On behalf of the clergy and faithful of the British Orthodox Church, Abba Seraphim sent a message of condolence to His Holiness Mar Basilius Mar Thoma Paulose II, Catholicos of the East, on hearing a report of the death of his predecessor, Mar Basilius Mar Thoma Didymos I, who has been living in retirement at Parumala since his abdication in 2010.
Born in 1921, the late Catholicos was ordained priest in 1950 and consecrated to the episcopate as Metropolitan of the Malabar Diocese in 1966. Called to the monastic life, at the age of 18 he joined the Mount Tabor Dayara in Parthanapuram, which had been founded only ten years previously by Thoma Mar Dionysius of Niranam. He later served as a teacher and headmaster of the various schools and colleges associated with this monastic foundation and, after he became a bishop, he served as General Superior of the Dayara. In 1992 he became Catholicos-elect and in 2005 succeeded Mar Basilius Mar Thoma Mathews II as Catholicos.
In his message of condolence Abba Seraphim recalled that it was his privilege to be received by His Holiness during his memorable visit to India in 2010, shortly before his retirement. “We pray that Almighty God will grant him repose after his many faithful years of service to the Church and that his memory will be eternal!”
Abba Seraphim joined a Prayer vigil outside London’s Eritrean Embassy on 22 May to mark the twelfth anniversary of the Eritrean government’s persecution of Christian churches. This event is jointly sponsored by the British Orthodox Church, Church in Chains, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, the Evangelical Alliance, Human Rights Concern Eritrea and Release Eritrea. As in previous years the protest is dignified and composed of scriptural readings, prayers, hymns and short talks highlighting the plight of Christians in Eritrea. Abba Seraphim spoke of the uncanonical deposition and long imprisonment of Abune Antonios, the legitimate Patriarch of the Eritrean Orthodox Church. Only recently OCP Media Network released a clandestinely taken snap of Abune Antonios from a cellphone, which showed His Holiness looking tranquil and at peace, although still under house arrest. Requests for him be moved to a monastery have fallen on deaf ears.
Commenting on this photograph Abba Seraphim noted that although the government had stripped away his regalia, his authority and his freedom, they had not been able to take away his inner peace and life of prayer. The photograph showed a monk at peace with himself and his God, having served faithfully and refused to compromise with truth in order to retain his status and worldly honour. By contrast, Bishop Dioskoros, who allowed the government to place him upon a stolen throne, was now suffering from the effects of recent debilitating stroke, which left him physically and mentally incapacitated. We pray that, while he still has time, he may yet repent in his heart for his faithlessness and receive forgiveness. “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Mark VIII: 36).
At the conclusion of the vigil, Abba Seraphim, accompanied by Andy Dipper, David Turner and Dr. Berhane Ashmelash, (on behalf of the participating organisations) handed in a letter of protest to His Excellency the Eritrean Ambassador.
His Beatitude Gregorios III, Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch of Antioch, was the guest speaker at the annual lecture sponsored by Embrace the Middle East and St. James’s Church, Piccadilly, on 20 May. The title of his address was “Syria: What Hope?” His Beatitude is an engaging and powerful speaker and highlighted the many positive activities and engagements between Christians and Muslims which are the first shoots of the reconciliation process needed to restore the spiritual life of the shattered communities during the destruction and pain of civil war. He Also emphasised that this war is not fundamentally between opposing factions but stirred up by predatory and destructive foreign forces who want nothing short of the destruction of Syria. The meeting was ably chaired by His Eminence Metropolitan Mor Eustathius Matta Roham, Syrian Orthodox Archbishop of Jazirah & Euprates. Also attending from the Oriental Orthodox tradition were His Eminence Archbishop Mar Athanasius Touma, Syrian Orthodox Patriarchal Vicar for Great Britain; Metropolitan Abba Seraphim and Deacon Daniel Malyon from the British Orthodox Church
Orthodox clergy were among the large congregation assembled in Pugin’s impressive Catholic Cathedral in Birmingham, dedicated to St. Chad, on 13 May, to witness the episcopal consecration of the Oxford Oratorian, Father Robert Byrne, as Auxiliary Bishop of Birmingham with the titular see of Cuncacestre (Chester-le-Street). The principal consecrator was Mgr. Bernard Longley, Archbishop of Birmingham, assisted by a large number of co-consecrators. His Eminence Vincent, Cardinal Nichols, preached the homily. This was the first consecration of an Oratorian priest in England since 1874. As Father Robert had previously been serving as Secretary to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference Department of Dialogue and Unity as well as co-secretary of the Catholic-Oriental Orthodox Regional Forum there were many friends and colleagues from other Christian traditions. Among the Orthodox present were Archpriest Stephen Platt (Moscow Patriarchate), General Secretary of the Fellowship of St. Alban & St. Sergius, His Grace Bishop Angaelos, Metropolitan Seraphim and Father Peter Farrington. Following the service luncheon was served at Oscott College.
At the fraternal invitation of His Grace Bishop Kyrillos of Milan, the Papal Deputy for All Europe, Abba Seraphim was invited to con-celebrate the Divine Liturgy on the Feast of Saint Mark at his shrine in the Basilica San Marco in Venice. This is an annual tradition in the Diocese of Milan, when Bishop Kyrillos is joined by the priests of his diocese and their families for this early morning celebration before the Basilica opens its doors to the public. The Basilica was originally erected in 828-832 as the Chapel of the Doge of Venice to house Saint Mark’s body, which was brought to Venice by two Venetian merchants, Buono da Malamocco and Rustico da Torcello. They claimed to have removed it from its shrine in Alexandria in order to protect it from feared destruction during the Fatimid Caliphate. This church was destroyed in 976 during a rebellion and although a second church was built in 1063 the relics were believed to have been lost in the fire. It was not until 1094, after Saint Mark’s relics were miraculously rediscovered, that the Basilica was formally consecrated. Today the relics rest in a shrine in the High Altar, which extends into the crypt chapel immediately below, where the Coptic Liturgy of St. Basil was celebrated on his feast. Following the service all the clergy and their families gathered together for lunch in a nearby restaurant.
Divine Liturgy – 10:30am
Divine Liturgy 2.30 p.m.