The new orthodox cathedral in Nigeria
The Orthodox mission in Nigeria began as an ethnic need amongst the hundreds of Greeks, who were sojourning in the country. This owes to the fact that the Greek people’s religion is an important aspect of the Greek culture. Meanwhile, statistics have it that, over 95 percent of the Greeks are Orthodox Christians. Therefore, the Orthodox Church invariably forms a fundamental fabric in the life and culture of the Greeks. For this reason, one of the Greek luminaries in Nigeria, the Leventis Family to be precise, established in 1966 the first Orthodox community for the sole purpose of satisfying their cultural needs. Mr. Anastasios Leventis, during this period, built the first Orthodox Church and gave it a name, which coincides with his name: Anastasios, hence, the Resurrection of the Lord parish.
Ever since the church was erected, it has remained the centre and pivot of all Orthodox Christian communities within the country and in the neighbouring countries. It has over the years hosted priests and bishops, who visited intermittently and gradually used it as a springboard for their missionary activities. The community expanded and the faithful vehemently requested for a resident hierarch, so as to foster in deed her obligation of mission and evangelism. Few years later, it was made a diocese on November 24, 1997 and has since been placed under the spiritual care of Metropolitan Alexander Gianniris, who has since served as the ecclesiastical head of the Orthodox communities in Nigeria, Benin Republic, Niger and Togo.
On December 11, 1998, the Orthodox Church became a registered entity and sequel to the increasing number of the Nigerian Orthodox faithful, the Greek community decided in 1999 to relinquish the parish to the Diocese and it subsequently became predominantly Nigerian. Following these developments, the faithful craved to welcome their primate, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria and all Africa. In 2001, the Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and all Africa Petros (Peter) the VII of blessed memory, became the first Orthodox patriarch to officially visit Nigeria, with the objective of consecrating the Church of the Resurrection of the Lord built by Mr. Anastasios Leventis and to bestow his blessings on the faithful.
The Faithful of the cathedral parish enjoyed a period of bliss with the church handed over to them by the Greek community, but this was to be short-lived, following the environmental challenges that ensued from the sudden increase of the tide level of the Lagos lagoon. The church was recurrently troubled by flood from the lagoon. Consequently, several measures were put in place to curb the quagmire, but all proved futile, as the tide grew stronger by the day. The situation left the parishioners with little or no option than to demolish and rebuild the long cherished cathedral.
After years of struggles with the difficulties, came the green light in the tunnel, when the chairman of the Leventis foundation overseas, Mr A.P Leventis requested that the archdiocese demolish the building and bring proposals for a new church. Few years after it was demolished, The Leventis foundation, following the directives of Mr. A.P Leventis, erected this evocative, beautiful and magnificent church edifice as the new cathedral. On May 7, 2017, the doors of the new cathedral were ceremoniously opened to the faithful. The service was presided over by Archbishop Alexander, and graced with the presence of Mr. A.P Leventis and his wife, with dignitaries from all works of life in attendance. Lastly, the parishioners will be hoping that the Patriarch Theodoros II will visit in the nearest future to consecrate the new cathedral. The Orthodox archdiocese of Nigeria is a local extension of the Greek Orthodox Church in Alexandria Egypt, and is in communion with the canonical Orthodox churches in Europe, America and rest of the world.
Okafor Loveday is a lay theologian and a public relations personnel of the Orthodox Church in Nigeria.