Very Rev. Father Roberto Ubertino is the Founder and Director of St. John the Compassionate Mission in Toronto, Ontario, Canada which is an apostolate of the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese. 

He was born in Kinshasha, Congo and his life’s journey brought him many rich experiences having lived, worked and studied in South Africa, Italy, France, Spain and the ghettos of Detroit.

Seeing a need in Toronto’s east end, Father Roberto with a group of local people founded St. John the Compassionate Mission in 1987.  St. John’s Mission is an Orthodox Christian outreach ministry with a variety of initiatives for  marginalized individuals and families in a community setting such as St. John’s Bakery, Thrift Store, Family & Children’s Programs as well as a Lived Theology School.

“In Service of ‘Perfect Love’ (John 15:9, I John 4:18): Orthodox Reflections on Suffering, Compassion and Ministry”

I would like to begin by showing how, for me, the discovery that God existed and his mercy happened at the same moment during a Pascha midnight service.  How a monk from Simone Petra convinced me to re-name St John the Merciful to Compassionate.  How compassion is the intensity of Mercy.  Compassion is not being soft; it is rather what Dostoevsky speaks about when he describes through Zosimos the Elder “a harsh and dreadful love.”  The way of compassion is the way in which God chooses to share and live our sufferings and our brokenness.  The church can’t be compassionate from a position of privilege or power.  How does compassion concretely look?  Is compassion simply a photo opportunity to raise church profile?  Does compassion have an agenda, eg make you Orthodox? 

Where does the living out of compassion lead us in terms of social class?  Does compassion work?  People don’t always associate the true faith of the Fathers with compassion.  You can easily be accused of being a Roman Catholic bent on social justice!  But can compassion ignore the daily plight of those who suffer?  Compassion in St John’s always embraces the person as well as the unjust institutions.  Here orthodoxy has a very important word to speak to the West.

How compassion changes the church, changes me, challenges us all. To be compassionate also means to be open to receive the compassion of those who are poor.

How do you build a society where compassion is a shared value?  Compassion towards the poor is not giving but revealing, building, celebrating, honoring the gift in each person.

Compassion is to pass from ideology to a name and a face!

To rediscover the importance and meaning of being present to one another and finding God at the bottom of the pecking order!  Of even the church’s pecking order!



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