Bishop John of Caracas and South America Completes an Archpastoral Trip to the Orthodox Communities in Chile

At dawn on Friday, September 4, 2009, His Grace Bishop John of Caracas and South America landed at Santiago Airport in Chile. He was greeted there by Priest Alexei Aedo, Rector of the Church of St Nectario, Metropolitan of Pentapolis, in Santiago and the Mission of St Silouan of Athos in Concepcion. Also in the welcoming group were Deacon Roberto Leon, Reader Eduardo Medel, Mrs Elizabeth Zhurlova, the Parish Secretary, and Mr Carlos Toro, a parishioner of St Nectario.

After breakfast and a few hours of rest, His Grace, accompanied by his hosts, headed for the Russian cemetery in Puente Alto, a town on the outskirts of Santiago, where Archbishop Leonty of Chile (+1971) is buried.

Bishop John performed a litany at the cemetery chapel in memory of Archbishop Leonty and the other Russian Orthodox Christians buried there. The day ended with vespers at St Nectario Church, after which His Grace delivered a brief sermon and met with the worshipers.

On Saturday, September 5, the Apodosis of the Dormition of the Mother of God, Vladyka John officiated at Divine Liturgy in the chapel of St Nectario. Despite the fact that Saturday is a work day for many, a large number of parishioners gathered, most of them Orthodox Christian Chileans.

After Divine Liturgy, the parishioners offered their guests a luncheon consisting of traditional native foods: fish, seafood and vegetables.

That evening, Vladyka John, Fr Alexei and Deacon Roberto departed for a flight to Concepcion, a large city 519 km south of Santiago. His Grace was greeted at the airport by the parishioners of the Mission of St Silouan. They offered dinner to Vladyka and his fellow travelers, during which they shared their ideas for building a church for the local Orthodox population.

On Sunday, September 6, the feast day of Holy Martyr Eutychios, a disciple of St John the Theologian, Bishop John led Divine Liturgy at the Arab Stadium in Chiguayante, just south of Concepcion.

During the reading of the hours, His Grace Vladyka John ordained Raul (George) Keballos as reader. Keballos is a Lieutenant of the Chilean Navy, and will serve at St Silouan Mission. Divine Liturgy was attended by Palestinian, Russian and Chilean families from Concepcion and nearby cities. After the service, they welcomed and took blessings from His Grace.

That evening, after lunch at the hotel, the travelers headed for an excursion to the nearby harbor of Talcahuano, where the Peruvian warship Monitor Huascar is anchored; the ship was captured during the Second Pacific War (1879-1883). The tour concluded with a visit to the typical Chilean town of Lenga.

On Monday, September 7, Bishop John, Fr Alexei and Deacon Roberto and Filipo Barodit and Alex Katan, members of the local Orthodox population, met with the Mayor of Chiguayante, in whose municipality the Mission of St Silouan is located. The mayor promised to support the Mission.

After the meeting, Vladyka and his delegation visited a Chilean Arab school, whose students are mostly the descendants of Palestinian immigrants, many of whom are Orthodox Christians. Vladyka John held a brief conversation with the English-speaking students.

That evening, Vladyka, his fellow-travelers and a few Russian families were invited for dinner by entrepreneur Nikolai Imshchenetsky, who welcomed them in the hotel he owns. Later that evening, Vladyka John, Fr Alexei and Deacon Roberto, along with Reader George Cortes, flew back to Santiago.

On Tuesday, September 8, His Grace went on an excursion of Santiago: San Cristobal Hill, Santa Lucia Hill and the Old Quarter.

Afterwards, Bishop John visited the homes of several Orthodox families, heard their stories and details about parish life. That evening, the parish council of St Nectario invited Vladyka John to traditional Chilean tea at the home of the treasurer; they showed His Grace their plans for the purchase and construction of a parish church.

The following day, Vladyka John returned home to Buenos Aires. All those who spent time with His Grace during this trip sensed that he is not only a bishop, but a real monk and pastor, full of love and understanding for his flock.

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