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Saturday, 2 September was an historic day in the history of the Oriental Orthodox Churches in the United Kingdom, as it marked the inauguration of the newly constructed Coptic Orthodox Cathedral of Saint George at Stevenage. It had been intended that His Holiness Pope Shenouda would preside over the ceremonies but a combination of health and security problems prevented his coming as planned. Nevertheless, representatives of all the major Christian communities as well as clergy from the Oriental Orthodox family gathered for the first Vesper service to be held in the United Kingdom’s newest Cathedral. Almost three years after the laying of the foundations of ‘The Cornerstone’, the dream had become a reality and the blending of traditional with contemporary architecture made this a worthy House of Prayer.

More than five hundred people filled the church as the procession of deacons and some twenty Coptic priests (some travelling from Europe) led in the officiating bishops: Abba Seraphim, Bishop Antonious-Marcos of Africa, Bishop Antony of Scotland, Ireland & N.E. England and Bishop Angaelos, who had inspired and led the construction of the new Cathedral.

Pictured above: (Left) HG Bishop Angaelos, HRH The Duke of Gloucester & the Archbishop of Canterbury, (Right) HRR The Duke of Gloucester, the Egyptian Ambassador (HE Gehad Madi) & HE Abba Seraphim.

The wider Christian community of the country was represented by the two hundred and fifty guests who attended from all church and traditions: Oriental and Eastern Orthodox, Catholic, Anglican, and the Free Churches. Foremost among these were the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Catholic Archbishop of Southwark and Archbishop Gregorios of Thyateira. After Vespers speeches were delivered by H.R.H. The Duke of Gloucester (representing H.M. the Queen); the Archbishop of Canterbury; Archbishop Gregorios; Bishop Nathan Hovhannision; the Bishop of Woolwich (reading a message from HRH the Prince of Wales); the Ambassador of Egypt (H.E. Gehad Madi); the Director of Inter-Faith Network (Mr. Brian Pearce) and the General Secretary of Churches Together in England (The Rev’d Bill Snelson) to which Bishop Angaelos made a gracious reply.

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