Mission Update by Bishop Panteleimon of Brazzaville and Gabon
In early February, by God’s grace we paid one more visit to Libreville, the capital of Gabon, which is the second country under the spiritual jurisdiction of our Holy Diocese. This pastoral journey started on February 2nd, when we met with the Orthodox flock of the city in order to support it spiritually.The following day, we were visited by the Interior Minister of Gabon, responsible for religious affairs as well, who granted us the official recognition of our Diocese by the Gabonese state. This development greatly delighted us, since it opens the way for a broader mobilization and for the construction of new churches. This event made headlines on the public television, which featured our Church activities and asked us for an interview.
On the same evening, at the residence of the Serbian Consul, we conducted the Divine Liturgy and preached God’s Word. The service was prayerfully attended by Gabonese, Russian, Serbian and Syrian brothers. In this gathering, we laid for veneration a fragment of the holy relics of Saint Luke of Simferopol and Crimea, which we had brought along for the blessing of the faithful.
In the end, we gave out to everyone a book containing the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom translated into French. The expenditure for this publication was covered by an anonymous donation through the Orthodox Missionary Fraternity. We wholeheartedly thank the donor, because with this offer our flock is given the opportunity to deepen their understanding of the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.
When the Ambassador of Russia learned about St. Luke’s relic, he invited us to the Russian embassy, where we laid it for veneration and led a brief prayer service for the Orthodox employees of the embassy.
On the morning of February 5th, we left Gabon for Impfondo, a city in northern Congo, in order to visit the indigenous faithful. Immediately, we met with the parochial church council of Saints John the Baptist and Nicholas parish, as well as with the catechumens, whom we addressed with fatherly words in view of their baptism.
On the following day, February 6th, we had a long conversation with the supervising contractor of the church being erected for the parish and we were pleased to know the progress of the works. Then followed the baptism of indigenous neophytes of all ages in the Oubangui river. Addressing the newly-illumined on the river bank, I gave a theological interpretation of the meaning of the Sacrament of the Holy Baptism, expressed the delight of our local Church and exhorted them to become active preachers of the gospel and paragons of virtue for their fellow men, as Orthodox citizens of their noble country.
On Sunday, February 7th, we conducted the Divine Liturgy in the rented oratory, where the Orthodox faithful temporarily gather, and we offered them a copy of the Divine Liturgy.
On the same afternoon, we went to the rainforest where lives the Pygmy tribe, which has embraced the Orthodox faith. After the courteous welcome and speech of the centenarian tribal chief, the Bishop spoke in simple words about the liturgical life of the Church and the importance of our participation in it. Also, he provided them with a sufficient amount of salt for the preservation of meat, soap and matches, materials that are necessary for the hunting lifestyle of the indigenous people.
Furthermore, he made the venerable chief a suppliant request for the construction of a distinct place in the settlement, respectful of the traditional way in which they make their lodgings, so that the new parish priest of Impfondo will visit the tropical forest every month to conduct the Divine Liturgy there and minister to the senior Pygmies, who suffer from motion disabilities. The request was enthusiastically accepted by the chief, who will take care of its implementation.
This weekly tour constituted a great blessing not only for our Orthodox faithful, who came closer to our Church, but also for us. We praise God that nowadays, despite the adverse conditions, He draws so many souls to faith and transforms people’s lives.