Timeline of Orthodoxy in New Zealand

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This is a timeline of the Orthodox presence in New Zealand.

First Wave of Immigrants

  • 1850s: Massacres of Orthodox Christians by the Ottoman Turks in Lebanon, Mount Lebanon, Syria, and other parts of the Middle East see a great displacement of Orthodox from these regions.
  • 1860s: Numbers of Arabic speaking Orthodox arrive in Australia and some move from there to New Zealand.
  • 1880s: Discovery of gold, especially around Dunedin, sees significant arrivals of Orthodox from Eastern Europe and the Middle East in New Zealand. Dunedin becomes financial capital of New Zealand.
  • 1890s: Russian, Syrian, and Greeks, set up joint community worship groups where all involved are welcome.
  • 1898: Greek speaking Greek Orthodox Patrarch of Antioch and All the East deposed for prohibiting services in the common language.
  • 1899: Patriarch of Constantinople refuses to recognise newly elected Arabic speaking Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, and agitates against all Arabic speakers. This fractures the Orthodox communites around the world.
Local communities in Australia and New Zealand consider Patriarch of Jerusalem neutral in this dispute and ask him to send out priests for Australia and New Zealand.
  • 1902: Church of Greece seizes responsibility for Greek Orthodox parishes in Australasia from the Church of Jerusalem.
  • 1908: Ecumenical Patriarchate arbitrates, prohibits any language other than church Greek in these churches, and assigns jurisdiction of Greek Orthodox parishes in Australasia to the Church of Greece.
  • 1910: Hmk Nicholas (Manavitch) (Russian under Antioch), the first Orthodox priest to reside in New Zealand, arrives.
First Orthodox church in New Zealand, dedicated to St Michael, purpose built in Dunedin.
  • 1911 Jan 11: Free of debt, Saint Michael Dunedin is consecrated by Archimandrite Fr Nicholas (Manavitch).
  • 1913: Fr Nicholas Shehadie appointed Patriarchal Exarch for Australia and New Zealand by His Beatitude Gregorious Haddad Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and All the East.
Hmk Fr Nicholas leaves New Zealand for Sydney, Australia. No priest left in New Zealand.
  • 1916: Exarch Nicholas Shehadie visits New Zealand for 2-3 months. Conducts services throughout New Zealand. After his departure, again there is no Orthodox priest in New Zealand.
  • 1919: Exarchate of Australia and New Zealand (Antiochian) is confirmed as permanent by Patriarch of Antioch.

Second Wave of Immigrants

  • 1917: Bolshevik revolution in Russia sees large numbers of Russians and allied peoples displaced and fleeing genocidal massacres there and in satelite countries over the next 10 years. Many flee to western Europe, and then North America, and South America. Others flee to Asian Russia and then to China, Japan, South East Asia, Philippines, and Australasia.
  • 1920s: Genocidal massacres in modern Turkey following the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire see millions of people displaced. Large numbers of Orthodox flee to the new world including North America, South America, Australia, New Zealand, and Oceania.
  • 1924 Mar 7: Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Australia and New Zealand established by Ecumenical Patriarchate.
Jul 8: Metropolitan Christoforos (Knitis) of Australia and New Zealand (Greek) arrives.
  • 1928: Metropolitan Christoforos (Knitis) deposed, exiled to Samos.
  • 1931 Sep 18: Timotheos (Evangelinidis) elected Metropolitan of Australia and New Zealand (Greek) by Ecumenical Patriarchate.
  • 1932 Jul 26: Metropolitan Timotheos (Evangelinidis) arrives in Australia.
  • 1937: Archimandrite Antonious (Mobayed) (Antiochian) arrives in New Zealand and stays for several months. Asks local Anglican clergy, who agree, to care for local Orthodox as a temporary measure. Fr Antonious last visits New Zealand in 1939.
  • 1939 to 1945: Second World War seals all borders.
  • 1947 Apr 22: Archimandrite Theophylactos (Papathanasopoulos) elected Metropolitan of Australia and New Zealand (Greek) by Ecumenical Patriarchate.
  • 1948 Nov: Bishop Theodore (Rafalsky) (ROCOR) arrives in Australia.

