COSTA RICA: January 31, 2008
Bishop Gabriel of Manhattan Consecrates the Foundation of an Orthodox Church in Costa Rica
On January 27, 2008, a new page turned in the life of the local community of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, which has had a presence in Costa Rica for over a decade. On this bright Sunday morning, on a parcel of land in the town of Coronado belonging to the parish, the foundation was laid for an Orthodox church, the first one on Costa Rican soil.
By the decision of the Synod of Bishops, the future church was dedicated to the Icon of the Mother of God of Vladimir. In accordance with Orthodox tradition, a capsule containing a piece of a relic, in this case, of Holy Prince Andrei Bogolubsky, was laid into the foundation; his name is closely bound with this famous icon, which enjoys special veneration throughout Russia. Prince Andrei took this icon from Vyshgorod, in the Kievan Duchy, to the new capital, the city of Vladimir. According to church chronicles, the path of the icon to the north was strewn with a multitude of miracles, and not far from Vladimir, the horses in the convoy suddenly stopped and refused to proceed. Prince Andrei decided to stay there overnight. That night, the Mother of God appeared to him and told him to leave the icon in Vladimir permanently. The Prince obeyed, and on the site where he had this vision, he had a town erected, which he named Bogoliubovo [from the Russian word for "God-loving"]. The Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God eventually became venerated as Russia's chief holy icon.
A delegation headed by His Grace Bishop Gabriel of Manhattan came to lay the foundation. Participating in the ceremonious service were Protopriest Daniel McKenzie, who had ministered to the Costa Rican community for many years; Fr Alexander Gorbunov of the Moscow Patriarchate; Deacon Dimitri Temidis and Subdeacon Vladimir Barros. The Ambassador of the Russian Federation in Costa Rica, Valery Nikolaenko, was present along with other members of the Embassy, as well as over 60 members of the community comprised of Russians who settled here and Costa Ricans and Orthodox Christians of other nationalities.
During the reading of the hours, Bishop Gabriel ordained to the rank of reader and then subdeacon one of the active parishioners, Rodion Aragon, giving the Costa-Rican Orthodox community its first regular cleric. After this, Divine Liturgy was celebrated. At its conclusion, Vladyka Gabriel gave a profound sermon on the special importance of a church temple for every Orthodox Christian, and noted that churches in the diaspora are not only an inseparable part of the spiritual life of the faithful, but from the very beginning helped and continue to help Russians living outside the Fatherland to preserve their tongue, their culture, their love for their distant Homeland, and also aid in rearing new generations in the traditions of Orthodoxy and love for Russia.
That evening, the Ambassador hosted a reception at his residence to honor Bishop Gabriel and his consorts. The founder and Warden of the community, Nikolai Zacharov, and other representatives of the Russian diaspora were also in attendance. In his speech, Ambassador Nikolaenko welcomed Vladyka Gabriel and noted that the visit to Costa Rica of such an important delegation for the purpose of founding an Orthodox church has historic meaning not only for the local Orthodox Christians but also in the context of the canonical unification of the two branches of Russian Orthodoxy—the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia and the Moscow Patriarchate—since representatives of both fraternal churches participated. In his response, Vladyka Gabriel expressed his confidence that the church now begun will not only allow the local Orthodox Christians to live a full spiritual life, but will help unify all Russians and citizens of the former Soviet Republics now living in Costa Rica in their faith, their cultural traditions and love for the Fatherland. He also expressed hope that the official representatives of the Russian Federation actively participate in this process.