His Eminence, Archbishop Benjamin traveled to the Diocese of Mexico this week as part of an OCA delegation to His Eminence, Archbishop Alejo of Mexico City and his God-fearing flock. It has already been a decades-long tradition for a hierarch of the OCA to visit the Diocese of Mexico each year in January, a tradition in which Archbishop Benjamin has participated many times before.
His Eminence, accompanied by Priest Andrew Smith (Diocesan Administrative Assistant) and Subdeacon Leo Bulannikov (Assistant to the Archbishop), arrived on Thursday, January 12th, and was greeted by Archbishop Alejo and diocesan clergy at the airport.
The archbishops were back at Benito Juarez International Airport the next day, Friday January 13th, to greet His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon. His Beatitude was accompanied by Priest Alessandro Margheritino (Secretary of the OCA) and Deacon Peter Ilchuk (Executive Secretary to the Metropolitan). Also joining the delegation as official translator was Priest David Wooten (Diocese of the South), and his wife, Matushka Natalia.
On Saturday January 14th, the delegation visited St. Basil Orthodox Pastoral Academy in Mixquiahuala (State of Hidalgo). The hierarchs were joined by visiting clergy in serving an Akathist to the Mother of God, after which His Beatitude blessed the foundations of the chapel, still under construction.
After praying and blessing the chapel, a small convocation in honor of the completion of the academy’s very first unit of instruction was held. Archbishop Alejo and Hieromonk Saúl Díaz Sánchez addressed those gathered, and then Metropolitan Tikhon bestowed certificates of completion of the first academic unit upon the students. His Beatitude gave a closing exhortation, encouraging the members of the academy to follow the example of their patron, St. Basil the Great, who not only wrote about theology, but indeed, lived it out in his own life.
After a traditional meal of ‘barbacoa’, the delegates, students, and their families gathered back at the chapel for Great Vespers, served by Hieromonk Saúl and Deacon Peter Ilchuk.
On Sunday the delegation participated in the Hierarchical Liturgy at Holy Ascension Cathedral in Mexico City. Archbishop Alejo tonsured two readers just before the Liturgy. At the Little Entrance, Metropolitan Tikhon elevated Priest Jesús Ruiz Munilla to the rank of Archpriest. After the Gospel reading, His Beatitude offered a homily to the faithful in Spanish. At the conclusion of the Liturgy, the Great Blessing of Water was performed.
The Diocese of Mexico may be small by most standards, and it is surely challenged by limited resources, but the faith and zeal for the Church shown by its Hierarch, its clergy, and its people are great. There is much work to be done in this field white for harvest, but by the grace of God the faithful are indeed working! To help support this important mission of spreading the Gospel of Christ in Mexico, Archbishop Benjamin presented Archbishop Alejo with a substantial financial gift on behalf of the Diocesan Council and the Diocese of the West. Glory to God for all things!