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NEWS FROM THE MOTHER CHURCH

Pope Shenouda visits England

On 28 March, His Holiness Pope Shenouda flew to England for a short, but full pastoral visit to sick clergy and to perform the consecration of two churches postponed when an earlier visit had been cancelled.

On 29 March, His Holiness performed the consecration of the new Church of St. Mary and St. Abasikhiron  in Trinity Avenue in the small seaside town of  Llandudno in North Wales. Attended by ten bishops and numerous priests (including Abba Seraphim and Father Seraphim Mina from the British Orthodox Church) His Holiness consecrated the second Coptic Church in Wales, the other being at Risca near Cardiff.

After lunch, His Holiness and several of the bishops travelled to Newcastle to visit Bishop Antony, who is seriously ill and to pray over him and support him by his presence. Returning to London, His Holiness then visited Fr. Mikhael Ibrahim, priest of St. Mary & Archangel Michael Church at Golders Green, who has also been sick for several months.

The next morning, 31 March, His Holiness consecrated St. George’s Cathedral at Stevenage in the presence of a large congregation of dignitaries, ecumenical guests and the faithful. Among those who gave short addresses were Rev. Bill Snelson, outgoing General Secretary of Churches Together in England; Bishop Nathan Hovhannisian from the Council of Oriental Orthodox Churches in the UK; Mgr. John Arnold, Titular Bishop of Lindisfarne & Auxiliary to the Catholic Archdiocese of Westminster; The Right Rev’d Christopher Herbert, Bishop of St. Albans; Mar Athanasius Toma Dawod, Patriarchal Vicar of the Syrian Orthodox Church; Mr. Gehad Madi, Egyptian Ambassador and the Countess of Verulam, Lord Lieutenant of Hertfordshire. At the end both His Grace Bishop Angaelos and His Holiness spoke of the significance of the occasion.

Historic Papal visit to Ethiopia

After a gap of 34 years, Pope Shenouda returned to Ethiopia, the guest of Abune Paulos, the Patriarch of Ethiopia, who had visited Cairo last July (see Glastonbury Review, No. 115). Although the trip was only short (11-13 April) it was deeply symbolic of the improved relations between the two churches. The Egyptian Ambassador, His Excellency Tareh A. Ghoneim, was quoted in the Ethiopian Herald of 10 April as welcoming the Pope’s visit because it further strengthens Ethio-Egyptian relations. This was emphasized by his official reception by President Girma Wolde-Giorgis and the Prime Minister, Mr. Meles Zenawi.

One of the Pope’s first acts, upon his arrival, was to place a wreath on the tomb of the late Emperor Haile Selassie at the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Addis Ababa. The late Emperor had died in captivity in August 1975 under mysterious circumstances and is widely believed to have been suffocated in his bed on the orders of the communist Dergue. His remains were buried secretly in a deep pit in the grounds of the Palace and a latrine erected over it. Only after the fall of the Dergue was his body disinterred and not finally buried until 2000. At the time of his death Pope Shenouda held a public memorial service for him and has always referred to the late Emperor with deep respect.

Abune Paulos and the bishops of the Ethiopian Holy Synod were present throughout the visit and from the moment the Papal plane landed, huge crowds of chanting clergy and faithful mobbed Pope Shenouda and his entourage of Coptic bishops. Pope Shenouda was unable to attend one banquet at the Hilton Hotel because of the need to rest from his heavy schedule and numerous press and TV interviews. In these Pope Shenouda spoke of spoke of the long common history of the two churches and of his joy in visiting Ethiopia again, for whose people he expressed deep feelings, as they are all sons of Saint Mark. He welcomed the establishment of the theological college and spoke of the need to instruct and care for all members of the church for the very beginning of their lives. The ministry of the Patriarchs and Bishops was not simply the exercise of authority, but also the responsibility to be servants of the people.

Pope Shenouda fractures femur

Around 10.00 pm on 10 June, H.H. Pope Shenouda tripped on a carpet in his cell at the Papal Residence in Cairo, fracturing his left femur. Unfortunately, as he was unable to reach a telephone, his accident was not discovered until 6.00 a.m. the following morning. He was taken to Al-Salem Hospital in Mohandiseen in Cairo where an X-ray revealed the extent of the injury. His doctors recommended a minor operation with partial anaesthesia to install a metal plate, but it was felt that this should be done in Cleveland, Ohio, where the Pope has previously undergone treatment. President Hosni Mubarak immediately offered a medically-equipped plane to fly the Pope to Cleveland, but when it was learned that such a plane would not be allowed to land in US airports without special permits, which would cause further delay, a Swiss air-ambulance plane was chartered and he was flown to America on 12 June.
Providentially the fracture was a minor one and the metal plate was installed using partial anaesthesia, which was preferred to general anaesthesia because of His Holiness’ age and general health. The Pope will spend some four to five weeks in Ohio before returning to Cairo.

As a result of this accident the plenary session of the Holy Synod, which takes place in Cairo on the Eve of Pentecost, was postponed and many bishops, including Abba Seraphim cancelled their flights.

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