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News From the British Orthodox Church

Abba Seraphim returns to Sweden

Following the Sigtuna Christological Conference (1-4 June), Abba Seraphim accepted an invitation to be the guest of the Coptic Orthodox Church of St. Mary & St. Paul in Stockholm from 6-14 August.

Arriving at Skavsta airport, he was greeted by Dr. Ehab Raphael, the Church Secretary and driven to Stockholm. Also visiting at the same time were Their Graces Bishop Thomas of El Kousseya and Anba Boutros, General Bishop, who were all welcomed by the parish priest, Father Bachomius Demtry. Abba Seraphim gave a short sermon at the Saturday evening Vespers. On Sunday morning, 7 August, Abba Seraphim celebrated the Divine Liturgy assisted by Bishop Boutros and Fr. Bachomius at which Abba Seraphim preached on the Gospel and Bishop Boutros spoke about the Agaphy project. Afterwards they lunched with members of the church council.

On 8 August Abba Seraphim and Bishop Boutros received a fraternal visit from Fr. Nuamat Alla Dabbag, Chorespiscopos of the Syrian Orthodox Church in Stockholm, accompanied by his deacons. In the afternoon Abba Seraphim was received at Ålusjö by Per Olof Öhrn, the Director of the ecumenical organisation, Bilda; accompanied by Joachim Främberg (Secretary) and Father Misha Jaksic of the Serbian Orthodox Church, representing the Swedish Council of Churches.

On 9 August Abba Seraphim and Bishop Boutros, accompanied by Fr. Bachomious & Dr. Ehab Raphael, were received at the Syrian Orthodox Archidiocesan headquarters at Södertälje by Archbishop Mor Dioskoros Benjamin Ataş. After conducting them around the magnificent new church, they discussed issues of common interest.

On 10 August Abba Seraphim visited Uppsala and viewed the Domkyrkan as well as the historic site of Gamla Uppsala, the ancient pre-Christian royal burial mounds. On 11 August Abba Seraphim visited the Ridderholmskyrkan, the royal burial place of Sweden’s kings and the chapel of the Order of the Seraphim, before taking the boat to Drottingholm Palace.

On 12-13 August Abba Seraphim joined a “Desert Mass” study group to advise on the Coptic liturgy which was held at the beautiful Marielund Retreat house on the island of Ekerö. Returning to Stockholm on Saturday evening Abba Seraphim officiated at Vespers and preached. The next morning, Sunday 14 August, Abba Seraphim and Dr. Ehab Raphael attended the Divine Liturgy celebrated by Archbishop Mor Dioskoros Benjamin Ataş in his Cathedral at Södertälje, where Abba Seraphim preached and was later entertained to lunch. Abba Seraphim flew back to London that evening.

During his visit Abba Seraphim visited many Coptic homes and spoke with individual members of the congregation.

Anniversary Celebration

Abba Seraphim attended the Divine Liturgy at St. Thomas Syrian Orthodox Church worshipping in St. Mary le Bow, Cheapside on Sunday, 11 September to mark the Silver Jubilee of Patriarch Mar Ignatius Zakka I Iwas’ enthronement as Patriarch of Antioch. Metropolitans Mar Kuriakose Theophilose and Mar Dioskoros Kuriakose, Metropolitan of Kandanadu were both present. Following the service a number of speeches were made in honour of Patriarch Zakka.

British Orthodox Clergy Conference

A Conference for the British Orthodox clergy, at which Abba Seraphim presided, was held at All Saints Pastoral Centre at London Colney, Herts from 21-23 September. A key consideration of the conference was Evangelism and an Evangelism Committee was established with representation from all the parishes and missions. A liturgical workshop was another key activity, which was much appreciated.

Deacon Mark at 80

Abba Seraphim celebrated the Divine Liturgy at St Felix Church Babingley to mark the 80 th birthday of Deacon Mark Saunders. During his sermon he remarked on his long service and commitment to the Church and commended him to the clergy and people as an example of faithful ministry. Afterwards a celebratory luncheon was held at the Castle Rising Golf Club attended by the clergy and people, where Fr. Anthony Clements presented Deacon Mark with a silver cross as a token of their love and respect.

Ukrainian Sobor

On 22 October, Abba Seraphim, accompanied by Deacon Seraphim, paid a visit to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the Diaspora (Ecumenical Patriarchate) at Acton to greet His Beatitude Metropolitan Konstantine (Bahan) and other members of the Ukrainian Orthodox hierarchy who were gathered in London for their Sobor. During the proceedings of the Sobor, Abba Seraphim spent time in discussion with Ighumen Andrij Peshko, who was elected that day as Bishop of Krateia with his headquarters to be in London. He was subsequently consecrated as Bishop in Chicago on 13 December 2005.

