· Argentinian Jesuits and relations with the Orthodox Church ·
Fr Gennadij Geroev, currently a priest at the large parish of St John the Warrior in the centre of Moscow, for nearly six years was parish priest (1988-1993) of the Orthodox Church of the Annunciation in Buenos Aires. He therefore had the opportunity to meet the local community of Jesuits and to get to know Fr Bergoglio and see him in action.
His is the story of a normal Soviet boy who was born in 1959 and raised in the faith by his grandmother. Metropolitan Filaret, having learned that young Fr Gennadij, recently ordained (1987), knew foreign languages, sent him to Argentina in June 1988. The situation that awaited Fr Gennadij in Argentina was far from easy: “The Russian-speaking population, resulting from three waves of emigration from the USSR (especially from the second one, in the years immediately following the Second World War), numbered around half a million, the majority of whom were Ukrainian. The faithful were scattered throughout Argentina. In particular there were major settlements along the border with Brazil, close to the famous Iguaçu Falls.
It was the Jesuits, mainly Byzantine-rite priests who had come on mission from Europe who assured the care of Greek-Catholic souls. The young Muscovite priest made friends with them first of all. Anyone who knows the slightest history of the difficult relations between Catholics (particularly Greek-rite Catholics) and Orthodox, realizes how extraordinary this friendship was: “When I arrived, I also had the usual prejudices and stereotyped ideas about the Jesuits, but after having become acquainted with them (and I met at least six in Argentina), I have had to change my mind: they were truly radiant, friendly, sincere, happy, in brief, people of faith”.
During his mission in Argentina Fr Gennadij naturally also had an opportunity to meet Fr Bergoglio: “a man of rare moral qualities, who is generous and understanding. A simple and accessible person”.
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