The Synod of the British Orthodox Church has submitted a recommendation to the Holy Synod of the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria, that in the reception of those who have previously been members of churches accepting the Council of Chalcedon (including the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches) it should be by confession of faith and prayer, without any requirement for the reception of Baptism or Chrismation.
This recommendation is made on the basis that:
(1) The Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate has always received Chalcedonians by confession of faith and prayer on the clear and authoritative instruction of our holy Fathers including St Timothy, the 26th Pope of Alexandria, St Philoxenus of Mabbugh and St Severus. Even during periods of violent persecution our Orthodox Church has not deviated from this procedure.
(2) This has been consistently used as the only method of receiving Chalcedonians from the 5th century to the 19th century. Our own Coptic Orthodox Tradition shows that even Nestorians were received in such a manner.
(3) It is only in the most recent times that Catholics have been required to be baptised on their reception which is an innovation and contrary to the teaching of our holy Fathers.
(4) The development of various doctrines in the Catholic Church in later centuries is no justification for requiring the baptism of Catholics, since even Nestorians were not required to be baptised.
(5) His Holiness Pope Shenouda III of blessed memory signed an agreement with Pope Paul VI of Rome which spoke of the sacrament of baptism being present in both communities, and Bishop Gregorious, the Coptic president of the Theological Commission with the Catholics also insisted that there be mutual respect and regard for the baptism of Catholics.
(6) The Armenian, Syrian and Indian Orthodox all continue our ancient and authoritative Tradition of receiving Catholics without baptism.
On 19 August Subdeacon Daniel Malyon and Janice Oommen were joined together in Holy Matrimony in Kerala. The service was performed by His Grace Gabriel Mar Gregorios, Bishop of Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum) in his Domestic Chapel at Aramana, assisted by three of his priests and was conducted in both Malayalam and English in the presence of some 240 guests. On 16 August Daniel had an audience with His Holiness Baselios Mar Thoma Paulose II, Catholicos of the East, who gave them his blessing.
The Betrothal of Daniel and Janice had been performed on 16 December 2012 by Father Simon Smyth at Christ the Saviour Church in Bournemouth, where Daniel and Janice had first met.
In his letter of greeting to Mar Gregorios, Abba Seraphim had written, “The forthcoming wedding is a source of much pleasure to the clergy and faithful of the British Orthodox Church, not only because we have come to know and love Janice during her stay in the UK; but also because it symbolises the deep affection band respect with which the British Orthodox regard the venerable Orthodox Church of India, which has proved such a vibrant witness to our common faith, both here and in its homeland in Kerala.”
Events in Egypt over the past few days have both shocked and saddened, and as reports of continuing incidents and civil disturbance increase we pray fervently that peace and security may return to that land.
Revolutions are destabilising events and come in many shapes and sizes. The Egyptian revolution of 1952 was a military coup by the Free Officer Movement, which established the military regime which was to hold power for the next 59 years. It lacked democratic legitimacy and was both corrupt and venal. The 2011 Revolution, however, was a popular uprising more in keeping with the spirit of the 1919 Egyptian revolution in its embracing all sections of Egyptian society in a patriotic movement to restore freedom and justice. It is worth noting that initially the Muslim Brotherhood declined to support this uprising, but once it saw the rapid success of this momentum for change, it offered its support.
Much has been made of the overthrow of Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi, but it is important to recognise that democracy is more than periodic recourse to the ballot box. Having achieved a narrow victory over his main rival on a turnout of just over half of the electorate, the new president might have endeavoured to use his position as a means of unifying and reconciling a fractured society. In his inauguration oath he swore to “respect the constitution and law, to take care of the people’s interests, a complete care.” Later, in an emotional speech in Tahrir Square he announced, “I came to you as I believe that you are the source of authority and legitimacy which is above all. There is no place for someone, an institution or for an authority to be above this. The people are the source of all authority, judge and decide, convene and insulate … There is no authority that is above this.”
Although he resigned as Chairman of the Freedom and Justice Party as he had promised during his election campaign, which gave him the opportunity to serve as president of all Egyptians, his concerns and sympathies proved to be narrow and sectarian. Sadly, it soon became clear that the electorate had actually installed the Muslim Brotherhood in office and that the real power lay with its Supreme Guide, Mohamed Badie, whilst Mohamed Morsi was merely the holder of the presidential portfolio.
During the first year of his presidency the democratic aspirations of the revolution were steadily undermined, culminating in his assumption of unlimited legislative powers without judicial oversight or review of his acts. After the Supreme Constitutional Court’s dismissal of the People’s Assembly for electoral irregularities, only the consultative Shura Council remained of a bi-cameral legislature, yet new legislation was still enacted, including the propagation of a new Egyptian Constitution. Having repeatedly clashed with the judiciary, attempts were made to intimidate the judges and to remove many of them through enforced retirement.
