Mexico City, January 10, 2012
Metropolitan Jonah is visiting some of the diocesan missions through Thursday, January 12, offering an opportunity to strengthen their ties with the Church and plant seeds for ongoing missionary efforts.
The origin of what today is the Diocese of Mexico of the Orthodox Church in America were planted in the early 20th century, curiously through the Mexican National Catholic Church, distinct from the nation’s Roman Catholic Church. It was during the Revolution that antagonisms against the Roman Catholic Church were aroused by its historic association with the Spanish colonialists. Some of the first laws of the new Mexican Republic were antireligious. In 1917, all Church properties were nationalized, many churches were closed, monasteries were abolished and the communities dispersed, and clergymen were required to obtain licenses to function. Several attempts were made to establish a “national church.” In 1926, a Roman Catholic priest, with government support, was made head of the Independent Old Catholic Church of North America, and the Mexican National Catholic Church was founded.
The community thrived under the patronage of the government and at once extended its jurisdiction to Mexican communities in Texas. The National Church continued as an Old Catholic community until Father José Cortes y Olmos was appointed its bishop in 1961. He and his clergy became gradually convinced, through study and reflection, that the Old Catholic ecclesiological principles did not conform to the criteria of the One, True, Catholic Church. They came to identify with Orthodox Holy Tradition, and adopted the designation “Orthodox,” adopting the name “Iglesia Ortodoxa Catolica en Mexicao” (Orthodox Church in Mexico).
In 1971, Bishop José petitioned for the acceptance of his community into the Orthodox Church in America. He and other priests of his community were received in their Roman Catholic rank of priest, while an estimated ten to twenty thousand faithful were also received into the Orthodox Christian faith. Father José studied at Saint Vladimir’s Seminary prior to his consecration as Bishop of Mexico City, which took place at Holy Virgin Protection Cathedral in New York City on April 22, 1972. Despite countless obstacles, what had become the Exarchate of Mexico continued to grow through the establishment of additional missions and conversions.
On January 28, 1983, Bishop José fell asleep in the Lord after a relatively short bout with cancer. His Beatitude, Metropolitan Theodosius, presided at the funeral service in Mexico City on February 1, 1983.
Archbishop Dmitri continued to oversee the life of the Exarchate until 2005, when a successor to Bishop José was found. On May 28 of that year, in services celebrated at Saint Tikhon’s Monastery in South Canaan, PA, Archimandrite Alejo (Pacheco-Vera) was consecrated as an auxiliary to Bishop Dmitri. On October 16, 2008, he was elected as the ruling bishop of the Exarchate. His Beatitude, Metropolitan Jonah, presided at his installation at Mexico City’s Ascension Cathedral on January 18, 2009. The Exarchate subsequently was granted full diocesan status.