Current Issue
September, 2019
Volume 45, Number 3
28 August 2012
Aaron Nelsen

Father Francisco Salvador, a descendant of Palestine immigrants, performs a wedding between a Catholic bride and an Orthodox groom at St. Mary’s Orthodox Church in Santiago, Chile. (photo: Tomas Munita)

Upon leaving their homes and families, there was a common sentiment among Palestinian immigrants that they would one day return. Considering the tumultuous circumstances at home that never seemed to abate, it’s understandable that few ever did.

Interestingly, Chile was not as foreign as they might have imagined. To be sure, there were pronounced differences in language, food and religion. However, there were more than a few similarities.

The equatorial climate was ideal for growing many of the same fruits and vegetables common to the Middle East. Although the most famous story to make its way back to Palestine during the late 1800s was the myth of three men named Jorge who made a fortune as merchants, many other Palestinian immigrants in Chile settled in as farmers.

Before Palestinians crossed the Andes Mountains into Chile, 800 years of Arab influence in Spain had already made its way to Chile with the arrival of Andalucían immigrants. Literally dozens of Arab words were tweaked to fit the Spanish language, such as ojalá, which translates as “God willing.” Even the traditional Chilean folk dance, called the Cueca, is of Andalucían-Arab origin.

When it came to the church, however, that is where similarities to home ended. Chile’s constitution officially recognized only the Roman Catholic Church and until a new constitution was written in 1925 separating church and state, any religion other than Roman Catholic had to practice its faith behind closed doors, or at least out of plain sight.

In the capitol of Santiago, Patronato was the commercial hub and neighborhood of the country’s largest Palestinian community. Naturally, Patronato was pegged as the site for the first Orthodox cathedral.

Saint George’s Cathedral was inaugurated in 1917, six years before the 1925 constitution was passed into law, and so the church had to be concealed. To solve this problem the cathedral was built off the street, tucked in by buildings on both sides, a condition in which Chile’s longest-standing and most famous Orthodox Church can still be found today.

Tags: Orthodox Farming/Agriculture Palestinians Arabs Church

27 April 2012
Erin Edwards

Archbishop Fares meets with families after baptisms at Our Lady of Paradise Cathedral in São Paulo. (photo: Izan Petterle)

In the July 2011 issue of ONE, São Paulo based journalist Fidel Madeira reported on the Melkite Greek Catholics who have called São Paulo home for the past 100 years:

“In the Middle East, it is common for parishes to have on file the names and details of all the families in the area. Having those archives in hand helps our work. In São Paulo, on the other hand, people move around frequently,” says the priest. “And just the city alone is a world unto itself. Its vastness makes it hard for someone who does not live close to us to attend church regularly. But thankfully, they come to us on important occasions, such as weddings, baptisms and funerals.”

“By the grace of God, we manage to find ways to preserve our traditions,” adds Archbishop Fares. “But there is still much more to be done. For instance, I am trying to translate, in a more comprehensive way, our liturgy into Portuguese and bring awareness to the richness and beauty of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church.

“I have become acquainted with a new reality when moving to Brazil and now recognize the plurality of the Catholic Church,” continues the archbishop. “All the natural beauty — the endless forests, waterfalls with crystalline water — that I was hoping to find, I did find after all: in the hearts of the Brazilian people.”

For more, read Paradise in Brazil.

Tags: Middle East Cultural Identity Melkite Greek Catholic Church Arabs