavia)


Noteworthy uncanonized missionaries of the Orthodox Church:

  • Hieromartyr Daniel Sysoev (evangelist in Moscow; martyred by Muslim fanatic in 2009)
  • Archbishop Dmitri (Royster) of Dallas, Apostle of the South (convert to the Orthodox Church; active in Texas, Mexico, and the American South; reposed in 2011; body was discovered to be incorrupt)
  • Father Cosmas (Aslanidis) of Grigoriou (missionary to modern-day Congo; reposed in 1989)
  • Nicolai Ilminsky (translator and missionary to Muslims on Russian frontiers; reposed in 1891)
  • Metropolitan Innocent (Figurovsky) of Beijing (missionary bishop to China; reposed in 1931)
  • Archbishop Joasaph of Buenos Aires (missionary bishop to Canada; reposed in 1955)
  • Metropolitan Archbishop Athenagoras Aneste (Latin America; still living)
  • Archbishop Anastasios (Yannoulatos) of Albania (Uganda; Kenya; Albania; still living)
  • Metropolitan Amphilochios (Tsoukos) of New Zealand (Congo; New Zealand; still living)

See also