Ecumenical Patriarch’s Lecture

Abba Seraphim attended the annual lecture of the London Hellenic Society held at the London School of Economics on 3 November 2005. The speaker was His All-Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomeus, who spoke on “The Role of Religion in a Changing Europe.” At the reception afterwards, Abba Seraphim greeted the Patriarch who expressed the hope that he would be visiting Istanbul again next August.

Abba Seraphim’s Twenty-eighth visit to Egypt

Accompanied by Father Simon Smyth, Abba Seraphim flew into Cairo on Saturday, 12 November and was met by Mr. Shenouda Mamdouh, the British Orthodox Church’s Egyptian secretary. During their stay in Cairo they were based at St. Mark’s Centre in Nasr City.

On 13 November, having rested from their travelling, Abba Seraphim received his old friend, Barbara Baker, accompanied by Peter Lamprecht, from the Middle East Bureau of Compass Direct and later Father Hakan Sandvik of the Church of Sweden called to greet him. Father Arsanious El Anba Boula also called to greet Abba Seraphim and accompanied him on a number of pastoral visits, to Miss Haifa (pictured left) and the young female students living in the Tasoni House in Heliopolis; to Dr. Soad Kamel Wassef at her home in Roxy, Heliopolis, and to Madame Yvette and her family to pray for her in her sickness.

Early on 14 November Abba Seraphim’s party drove to St. Bishoy’s monastery in the Wadi El Na’trun for a Seminar of the Holy Synod. In the evening there was a great open-air banquet to celebrate His Holiness Pope Shenouda’s 34 th Anniversary of Enthronement, at which there were many speeches and gifts offered in the Pope’s honour. Staying overnight at the monastery the party drove to Kellia on the morning of 15 November, where they visited the site of the ancient 4 th century monastic centre which was abandoned after the Arab Conquest. The Koms (Arabic: ‘hillocks’) mark the site of many hermitages and in those which have been excavated the foundations are very visible, some still preserving

painted plasterwork. Unfortunately irrigation and land reclamation projects, coupled with a recently constructed railroad, have already caused much damage. The party was warmly received by Abuna Abraham Thomas and his family, where they visited the Church of St.Abraam in El-Nagah Village and El-Shorouk Village, as well as the beautifully kept farm of the Diocese of Bohaira at Degeila. Father Abraam had organised a special cart, attached to a farm tractor, to pull Abba Seraphim and his party to view the various ancient sites in the desert. In the afternoon the party returned to St. Bishoy’s Monastery as Abba Seraphim participated in the meeting of the Synodal Sub-Committee of Inter-Church Relations chaired by His Eminence Metropolitan Bishoy.

On 17 November Abba Seraphim attended the Synodal Sub-Committee on Education, Faith & Legislation chaired by His Grace Bishop Moussa, before taking his leave of His Holiness Pope Shenouda at St. Bishoy’s Monastery and driving to the Baharia (sometimes called the Northern or Small) Oasis in the Western Desert, some 360km southwest of Cairo. The next morning, 18 November they were taken on a safari visiting the mud-built Roman fortress of Qasr Masuda at Al-Haiz, the 5 th century Coptic

Church of Mari Guirgis (now under restoration), the Black Desert composed of basalt, Crystal Mountain of glittering calcite and the White Desert, a thick band of Khoman chalk dating from the Upper Cretaceous era with strange wind-shaped outcrops, returning when just on the outskirts of the Farafra Oasis. After a brief rest, the party drove back to Cairo.

On 18 November the party, once again joined by Father Arsanios, drove out to the Anafora Retreat Centre, which is under the supervision of His Grace Bishop Thomas of El Kousseya, which Abba Seraphim last visited the Centre in October 2002. Also visiting was an Ecumenical Group made up of Eastern and Oriental Orthodox from Bilda, whom Abba Seraphim had got to know during his two visits to Stockholm earlier this year. Both Bishop Thomas and Abba Seraphim gave short talks after which everyone joined together in sharing their witness and aspirations so that a rich time of fellowship was enjoyed by all present. Returning to Cairo in the evening Abba Seraphim visited the Church of St. Mina in Abagia and, after conferring with the priest Father Kyrillos, spoke briefly to the congregation who were gathered for Vespers. After leaving here Abba Seraphim went with Fr. Arsanios to visit Madame Clare, a Coptic lady who was in hospital and calling to see how Madame Yvette was progressing.

