July 23, 2008
SEOUL (UCAN): South Korean Christian leaders have welcomed the new metropolitan of the Korean Orthodox Church, hoping for progress toward Christian unity.
Metropolitan Ambrosios Aristotelis Zographos was enthroned on July 20 at St. Nicholas Cathedral in Seoul as the Church's second metropolitan, similar in rank to a Catholic archbishop. Around 450 clergymen, Religious and laypeople of the Orthodox Church from South Korea and abroad attended.
The synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople had elected Metropolitan Ambrosios head of the Orthodox Metropolis of Korea on May 27, the same day it accepted the resignation of his predecessor, Metropolitan Sotirios Trambas.
In his enthronement speech, the new metropolitan spoke of the Orthodox Church's "unknown treasure" of patristic traditions. He called on all members of the Church in South Korea to bear faith witness through its liturgical and spiritual traditions. "Nowadays, many non-Orthodox Christians around the world recognize the uniqueness of Orthodox spirituality and seek to learn it," he said.
Auxiliary Bishop Hyginus Kim Hee-joong of Kwangju, president of the Korean Catholic bishops' Committee for Promoting Christian Unity and Interreligious Dialogue, was invited to the enthronement. Pointing out that the Orthodox Church has preserved traditions of the early Christian Church, he told UCA News that he sincerely congratulated the new metropolitan.
"Since the Vatican is in constant contact with the Ecumenical Patriarchate, I hope and pray that spiritual unity between the two can lead to a 'visible' unity with help from the Holy Spirit," said the bishop, who also serves as a member of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. He added that he hopes the new metropolitan will work together with "Western" Churches for unity, based on the Orthodox Church's preservation of early Christian liturgy as a spiritual heritage.
Reverend Kwon Oh-sung, secretary of the National Council of Churches in Korea, told UCA News at St. Nicholas Cathedral that the Orthodox Church, as a council member, has played an important role in Christian faith and liturgy. The Protestant pastor said he hoped the new metropolitan's enthronement would give the Orthodox Church momentum in spreading its traditions, liturgy and spirituality in Korean society.
The local Orthodox community began in 1900 with the arrival of three Russian missioners in Korea. Independent at first, it elected to join the Constantinople patriarchate in 1955. In 2004 it was raised to a metropolitanate and Metropolitan Sotirios enthroned as its first head.
Bishop Hyginus Kim Hee-joong (right) and Reverend Kwon Oh-sung (center) at Metropolitan Ambrosios-Aristotelis Zographos’ enthronement at St. Nicholas Cathedral.
The now-retired prelate, who was born in Greece in 1929 and came to South Korea in 1975, told UCA News he is "sure the Orthodox Church in Korea will develop a great deal" because of his successor's "sincerity and many talents." He described the new metropolitan as "a great scholar" who "loves Koreans very much and has expressed his dream to die in Korea."
Father Daniel Na Chang-kyu, archpriest of the Korean Orthodox Church, told UCA News on July 20 that Metropolitan Ambrosios was raised in a "classical" Orthodox family and strongly desires to maintain the Church's traditions. This "clear identity," the Orthodox priest said, contributes to Christian unity.
Father Na also said he will help the new metropolitan make the Church and its spirituality known to other people, especially through publications.
Metropolitan Ambrosios, born in Aegina, Greece, on March 15, 1960, was ordained a priest in 1991. In December 1998, he received his doctorate in theology from the University of Athens and came to South Korea. He was ordained an auxiliary bishop in December 2005.
According to Father Na, the Orthodox Metropolis of Korea has about 3,000 members with eight local clergymen, including two deacons, and two nuns. It administers seven churches and one monastery.
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