Although there are still few Orthodox clergy able to develop a ministry in Spanish or Portuguese, Archbishop Jonah, metropolitan of the Orthodox Church of America (OCA), said in an interview with Miguel Palacio in Pravoslavie.ru (Dec. 21) that there are more and more people from Latin America, especially of local Indian descent, feeling called to Orthodoxy.
“American Indians may become the largest ethnic group in the American Orthodox Church,” he said. While Greek and Antiochian parishes in Latin America tend to minister primarily to people of Orthodox descent, Metropolitan Jonah emphasizes the priority of his Church to develop missionary work among local people. In the Mexican Exarchate of the OCA, which was organized in the 1970s, he reports that hundreds of people were brought into the church over the years and that, “not long ago,” 5,000 Indians from the Veracruz State were received in the Church.
Thousands of people in Guatemala, mostly of Indian descent, are asking to be accepted in the Orthodox Church. According to the metropolitan, liturgy, icons and the veneration for Virgin Mary as practiced in the Orthodox Church are primary factors in attracting Latinos to Orthodoxy. But he also emphasizes the loss of influence of the Roman Catholic Church, due to its long association with the upper social classes.
The disillusionment has benefited evangelicals and other religious groups, and apparently now also the Orthodox Church. However, the metropolitan does not feel that this could lead to conflictual relations between Orthodox and the Catholic Church, and feels there could even be some collaboration.