THE FOUNDING OF THE FIRST ORTHODOX MISSIONARY CENTER ...
IN SOUTH AFRICA
It is impossible for the Orthodox Church, and the Patriarchate of Alexandria and all Africa, to stand by passively in South Africa. In such a sensitive region which has been undergoing such enormous and fundamental changes, it is time for decisions to be made and actions to be taken. The idea of the establishment of an Orthodox Missionary Centre in South Africa has been around for years and now is the time to realise that objective.
In these times and in the world of the Orthodox Church, there is no place for individualism or racialism. Today we speak freely and we must think in the true spirit of the Gospel, particularly in relation to concern for our far away brethren.
We enjoy and savour the Light of Truth and Life which is none other than the Lord. We are children and supporters of Christ, enlisted to pass on the divine message of hope to every corner of the earth. God’s aim was and remains always, the salvation of the souls of those of every race and colour. We struggle daily for a response to this objective from ever more people of the world. We see developments daily in those few who have dedicated their lives to the service of others and the realisation of the commandment of our Lord that His Gospel should rule the world.
It is our common concern to pass on the Gospel Word to the suffering, the wronged and to those who have not yet heard the Word, who have not heard of the coming of the Lord to this earth. They have been waiting for two thousand years to hear “Glory to God in the highest, and peace and goodwill to all men”. It is this hymn which we wish to convey to the hearts of men who struggle to know the Lord and to accept Him as their Redeemer and Saviour.
It is in this spirit that over the past fifty years the Patriarchate of Alexandria has worked to proclaim the Christian truth and the evangelical light to the people of the African continent who had been deprived of the great privilege of knowing our Lord.
His Beatitude Petros VII, Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and all Africa, knows first-hand the missionary Dioceses of East and West Africa. He served both as Patriarchal Exarch in the Archdiocese of Irinoupolis (1991-1994), East Africa, and as Metropolitan of Cameroon and West Africa (1994-1997). His experiences there brought him to believe strongly in the need for the creation of an Orthodox Missionary Centre in South Africa. His Beatitude has been working ever since to encourage a group of African self-styled Orthodox Christians, numbering some 400,000, and through correspondence is moving towards formally accepting them into the Patriarchate of Alexandria and all Africa, an endeavour which, if it be the will of God, will soon be realised.
On 5th November 1997, while on a pastoral visit, H.B. Petros VII laid the foundation stone of the first Missionary Centre in South Africa. The 10,000 m2 plot of land upon which the Missionary Centre will be built, is situated between Pretoria and Hartbeespoortdam and was donated by Mr. and Mrs. Ioannis Karaolis, of a devout family from Pretoria.
The ceremony of the laying of the foundation stone was attended by H.E. Paul, Archbishop of Johannesburg and Pretoria and many friends of the mission, significantly including many of those destined to be amongst the first native South Africans to attend the Mission now under construction.
In his speech, His Beatitude emphasised the importance of the creation of such a centre for Orthodoxy and called for positive contributions towards the realisation of this worthy cause.
And so, as we find ourselves on the threshold of the twenty-first century, the foundations are being laid for a Missionary Centre which will be a source of salvation for hundreds of thousands of Africans, who will be welcomed to embrace Orthodoxy of their own free will and without proselytism.
A new Orthodox family will be born soon in South Africa. Let us pray that this effort by the Patriarchate of Alexandria with bear fruit so that our brethren may proclaim “the secret hidden for long ages and through many generations, but now disclosed to God’s people, to whom it was His will to make it known”. (Colossians 1.26)