by Metropolitan Makarios (Tillyrides) of Kenya


Among the many developments since Independence, none can be more significant than the construction of the Orthodox Patriarchal Seminary in Nairobi, Kenya.

From the day of its opening for actual function of the Seminary, Orthodox in East Africa has grown by leaps and bounds and within the framework of true Orthodoxy under the Patriarchate of Alexandria and All Africa.

The Orthodox Patriarchal Seminary was the brainchild of Archbishop Makarios III, Hierarch of the Orthodox Church of Cyprus and President of the Republic of Cyprus.

In April 1957, His Beatitude made a visit to Nairobi and celebrated the divine Service on the Cathedral of Sts. Anargyroi. Later, as Head of the State of Cyprus, he made a State Visit to Kenya as the guest of the late Jomo Kenyatta, President of the Republic of Kenya and his personal friend. It was during this visit in 1970 he saw the heart of the African Orthodox Church.

As Hierarch, His Beatitude made a pastoral visit to Kenya in March 1971 and performed mass baptisms in Nairobi and Nyeri. His Beatitude saw then the need for a Seminary to meet the clerical needs of East Africa and he was impressed by the favourable attitude of the government of Kenya and the late President Kenyatta.

On March 22nd, 1971, Archbishop Makarios laid the foundation stone of the Orthodox Patriarchal Seminary at Riruta, with the blessings of His Beatitude Nicholas, Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and all Africa.

In His Beatitude’s address on that auspicious day, he said: “ To help our African brothers in their search for the ways of God in Christian virtue and brotherhood and with the blessings of Almighty God we create here a centre from which new Apostles of Christ will spread the word of the Lord in this part of the world and administer the comforting joy of the Gospel in the hearts of our beloved African brothers.” He pointed out that it was a symbol and expressed link of friendship between the peoples of Kenya and Cyprus.

The ensuing political crisis which befell Cyprus in 1974 delayed the opening of the Seminary. The Seminary has been in operation since 1981, training catechists and priests of the Archbishopric of Kenya and Irinoupolis, Orthodox Church, which comprises the whole African continent.

Orthodoxy in East Africa Today

Today, in East Africa there are two Metropolitans in Uganda and Kenya, one of whom is African. At present they are under the spiritual and administrative guidance of the Patriarchate of Alexandria and all Africa. There are 80 priests in Kenya; 22 in Uganda and 11 in Tanzania.

In 1998 the Seminary was renamed the Orthodox Patriarchal School. Today the School follows the curriculum of other Orthodox Theological Schools and functions with 42 students from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Madagascar, Zimbabwe and Cameroon who are being trained to meet the needs of the rapidly growing Orthodox Faith. Graduates of the School have gone abroad to study in Greece and America. Some are currently members of the present teaching staff of the School.

To say Orthodoxy in East Africa is perfect or free of problems would be untrue. The Church, which is truly the African Orthodox Church, is struggling to find ways and means to support itself and to build upon the foundations of the original work of the Apostle Mark, Evangelist of Africa.

The Church has benefited from aid from Greece, Cyprus, Finland and the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese in America in the form of finance and human resources.

There are many programmes ongoing concerning Youth and Women. Translations of the Divine Services of Orthodoxy are being made in many of the languages of Africa and printed by Apostoliki Diakonia. Churches, schools, health centres, nursery schools are being built throughout the continent.

One can hope that Orthodoxy in Africa is coming to a point of flowering maturity - when it will be able to plan and implement a self-sustaining growth and strength for the Glory of God.