Father Simon returned to Britain on 19 November and accompanied by Father Arsanious, Abba Seraphim drove to the Patmos Centre to greet Bishop Boutros and to see early footage of the new Aghapy TV Channel. After this Abba Seraphim was interviewed for Aghapy TV. In the afternoon the party visited shops in Khan El-Khalili before returning early to Nasr City as Abba Seraphim was feeling a little unwell. On 20 November, after resting, the party visited the American University in Cairo bookshop to make some purchase, the newly restored Prince Taz Palace followed by the Mosques of Rifa’i (which contain the tombs of the Egyptian Royal Family and of the late Shah of Iran) and Sultan Hassan. From here they drove to the convent of St. Theodore of Shotby (Amir Tadros) at Harat ar-Rum, where they were received by the Abbess, Mother Adrosios, and entertained to lunch. Before leaving they viewed the newly constructed block of nuns’ cells and sprinkled blessed water.

On 21 November they were received by the nuns at St. George’s Convent and entertained to lunch before visiting the chapels and shrines of the convent. They also briefly visited the subterranean Church of the Holy Virgin (Al-‘Adhrâ’) at Hârat Zuwailah. In the evening Abba Seraphim returned to Nasr City with Fr. Arsanious where he was visited by Miss Mary and discussed her work visiting foreign prisoners.

Abba Seraphim returned to London on 22 November.

Closing Commemorative Event

Abba Seraphim, accompanied by Father Sergius Scott, attended a Closing Commemorative Event marking the 90 th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, which was held in Southwark Cathedral on 1 December 2005. Among the clergy present were Their Graces Bishop Nathan Hovhannisian and Bishop Angaelos from the Oriental Orthodox Churches and Bishops Geoffrey Rowell and David Hamid of the Anglican Diocese of Europe.

Enthronement of Ukrainian Bishop

On 12 February 2006, Abba Seraphim, accompanied by Father Sergius Scott, attended the Divine Liturgy at the Cathedral of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Acton at the conclusion of which Bishop Andrij Peshko was enthroned as Bishop of Krateia by Archbishop Vsevolod of Scopelos. Bishop Andrij, who is 34 and was born in the Ukraine, was elected to serve the Western European diocese of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church under the Ecumenical Patriarchate and will be based in West London. He was consecrated to the episcopate in Chicago on 13 December 2005 and will serve as Assistant Bishop to His Beatitude Metropolitan Constantine.

Church Commissioners approve sale to Copts

At the invitation of the Church Council of the Coptic Community in Nottingham, Abba Seraphim appeared before a session of the Redundant Churches Committee of the Church Commissioners, meeting at Milbank, London, on 15 February, to speak on behalf of the Commissioners’ scheme to sell the redundant Church of St. Matthias, Sneinton, to the Coptic Orthodox Church. The scheme was opposed by the Diocese of Southwell & Nottingham. After deliberation the committee approved the scheme in favour of the Copts.

Papal Visit to Birmingham

His Holiness Pope Shenouda III stopped over in Birmingham for three nights on his return from attending the WCC meeting in Brazil. On 18 February he held a lunch and seminar for the Clergy in the United Kingdom at the Coptic Orthodox Centre in Lapworth, which was attended by Abba Seraphim and other British Orthodox clergy.

Book Launch at Syrian Embassy

On 23 February Abba Seraphim attended a reception given by the Ambassador of the Republic of Syria at the Syrian Embassy in Belgrave Square, London, to launch the publication of Father William Taylor’s new book “Antioch and Canterbury” (see review on pages 266-268).

Oriental Orthodox Library

Subdeacon Peter Farrington writes, “Many people have complained that it is very difficult to locate and obtain copies of the important theological works of the Oriental Orthodox Churches. This has undoubtedly been true, and many have experienced these problems first-hand as they have sought to study the faith and practice of the Oriental Orthodox communion.

A new publishing venture, the Oriental Orthodox Library, hopes to make these problems a thing of the past by publishing important works in English, sometimes for the first time. The Oriental Orthodox Library is sponsored by the British Orthodox Church, although it is a separate initiative.

The first volumes of the Oriental Orthodox Library are now available for purchase at the library website http://www.orthodox-library.org which contains a link to the Library products at the printer’s website http://www.lulu.com/orthodoxlibrary

Do please visit these websites and support the Library. If there is a demand for these important works then more will be published in due course.”

Snippets

His Grace Anba Boutros, General Bishop ( Cairo) visited Abba Seraphim at the Church Secretariat at Charlton on 11 August.

Professor Robert Gribbend of Melbourne dined with Abba Seraphim and Father Sergius Scott at the Church Secretariat at Charlton on 17 August.

The annual dinner to mark the birthday of the late Archdeacon James Goddard was held in Greenwich on 21 October at which £200 was raised in support of St. Christopher’s Hospice at Sydenham.

