Another issue that should be corrected is:
The first gathering of the “Episcopal Assembly of the Orthodox Churches [sic] in South America” met April 16-18 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. According to a statement by the host, Metropolitan Athenagoras of Mexico of the Patriarchate of Constantinople: “All the Orthodox Churches participated in this meeting (Patriarchate of Constantinople, Patriarchate of Antioch, Patriarchate of Moscow (including ROCOR), Patriarchate of Romania) with the presence of ten hierarchs, the only one missing being the Bishop of the Patriarchate of Serbia, because of his participation in the meeting of the Holy Synod of Bishops in Serbia.” This statement was later amended with the discovery that two hierarchs of the Polish Orthodox Diocese in Brazil had not been invited, an oversight which was later admitted by the organizers to be “unintentional” and was “caused by a lack of accurate information about the Polish Orthodox Diocese in Brazil”.
The order of the facts as they happened is:
Invitations were sent to all but the Polish bishops - and as we are informed now to the OCA bishop;
Due to commotion on the internet and even before the Assembly started, the organizers were informed of the omission and published an apology declaring it was not intentional;
*After* this apology, after the event was over, they published the press release that claimed that the only canonical bishop not present was Don Mitrophan, the Serbian bishop. So, even after the mistake was acknowledged, the Polish bishops were not invited (what would be perfectly acceptable with a minor apology since Rio is just 45 min. away from São Paulo by plane) *and* the release complicated the issue since it fails to mention their absence, implying by the sentence "the only one missing being the Bishop of the Patriarchate of Serbia", that there was no mistake. One might question then: what is it? Are the organizers sorry to, by mistake, have not invited the canonical bishops of the Polish Brazilian diocese as the apology declares, or, as the press release implies, they are still (erroneously) convinced that the bishops really should not have been invited?
According to the official press release concerning the Sao Paulo gathering “The meeting discussed the adoption of a Spanish version of the documents approved in Chambesy, and the situation of each Orthodox Church in South America was presented.” The Assembly established a 5 member Executive Committee for the 10 member group, and set forth several recommendations to be dealt with on an inter-Orthodox level. although no details were given.
So they were dissed (disrespected) not only as Poles, but Brazilians as well. What could go wrong?
This points to an issue I have mentioned elsewhere. Brazil alone is half the continent and it is a culture and society very different from our Hispanic hermanos. The fact that the language is different means that an entire paralel effort of translations is needed. This is just the most explicit difference, but it is far from being the only significant one. Besides, there are Orthodox parishes in various states, but just four bishops who live in the country, two of which are the Polish bishops who are, so far, being ignored by the Assembly. The other two, Don Jeremias and Don Damaskinos, although receptive of Brazilians in their churches even in the clergy, lead jurisdictions that are, for historical reasons, concerned first and foremost with their respective ethnic groups. The "forgotten" bishops, along with the Serbian diocese, which was not present as well, are the only ones who have an active missionary focus. If it suggests any bias, it would be a bias against missionary groups. I really don't think that there is any problem in having focus in groups caring for the ethnic communities and others focusing on mission among the natives, as long as, of course, both groups see each other as complementary and not as a threat or obstacle.
In Brazil, in contrast to other countries, things usually happen from "up-down" and not "down-up" socially. What I mean is that while in some other countries you have first the people mobilizing to do something and that turns into new social institutions and values, in Brazil it is the institutions that have historically come first. The country itself was created this way and got its independence this way (I'm trying to attach a table that compares some historical milestones of Brazil and the US and that shows that formal institutions *form* society in Brazil and not the opposite).
What this means is that the creation of a formal institutional Brazilian synod (or "episcopal assembly") is more likely to form a Brazilan Orthodox community than the opposite. The missionary Polish and Serbian churches are a case in point. Now, of course, if this institution fails to demonstrate what differentiates Orthodoxy from heterodoxies, mainly the Latins, there will not even be a message to be sent accross. Why would one go to the "exotic", run-by-foreigners "Roman Church", if one has the familiar, home grown, established for centuries, Roman Church? Why choose one over the other if "we all believe the same things under different wordings" as the ecumenists preach? I think that the Orthodox church in Brazil has been suffering from an accute lack of creativity for expressing love *and* truth regarding the relations with the heterodoxies. Double-baptisms, double-marriages are accepted on a "don't ask, don't tell" basis, giving communion to heterodox is more the rule than the exception, not to mention the downplay of the theological differences. I think that none of this is necessary to have a healthy and positive dialogue with the heterodoxies and even collaboration in the secular issues that affect all Christian communities. Plus, marking these differences in a loving and civilized way would clarify and highlight Orthodox truth.
The Moscow Patriarchate has been signaling in the last couple of years interest in initiating missions in Latin-America. I hope that is the case and, to be honest, that a healthy competition from the Ecumenical Patriarchate over missionizing in South-America produces a real difference in attitudes regarding this continent.