Posted by: rbbadger | February 13, 2009

St. Nicholas Orthodox Cathedral

Back when I said that we had all the major churches and denominations of Christians well represented in Korea, I really meant it.  Near Aeogae station in Seoul, there is a beautiful, though small Orthodox church which is the cathedral church of His Eminence, Metropolitan Ambrosios (Zographos) of Korea.  Back in the early 20th century, Russian Orthodox missionaries began their missionary labours in South Korea.  They left behind them a small community of Orthodox Christians.  Unfortunately, the Russians had to leave during the Japanese occupation years and the community went without a priest for a long time.  The Russians also left behind a larger church in Japan, now lead by ethnically Japanese bishops and priests.

During the Korean War, a Greek Orthodox priest who was chaplain to Greek troops came across this tiny community.  He put them in contact with the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople (today’s Istanbul) and missionary work began again.  In the 1970s, a priest by the name of Sotirios Trambas volunteered to help the small Korean mission.  In 1994, he would be consecrated as Bishop of Zela and Auxiliary to the Diocese of Australia and New Zealand with the sole responsibility of the Korean Mission.  In 2004, the Patriarch and Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate decided to make Korea a Metropolis (Archdiocese) in its own right and Bishop Sotirios became Metropolitan Sotirios of Korea.

He retired last year and his auxiliary bishop, Bishop Ambrosios of Zela took over as Metropolitan of Korea.  Rather than returning to Greece to spend his retirement years, Metropolitan Sotirios has elected to remain in Korea where he spends his retirement in prayer, translating liturgical texts from Greek into Korean, and serving as a spiritual father to some of the nuns at a nearby monastic community.  Other than the Greek bishops, all of the priests, including the chaplain to the Russian-speaking expatriate community, are all ethnically Korean. 

The Metropolis of Korea is still very small.  This Cathedral, built from the contributions of Koreans and Greek Orthodox abroad, is a veritable gem of a church.  Built in a Greek style, it seems a bit out of place admidst the surrounding architecture.  But it is a beauty nevertheless.

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