New Orthodox Metropolitan Wishes To Continue Cooperation With Other Christian Churches

2008-03-04 00:00:00

Local Christian Church leaders have welcomed the new head of the Orthodox Metropolitanate of Hong Kong and South East Asia.

The enthronement of Metropolitan Nektarios Tsilis, 39, on March 1 at the Canossian Chapel, located near the Orthodox Church´s St. Luke Cathedral, drew around 200 Christians of various denominations. The ceremony was held at the Catholic chapel because it can accommodate more people than St. Luke.

Metropolitan Athenagoras of Mexico, representing Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, presided at the ceremony. Auxiliary Bishop Ambrosios of Korea assisted him. A Russian Orthodox priest who serves in Hong Kong and several Greek Orthodox priests from overseas also attended.

The enthronement of an Orthodox metropolitan is similar to the installation of a Catholic archbishop in his archdiocese.

Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun of Hong Kong Catholic diocese, Archbishop Paul Kwong, primate of Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui (Anglican Church) and Methodist Reverend Ralph Lee Ting-sun, secretary general of the Hong Kong Christian Council, represented other Christian Churches at the service.

Metropolitan Nektarios told the congregation he would be a candle to shine his "humble light," even though the number of Orthodox Christians is not many.

He told UCA News on March 3, his first day in office, that he would lead the metropolitanate in maintaining "a good relationship and cooperation with other Christian Churches here."

He said he would plan for the Orthodox Church´s mission here but that planning for mainland China, which the metropolitanate also covers, seems "difficult." The metropolitanate maintains good relations with the Russian Orthodox priests to develop their mission in China, he added.

Metropolitan Nikitas Lulias was enthroned as the first Orthodox metropolitan in Hong Kong in January 1997, two months after the metropolitanate was established and six months before Hong Kong´s handover from British to Chinese rule.

Last July, Metropolitan Nikitas was named metropolitan of Dardanelles and head of Patriarch Athenagoras Orthodox Institute in Berkeley, United States. The appointment left the metropolitanate based in Hong Kong vacant until his successor was elected on Jan. 9 and later ordained at St. George Potiras Church of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople (Istanbul) on Jan. 20.

The Ecumenical Patriarchate also decided on Jan. 9 to split the metropolitanate by creating a new one in Singapore. Now the Hong Kong and South East Asia metropolitanate covers Cambodia, Hong Kong, Laos, mainland China, Myanmar, the Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.

Orthodox Father Konstantinos Tsilis of St. Luke Cathedral told UCA News the metropolitanate will work with other Christian Churches as before, "as we are one family."

A Greek laywoman who has lived here for 19 years told UCA News she hoped the new leader would bring them "spiritual guidance and work with other Christian Churches to spread the Gospel in society."

Anglican Bishop Thomas Soo, Hong Kong Christian Council chairperson, told UCA News he hoped to cooperate with the new metropolitan, as with his predecessor, in many aspects. The metropolitanate is a member of the council.

Father Edward Hsueh Kwan-ho, who chairs Hong Kong Catholic diocese´s Ecumenical Commission, told UCA News local Catholic and Orthodox Churches leaders have had close contacts. "We are brother Churches, as the Ecumenical Patriarchate is active in promoting unity with the Roman Catholic Church," he said.

From 2000, Metropolitan Nikitas taught Sacraments of Eastern Tradition at Holy Spirit Seminary College, which provides philosophy, theology and religious studies courses to seminarians and laypeople.

Father Peter Choy Wai-man told UCA News the college will also invite the new metropolitan to teach there.

Metropolitan Nektarios, born in 1969 in Greece, was ordained deacon in 1990 and priest in 1995. From 2001, he served as vicar of the Metropolis of Samos and Ikaria in Greece until his election as metropolitan. He is fluent in Greek and English.

The Orthodox community in Hong Kong began with about 100 members. Now it has 200 families -- Americans, Ethiopians, French, Greeks, Rumanians, Serbs and Hong Kong Chinese.

The Church of Constantinople is one of the 15 autocephalous (self-governing under its own bishop) Churches that comprise the Orthodox Church. The patriarch of Constantinople, who resides in Istanbul, is considered the "first among equals" in the Orthodox hierarchy, his office a symbol of Church unity.


(Accompanying photos available at here)

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