It was as a result of the steadily-growing domination of the Muslim Brotherhood in all areas of the state and society and the encouragement of their narrow vision and divisive social policies, that the popular uprising against Morsi ensued. It expressed the fears of the great majority of Egyptians that their aspirations for a free and just society, inclusive of all, was in danger of being lost for ever. It should be recalled that the National Socialist German Workers’ (Nazi) Party rose to power through democratic election, after which they consolidated their grasp on the state and cynically discarded the democratic process.
The role of the church
Since the Egyptian revolution of 2011 the religious leaders in Egypt, both Christian and Muslim, have consistently called for justice and reconciliation and both the Grand Sheikh of Al Azhar (Mohamed Ahmed El-Tayeb) and the Coptic Orthodox Church (under the late Pope Shenouda III; Metropolitan Bakhomios as locum tenens and Pope Tawadros II) have worked together to encourage national unity. Following the removal of President Morsi, Pope Tawadros appeared alongside the Sheikh of El-Azhar at the inauguration of the new interim president. Having eschewed political involvement since the beginning of his papacy, he made it clear that he was there to support “honourable people whose sole aim is the interest of Egypt and Egyptians, excluding no one, marginalising no one and excepting no one.”
Western governments have been quick to condemn the violence and loss of life and have called for dialogue. William Hague condemned “the use of force in clearing protests” and called on the security forces “to act with restraint.” As supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood are also armed and have been responsible for murdering soldiers in Sinai and armed attacks on police stations, restraint is required from all sides. Invitations to dialogue by Al-Azhar have been completely rebuffed by the Brotherhood, as have invitations by the interim President to reconciliation meetings.
Western media bias
It is disconcerting to note the clear bias of much of the Western media in favour of the Muslim Brotherhood. The use of emotive words, such as ‘coup’, ‘massacre’ and ‘legitimacy’, with the failure to report widespread violent attacks on churches, police stations, government offices and neutral cultural institutions, such as the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, lacks the impartiality one might expect from independence sources, such as CNN and the BBC; as does identifying all snipers as belonging to the army, when live news broadcasts clearly showed armed rebels firing guns. Despite its denial of bias, the Qatar-backed channel Al Jazeera depicts the Muslim Brotherhood in a sympathetic light and, according to one of the 22 staff who recently resigned in protest, “the management in Doha provokes sedition among the Egyptian people and has an agenda against Egypt and other Arab countries.” The Irish media, the Irish Times and the Sun in particular, recently relayed reports from the children of Hussein Halawa, the Imam at Dublin’s largest and most controversial mosque in Clonskeagh, who just happened to be inside the Al-Fateh mosque when it was cleared by the security forces. Headlines such as “Irish family held in Egypt jail hell. Holiday nightmare as relatives fear they’re tortured” hardly suggest impartiality.
Attacks on Christians go largely unreported
During President Morsi’s term of office, attacks on Christians became more frequent. Since his removal they have increased alarmingly with over fifty churches attacked, damaged or destroyed in the three days following the Brotherhood’s call for a “Day of Rage.” Vicious denunciations of Christians – now opprobriously labelled “crusaders” – and unrestrained assaults on their property and churches show the true nature of those who support the Muslim Brotherhood. There have been instances of soldiers and Christians lynched by the mob, who then proceeded to desecrate their corpses in the most disgusting manner, in much the same way as Private Lee Rigby was treated by his murderers on the streets of Woolwich. In many instances local Muslim communities have joined Christians in protecting their places of worship, clearly demonstrating that this is not a battle between Christians and Muslims but is a struggle against terrorism and fanaticism. In a recent interview with His Grace Bishop Angaelos on Al-Jazeera, after it was noted that “some Christians have blamed Brotherhood supporter for the attacks”, he was asked if he had any evidence about “who is attacking your churches”. His observations that these attacks, which appeared to be orchestrated and synchronised, and coming on the tail of “certain events”, with the rhetoric, incitement and reported attacks on individual Christians, suggested “some sort of connection”, showed more balance and perception than his interviewer.
In an official statement, the Coptic Church said that whilst it holds in deep appreciation the honourable, friendly States who understood “the nature of the events in Egypt”; it strongly denounced the falsities and errors propagated in the western media. “We invite the media to objectively read the realities on the ground, and to refrain from offering an international or political shield to the bloodthirsty, terrorist groups and all who belong to them. These groups are attempting to spread ruin in our land. We call upon the local and international media to offer the real image of what happens in Egypt faithfully and truthfully.”
The statement went on to say that it strongly stood by the Egyptian police, armed forces, and all the institutions of the Egyptian people in the face of the armed violence and black terrorism from inside and outside Egypt. It denounced the “assaults against the State and the peaceful churches, and the terrorisation of Egyptians—Muslims and Copts—that goes against all religious, ethical and human values. We absolutely reject any attempts to drag Egypt into sectarian strife.”
