The emergence of a Syriac Orthodox Mayan Church in Guatemala

  • Anna HagerEmail author
Original Paper


The establishment of a Syriac Orthodox archdiocese in Guatemala (including other countries in Latin America) in 2013 further complicated an already fragmented Guatemalan religious landscape. Under the leadership of a former Roman Catholic priest, now a Syriac Orthodox bishop, a religious renewal movement emerged in 2003, which was excommunicated in 2006 by the Roman Catholic Church. In 2013, the movement joined the Syriac Orthodox Church, whose Patriarch resides in Damascus, Syria. Members of this archdiocese are almost exclusively Mayan in origin, mostly live in poor, rural areas, and display charismatic-type practices. The communities that first joined this movement were located in areas severely affected by the armed conflict (1960–1996); but it subsequently attracted more diverse communities, including the cofradías (religious lay brotherhoods). This article studies the emergence of a Syriac Orthodox Church (SOC) in Guatemala, and argues that becoming Syriac Orthodox allowed these diverse communities to reconcile different aspects of their local world (traditional and charismatic practices, enhanced lay leadership, local Mayan identity) and its very shortcomings increased its attractiveness. This paper adopts a multi-disciplinary approach and draws upon diverse sources, including fieldwork in Guatemala and Los Angeles, to capture voices both inside and outside the archdiocese. While the Pentecostal and Catholic Charismatic movements in Guatemala have already attracted scholarly attention, the appearance of Orthodox Christianity on a large scale raises new questions.


Maya Catholic Charismatic Renewal (CCR) Orthodox Christianity Syriac Orthodox Church cofradía Guatemala 



This article was completed during a postdoctoral fellowship at the Institute of Eastern Christian Studies (IVOC), Radboud University, Netherlands. I would like to thank Prof. Heleen Murre-van den Berg and the two anonymous reviewers for their comments as well as Prof. Jakob Thorsen and Mor Eduardo for their help, and all those individuals I had a chance to meet in the course of this project who provided me with their valuable insight and support.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The author declares that she has no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Eastern Christian Studies (IVOC)Radboud UniversityNijmegenNetherlands

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