On 6 January Abba Seraphim, Father Sergius Scott, Father Simon Smyth and Subdeacon Alan de Quincy, attended the Christmas Eve (Old Style) Liturgy at the Eritrean Orthodox Church in Camberwell, London.

On 8 January Abba Seraphim and Father Sergius Scott attended the betrothal of Tony and Samya at St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Church in Allen Street, Kensington. Tony is the son of Hegoumenos Antonious Shenouda Thabbit.

Abba Seraphim preached at the annual Ecumenical service at St. Felix, Babingley, 24 January, to mark the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

On 27 January 2006 Abba Seraphim, accompanied by Father Sergius Scott, attended Vespers at the Malankara Indian Orthodox Church in Brockley during which requiem prayers were said for the repose of the late Catholicos Mar Basilius Marthoma Mathews II.

Forthcoming Dates

Holy Pascha is 23 April and Pentecost is 11 June.

St. Alban’s Church at Chatham is planning two groups of evening courses on Introducing Orthodox Christianity, each comprising four sessions. These will be held in the church on Wednesday evenings at 7.30 p.m. The first series will be on 8 & 22 March, 5 & 19 April; the second series will be 4 & 18 October, 1 & 15 November.

Abba Seraphim will be at St. Alban’s Church at Chatham for Good Friday, 21 April at 10.00 a.m.

Abba Seraphim plans to visit Stockholm 4-7 May.

Abba Seraphim will preach at the 7.00 p.m. Solemn Mass on Thursday, 25 May 2006 (Western Ascension Day) at St. Alban the Martyr, Holborn.

Abba Seraphim will preside at Vespers at St. Alban’s Church, Chatham, on the Eve of the Patronal Feast, 21 June at 6.30 p.m.

The British Orthodox Church plans to conduct an Evangelist Mission at the Kent County Showground 14-16 July.

MRS. VASSULA RYDÉN & ‘TRUE LIFE IN CHRIST’

GENERAL MEMORANDUM

From: His Eminence Abba Seraphim, Metropolitan of Glastonbury

New Series: 21

5 August 2005

To:

the clergy of the British Orthodox Church

with pastoral responsibility and to all the faithful.

My dear Fathers & Brethren,

Literature is currently circulating advertising a public meeting to be held in Central Hall, Westminster on 10 September 2005, where the speaker will be Mrs. Vassula Rydén. This has been arranged by an organisation known as ‘True Life in Christ’ which exists to promote the prophetic messages received by Mrs. Rydén, which “inspirations through the form of locutions and … interior visions”, she attributes to either our Lord Jesus Christ or to the Holy Mother of God.

Mrs. Rydén was born in Egypt in 1942 of Greek Orthodox parents and was baptised in the Greek Orthodox Church. She professes to be “committed fully” to the Greek Orthodox Church, although she admits that “Some of the Greek Orthodox hierarchy totally reject me …” in part because she espouses a position which seems representative of Roman Catholic spirituality; calls for the Orthodox hierarchy to acknowledge the Pope as ‘Vicar of Christ’ and usually communicates at Catholic altars, justifying this by quoting the Decree Orientarium Ecclesiarum of Vatican II.

She has found enthusiastic supporters among numbers of Anglican, Catholic and Orthodox clergy and has often utilised the opportunities offered by ‘Inter-religious Pilgrimages’ (such as her ones to the Holy Land in March 2000 and to Egypt in October 2002) to cultivate members of the local hierarchy, who are not always fully aware of all her activities.

Having studied published statements by Mrs. Rydén I feel it is appropriate to offer the following guidance to the clergy and faithful:

1.      In receiving the sacraments at altars other than those of the Orthodox Church, Mrs Rydén is disregarding Orthodox canonical discipline which forbids this.

2.      Mrs. Rydén should seek the canonical permission and blessing of the local Orthodox hierarch having jurisdiction in each place, prior to addressing public meetings, rather than act in the face of their sometimes expressed opposition and criticism.

3.      Until such time as a canonical Orthodox hierarchy is able to make a detailed and full examination of the messages received by Mrs. Rydén, they should be regarded with grave caution and their authority attributed solely to the views and aspirations of Mrs. Rydén herself, rather than any angelic, saintly or divine source.

+ Seraphim

Metropolitan of Glastonbury

Note:

The statement in the True Life in God UK Newsletter No. 6 (November 2005) that His Eminence Abba Seraphim along with H.M. Queen Elizabeth II and the Archbishop of Canterbury, “sent us their good wishes for the meeting” is untrue. An invitation was sent to Abba Seraphim and a reply sent on his behalf stating that he had another engagement and would be unable to attend, but asking to be kept on the TLIG mailing list and for copies of the documentation supplied to be sent to other Orthodox hierarchs in the United Kingdom.

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