The congregation and clergy of the Pan-Orthodox church of St. Spyridon in Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico, were received into communion with the Catholic Church as a Greek-Catholic Byzantine community under the “Omophorion” or jurisdiction of Archbishop Roberto González Nieves of San Juan. He is a Franciscan of the Latin rite.

In a welcoming ceremony on June 10, archdiocesan Vicar General Alberto Figueroa Morales presided on behalf of the Archbishop. The priests and parishioners made the profession of faith and during the liturgy commemorated as Supreme Pontiff, Pope Francis, while also recognizing Archbishop Gonzalez as Metropolitan. In doing so, the community of St. Spyridon (San Espiridión) became the first community to represent the churches of the East within the broader Catholic Church under the guidance of the Pope.

Formerly, the community was under the authority of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I. Orthodox Christian missionaries, under the authority of the Greek Orthodox diocese of Mexico City, came to minister to Orthodox Christians and spread the faith. For the last ten years, Archbishop Gonzalez had permitted the Orthodox community to use a Roman Catholic chapel on the grounds of the leprosarium.

The ceremony began with a Profession of Faith by Archimandrite Andrew Vujisić -- the pastor of the community -- and  Protopresbyter Peter DiLeo, along with the faithful. The Liturgy was concelebrated by the archimandrite and the vicar general, in which Pope Francis was recognized by the community for the first time as part of entering into full communion.

After the liturgy, Vicar General Figueroa said, “Brothers and Sisters, we have witnessed the best gift and joy that God can give, which are the Holy Mysteries. Archbishop Roberto González Nieves expresses his joy that you have wanted to eliminate the uncertainty over how and when this agreement could be reached, and says that it is now time to do so, so here we are.” 

A number of ethnic communities are represented at the mission. There are priests and faithful who serve in various languages:

Fr Andrija Vujisic for the Serbian and Montenegrin communities;

Fr Peter DiLeo for the Albanian community;

Theo Ladias for the Greek community;

Lisa Ortega for the Puerto Rican community;

Tatiana Stoyanova for the Russian and Bulgarian communities;

Spyridon Morrow for the American community.

The Divine Liturgy according to Eastern Catholic traditions will be celebrated in the Slavonic, Spanish, and English languages and following the Julian (old) calendar.



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Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat and the editor of Spero News.

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