Third Wave of Immigrants

  • 1948 to 1955: Following the Second World War large numbers of Orthodox are again displaced from their former homelands. Arabic speaking Orthodox move out of Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt to the new world, especially where their compatriots had already established settlements generations before. Greek speaking Orthodox move out of mainland Greece, and especially the Aegean Islands, and from Egypt, to previously populated new world countries. Many move to New Zealand.
  • 1958 Aug 2: Metropolitan Theophylactos (Papathanasopoulos) killed in car accident in Melbourne.
  • 1959 Apr 27: Metropolitan Ezekiel (Tsoukalas) newly elected Greek Metropolitan of Australia and New Zealand arrives in Australia.
Sep 1: Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Australia and New Zealand becomes the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia and New Zealand. Metropolitan Ezekiel elevated as Archbishop.
  • 1969: Metropolitan Iakovos of Philadelphia, Exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, arrives in Australia to consider future of the Greek churches of Australia and of New Zealand.
First Antiochian Orthodox hierarch, Bishop Gibran (Ramlawey) of Australia and New Zealand, arrives in Australia.
  • 1970 Jan: Patriarchate of Constantinople creates Greek Orthodox Metropolis of New Zealand separating it from the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia. Dionysios (Psiahas) elected Metropolitan of New Zealand and Exarch of India, Korea and Japan.
  • 1971: Fr Jack Witbrock, former Anglican priest, converts to Orthodoxy.
  • 1972 Sep: Bishop Gibran visits NZ, ordains Fr Jack Witbrock to the diaconate and priesthood, and appoints Fr Jack Rector of St Michael Dunedin. Fr Jack serves in Dunedin for 12 years until his transfer to Christchurch.
  • 1973 Antiochian Mission at Christchurch begins, also served by Fr Jack.
  • 1974 Dec 30: First local Serbian Orthodox hierarch of Australia and New Zealand, Bishop Nikolai (Mrdja), enthroned in Australia.

Fourth Wave of Immigrants

  • 1975 to 1985 Lebanese Civil War sees displacement of large numbers of Arabic speaking Orthodox to the new world countries, especially where communities had been previously established. Significant numbers arrive in Auckland, Wellington, and Dunedin.
  • 1987 Ilyan Eades ordained deacon and then priest by Bishop Gibran (Antiochian) in Auckland, is appointed Rector of Auckland, and moves from Christchurch to Auckland.
  • 1992 Oct: Fr Ilyan Eades moves from Auckland to Dunedin as Rector of St Michael Dunedin.
Establishes and pastors Invercargill mission too.
  • 1993: Soviet Russia disintegrates. Russian borders opened allowing emigration. Over the next ten years, large numbers of Russians and allied nationals emigrate to countries where communities had been established in prior generations. Significant numbers move to New Zealand, especially to Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch. Romanian speaking comunity in New Zealand greatly strengthened by new arrivals.
  • 1996 Nov: The first Pastoral visit by His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I to New Zealand
  • 1996: Exarchate of India removed from Greek Orthodox Metropolis of New Zealand and allocated to the newly-established (Greek) Orthodox Metropolitanate of Hong Kong and Southeast Asia.
  • 1999 Jan 16: Repose of Bishop Gibran, Patriarchal Vicar of Australia and New Zealand (Antiochian).
Oct: Election and consecration of Archimandrite Paul Saliba as Metropolitan Archbishop of Australia and New Zealand (Antiochian).
  • 2000: Metropolitan Archbishop Paul makes first archpastoral visit to New Zealand. Fr Jack Witbrock and Fr Ilyan Eades elevated to archpriest. Dr Ian Nield ordained deacon, then priest, by Metropolitan Archbishop Paul, and appointed head of the newly-established Wellington mission.
  • 2001 April: First Clergy Conference of Australia and New Zealand (Antiochian) held in Sydney Australia.
  • 2002 May: Second Clergy Conference of Australia and New Zealand (Antiochian) held in Sydney Australia.
  • 2003: Metropolitan Dionysios (Psiahas) of New Zealand elected Metropolitan of Proussa (Greek). Joseph (Harkiolakis) elected Metropolitan of New Zealand, Exarch of Korea and Japan (Greek).
Jan: Fr Victor Didenco, previously canonically released from Orthodox Church of Moldova, received into Antiochian Archdiocese and apppointed head of mission in Christchurch.
April: Third Clergy Conference of Australia and New Zealand (Antiochian) held in Melbourne Australia.
July: New Zealand Deanery of the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia and New Zealand created. Archpriest Jack Witbrock appointed Dean.
  • 2004 May: Fourth Clergy Conference of Australia and New Zealand (Antiochian) held in Wollongong Australia.
(Greek) Orthodox Metropolis of Korea created, taking with it the exarchate of Japan. Church of Japan supported by Church of Russia objects to creation of parallel jurisdiction within its territory. Sotirios (Trambas), former auxiliary bishop to the Metropolitan of New Zealand, elected first metropolitan of Korea.
  • 2005 May: Fifth Clergy Conference of Australia and New Zealand (Antiochian) held in Wollongong Australia.
Aug: Metropolitan Joseph resigns as Greek Orthodox Metropolitan of New Zealand and moves to Athens, remaining unattached.
Oct: Amphilochios elected Metropolitan of New Zealand.
Nov: Monastery of St. Andrew founded.
Dec: Fr Ilyan Eades invited to join Greek Church in New Zealand. Offered full-time salary paid by Greek government. Declines.
  • 2006 May: Sixth Clergy Conference of Australia and New Zealand (Antiochian) held in Wollongong Australia. New Zealand deanery meeting in Wollongong presided over by Metropolitan Archbishop Paul has wide-ranging discussions for the future of the Orthodox Church in New Zealand. Further discussions held in plenary session at the Clergy Conference.

Further Reading