Antiochian Orthodox Christian Presence in the Philippines.
In 2007 the leaders of two separate Christian groups in the Philippines contacted His Eminence Paul in Sydney, asking to join the Orthodox Church.
Many long and fruitful discussions were held between His Eminence and the two leaders, which culminated with His Eminence inviting them to Sydney for further face-to-face discussions. They arrived in May 2007, where they stayed as guests of His Eminence for three weeks. The teachings of the groups were considered and they also learned about Orthodoxy. At the end of the three weeks, both leaders stood and declared: “We accept what the Orthodox Church accepts and refuse what She refuses.” His Eminence answered them, “Welcome home,” the phrase with which Archbishop Philip welcomed the converts.
In December 2011, one of our Orthodox priests in Manila called His Eminence to report that he had been in contact with three different groups and some individual leaders who had all come to the conclusion that they would like to join the Orthodox Church. The Archdiocese began communications with these groups. We learnt that the larger group, consisting of some seven thousand families, knew much about Orthodoxy and that their leaders were very proud to call themselves “orthodox” with a small o.
On Saturday, January 28, His Eminence traveled to the Philippines to visit his parishes and to meet with the new groups. On Tuesday, January 31, His Eminence and seven clergymen of the two larger groups met and discussed their teachings over three full days. At the conclusion of this meeting His Eminence welcomed them to the Antiochian Orthodox Church and promised to bring some of their clergy to Sydney for training and ordination, to be followed by a trip to the Philippines by His Eminence to train and ordain the other leaders.
The groups are the Apostolic Catholic Church, with Two Hundred Fifty families; the Missionary Society of St. Paul, with Seven thousand families of whom are relocates from railroads all over Metro Manila; a minister with one hundred families; a bishop with a thousand families; and a leader with a large group of social workers who work with the homeless and poor.
During his visit to the Philippines, His Eminence and three of the new ministers who are already involved as hospital chaplains visited a government hospital that serves 250 poor children. They asked that the hospital directors assign one of our clergymen as a chaplain, which the directors agreed to do. The managers of the hospital asked His Eminence about arranging some donations of needed medicines and equipments. His Eminence promised to discuss the request with members of the Board of Trustees and to form a doctors’ committee to try to meet some of the needs.
The following day His Eminence and his team visited a school of a thousand students, where the administrator agreed to assign one of our clergymen as school chaplain. An e-mail was received informing the hierarch that religious services have begun and the consulting office has been opened in the school.
On Saturday, February 4, His Eminence visited another of the new churches, where hundreds of believers were waiting for him. The children and the youth presented a well planned performance, followed by a choir recital. His Eminence spent hours discussing the future of their group and their future worship with us.
“Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me’” (Matthew 25:37-40).