“If the hands of evil come to Egypt to kill, burn, and ruin; the hand of the Lord is there to guard, strengthen, and rebuild. We put our faith in Divine support, and are confident that it will help Egypt along this critical period, and take her to a better tomorrow and to the bright future of peace, justice, and democracy which this noble Nile people deserve.”
Greetings to all.
These days in the history of Egypt are indeed difficult. The events taking place are by all measures are very sad, combining terrorism, crime, bloodshed and aggression.
Certain people are speaking in the name of religion saying things that are not acceptable mentally, logically or practically. I feel inside that this has injured the national unity that we have always declared. After this crisis ends, society should truly search for the reasons as to how these circumstances came about in the first place and how people with such an extremist mentality came into existence.
I know that Egypt is known for its moderatism in all things. Our lives as Egyptians, whether Muslim or Coptic, at the level of the individual or family, are known for their moderatism in all things. How did such extremism come into existence?
As for attacks on our churches, what did the church do to get involved in a struggle such as this? What did the church do that it was attacked with such aggression? What? If an attack on a home or public institution is a crime, what about an attack on a house of God? How should that be judged? How can we accept this? How can our brothers, the other citizens in this nation accept this? How?
In truth, there is a saying that came to my mind today from an Indian poet that says love is like incense. Its beautiful smell will not emerge unless it is thrown into the fire. In-spite of all that we are seeing and experiencing in these unacceptable events, that even if the hand of evil is torching, killing and destroying, I have full faith that the hand of God is stronger and mightier, and it is the hand that rebuilds.
I want to tell you that we are commanded by our Lord Jesus Christ in our Christianity to love our enemies, to bless those who curse us and to do good to those who hate us. This is what we have. So despite this crisis, these mindless acts, this excessive destruction, in all faith, I would like to direct my words to all Egyptians, those Copts that have suffered a lot from what is happening and our moderate brothers in this nation that do not accept such acts, that firstly I offer my condolences to all those who lost their lives in the past two days. My heart is with all those who are injured.
I truly feel inside that all the events that are taking place in the land of our country, Egypt, are not Egyptian in character. Yet our country is guarded by the hand of God. I am not just saying this as a matter of debate or discourse, but that is what history is witnessing. Yet our country is guarded by the hand of God. Truly our country, Egypt, is guarded by the hand of God.
I know very well that God is Almighty. What is happening in Egypt, God is allowing to happen. It is not a product of human thought or action. God allows it. However, all evil has an end and these crimes have an end.
Our history in Egypt is full of examples of such bitter tragedies. Yet, Christians have accepted them and moved on and prayed for those that perpetrated them that God may give them wisdom and better judgement.
I am following all that is happening in the land of Egypt, whether the destruction of churches, stores, schools or nunneries. These are not humane actions. There is nothing humane about these actions. These people have lost their humanity.
I want to take the chance to tell the police department, the armed forces, the media and our moderate brothers in the nation that you have withstood a lot in recent days, and now it is very important that you maintain your role of strength during this crisis in our nation.
I want to tell everyone that the eye of God is on the land of Egypt and all that happens in it. And those that have committed such acts that are not acceptable mentally, logically or morally, these shall be punished by God. God’s punishment is severe. I tell all people that you will live at maximum a hundred or so years and may God prolong your life. But you will stand before God’s judgement one day. In front of God you shall be judged according to the deeds your hands have committed. God’s judgement is swift, not just towards you as an individual, but to all those who followed in your deeds, be it a family or a generation of followers, God the Almighty will have his vengeance. Vengeance will not come via the hands of a human being. It is a Divine vengeance. Who can stand before the Lord?
On 7 August Gabriel and Maria, members of the British Orthodox congregation of St. Felix at Babingley, became United Kingdom citizens. The ceremony, which took place in the Council Chamber of County Hall in Norwich, was presided over by Mrs. Hilary Cox, Chairman of Norfolk County Council 2013-14 supported by the Deputy Lord Lieutenant.
Gabriel was born in Lisbon in Portugal and Maria was born in Novgorod in Russia, but their two children, Daniel & Stephanie were both born in Norfolk. Abba Seraphim and Trevor Maskery both attended the Citizenship Ceremony in support of the family.
- 12 December 2013
- Evening Prayer & Discussion: Shadwell7.30pm Evening Prayer
7.45pm Talk and discussion
- 14 December 2013
- Morning Incense & Divine Liturgy: PortsmouthMorning Incense & Divine Liturgy 10am
- 15 December 2013
- Morning Prayer: BournemouthMorning Prayer: 9.30am
- Raising of Incense & Divine Liturgy: DoncasterRaising of Incense – 9:45am
Divine Liturgy – 10:30am
- Southampton: Morning PrayerMorning Prayer (10.00) (Holy Trinity Church)