By Odogwu Emeka Odogwu
The Iglesia Anglicana de Chile – the Anglican Church of Chile – has been inaugurated as the latest province of the Anglican Communion in a service of joy and celebration in the capital, Santiago last Sunday, November4. It had been part of the province of South America but was given permission to have provincial status after sustained growth.
More than 800 people, including many from overseas, attended the service at the Grange School, which was presided over by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.
The congregation included diocesan and auxiliary bishops, pastors, leaders and lay members from the four dioceses of the new province. They were joined by priests, bishops and archbishops, academics and representatives of missionary societies from across the world, including the UK, Hong Kong, Ireland, the US, Australia and several countries in South America. The service was led by the primate of South America, Presiding Bishop Greg Venables.
In his address, Archbishop Justin spoke warmly of Chile and its mother province, saying: 'The province of South America and its new province are shining lights within the Anglican Communion which will now burn yet more brightly as a challenge and example to the rest of the Communion.'
He said it was a gift of God for him to be in Chile again to experience the life, fire and perseverance of the Church.
During the service Bishop Hector (Tito) Zavala Munoz was installed as Archbishop and Primate of the new province. He was prayed over by Archbishop Justin and presented with a Primatial Cross.
He became Bishop of Santiago when Chile was split into four dioceses in preparation for its move towards provincial status. The other new dioceses are Valparaíso, Concepción, and Temuco.
In an interview with newsmen, Archbishop Tito spoke of his joy at becoming a separate province.
'I am so happy. What is happening is historic and unique in our history,' he said. 'I remember when I talked to dioceses 20 years ago. We had many dreams about growing and spreading the good news of Jesus Christ. And now I can see how the Church has grown.
'And I am so excited about the life of the Church because I can see how young people are becoming involved day-by-day.'
He said becoming a province would help organise the mission in Chile and he hoped it would lead to new dioceses in the near future.
'To separate from South America is sad because we have been working together for many years. It is like when children leave their parents and begin a new life. But we will continue working together,' he said.
Speaking before the service, Archbishop Justin told reporters it was a day of rejoicing and an important moment for the Church around the world because Chile's inauguration was the birth of a new mission.
'It shows the Church is growing . . . that the Anglican Communion is growing. Chile is a province that gives love and ministry to the poor and those on the edge of society. And it is one of the great examples in the world of planting new churches.'
Archbishop Justin also spoke on phone to the Chilean president, Sebastian Pinera, who was unable to attend.
He praised the president for his stance in challenging corruption and for his openness and compassion to all parts of society.
'Chile is a model of growth and reconciliation; of finding hope after difficult years and we praise God for that.'
The Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, Nigeria, Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon, described it as a privilege to be at the inauguration service in Santiago.
'There is nowhere like Chile in the Anglican Communion,' he said. 'I am delighted it is becoming our 40th province. It has an exciting vision for the future.'
Chile began seeking autonomy in 2015. It was given the go-ahead by the Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council and after the backing of a majority of the primates of the Anglican Communion. Its inauguration as 40th province comes just over a year after Sudan became the 39th.