On 14 June at St. George-in-the-East, Shadwell, Abba Seraphim tonsured Christopher Shaw of Sunbury-on-Thames and ordained him as a Reader to serve the BOC Windsor Mission. In his homily Abba Seraphim spoke of the Ascension Gifts of Christ and singled out the diaconate and the lesser orders which derive from it, as representing the diakonia of the Church in which all Christians are, to some measure, called to participate. “The apostle Paul makes it clear that these Ascension gifts of Christ are not given to individuals for their personal use but for the “building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” In other words, they are for the collective benefit of the people of God. He expressed the hope that Christopher, soon to be a Reader in the House of God, would be faithful to his name, bearing Christ to all whom he meets, so that he may receive God’s mercy along with all those who have pleased God from the beginning. Assisting Abba Seraphim in the ordination were Father Peter Farrington, who presented Christopher and Deacon Daniel Malyon, who read the Charge after the ordination.
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.