This year’s Holy Week and Paschal services in the British Orthodox Church were well supported, not only by members of the British Orthodox Church, but by Orthodox faithful from a variety of ethnic backgrounds, so that attendance was higher than in previous years. Abba David presided at the Church at Cusworth and Hieromonk John at Bournemouth. During the Divine Liturgy at Bournemouth, Father John also baptised & chrismated Gregory Vincent Curtis, an adult Catechumen.
At the Chatham Church, where Metropolitan Seraphim, presided, assisted by Abba James, the church was full and Abba Seraphim preached powerfully on the Resurrection. Unfortunately, because of clergy shortages there was no Paschal Liturgy at the Church at Babingley, but next Sunday (7 May), being at the end of Bright Week, Abba Seraphim and Abba James will commemorate the Lord’s resurrection as they celebrate ‘Thomas Sunday’ there.
The brutal murder of Christians celebrating the Western Easter in three churches in Negombo, Batticaloa and Colombo’s Kochchikade district has shocked the world, as did the simultaneous killings of nearby tourists. The persecution of Christians across the globe is an increasingly evil occurrence and reveals the growing power of Satan in these days. During the celebration of the Palm Sunday Divine Liturgy at Christ the Saviour Church in Bournemouth, Abba Seraphim offered special prayers for the new martyrs, the wounded and their families & friends. He also recalled that Colombo was the area where the saintly Mar Julius Alvares (1836-1923) ministered and Archbishop Mar Timotheos Vilatte (1854-1929) was consecrated as a bishop in 1892.
The Sri Lankan government believes that this terror attack was internationally organised and has appealed for help from foreign governments, but last year it declared a State of Emergency following attacks by local Buddhists on mosques and Muslims. Lack of respect and intolerance towards the peaceful religious convictions of others, breeds hatred and enmity which kindle murder and cruelty. Satan harnesses human weakness in the promotion of evil, but Christian teaching on the power of prayer, forgiveness and love will overcome the assaults of the evil one, rather than returning evil for evil.
On Sunday, 7 April, following the celebration of the Divine Liturgy, a brass memorial tablet was erected on the inside wall of St. Mary & St. Felix British Orthodox Church at Babingley to the memory of the late Archdeacon Mark Saunders. Although Archdeacon Mark and his late wife are both buried in the churchyard, with an inscribed stone marking their joint grave, Abba Seraphim felt that it was both desirable and appropriate to also have a memorial inside the church. The tablet records Archdeacon Mark’s many years of ministerial service as well as the fact that he was a founder of the Orthodox community of St. Felix in Norfolk. The memorial plaque’s presence serves as a reminder to worshippers to pray for the repose of Archdeacon Mark. Also, as the clergy process around the church during the Raising of Morning & Evening Incense to gather up the prayers of the worshippers, along with invoking the prayers of the saints whose ikons are hung on the church walls, they also unite their prayers with the faithful departed who repose in the Saviour’s bosom in Paradise. The regular worshippers at St. Felix were joined by some members of Archdeacon Mark’s family, who were warmly welcomed by Abba Seraphim and Abba James.
The following account was written by Father John Whooley, one of Patriarch Mesrob’s former teachers, who attended the funeral.
The death of Patriarch Mesrob Mutafyan at the age of 62 occurred on Friday, 8 March. His demise at Istanbul’s Armenian Hospital of Sourp Pirgich finally brought to a close almost ten years of an illness, the cause of which is still a matter of debate among members of his community. The last few years of that illness had witnessed a complete breakdown of any recognition by him either of his surroundings or even of those who had been closest to him. His mother, who attended him almost constantly, was the foremost observer to suffer the consequences of this development. Her son, from an individual who had shown such exceptional qualities of leadership, even before his election as patriarch in 1998, and especially so with young people, to one who was then deprived of any awareness of who he was or where he was, this was indeed a tragic development, for himself, for her, and for his community. As recovery became even more remote, his death could be seen as a release.
Patriarch Mesrob, wearing his robes and mitre, was placed in an open coffin within his patriarchal Cathedral of the Holy Mother of God in Kumkapi. There the faithful were able to pay their respects on the afternoons of Thursday and Friday following his death. At each corner of the bier and facing inwards were priests in copes who recited prayers for the departed. It was to be on Sunday, 17 March, that the final Liturgy was to be celebrated, to be followed by burial in the Armenian Apostolic cemetery in Shishli.
Offices of the Dead began on the morning of the appointed day at 7.30, leading to the central celebration, the Badarak, at 10 o’clock, at which time most of the higher prelates and clergy were seen to arrive. A notable presence was that of the Patriarch of Jerusalem, Nourhan Manougian. The main celebrant was one of the three representatives of the Catholicos of Etchmiadzin, Karekin II, the other two being Archbishop Sebouh Chouljian and Archbishop Khajag Barsamian. Two archbishops represented the Catholicosate of Cilicia, including Archbishop Nareg Alemezian. Archbishop Aram Ateshian and Bishop Sahag Marshalyan, both of the Patriarchate of Istanbul, were also present, along with virtually all the local Armenian Apostolic clergy.
Two clergy of the Ecumenical Patriarchate were present as well as Archbishop Yusef Chetin, who represented the Syrian Orthodox community. The Armenian Catholic Archbishop of Istanbul, Levon Zekiyan, represented the Armenian Catholics of the city, while the Vicar Apostolic of Istanbul, Bishop Ruben Tierrablanca Gonzalez, represented the Latin Catholics. Also present were the leaders of the Syrian and Chaldean Catholic communities. The Papal Nuncio to Ankara sent a representative, whilst the French Dominican, Hyacinthe Destivelle, represented the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. Also from Rome, was a member of the Community of Sant ’Egidio, Mgr. Marcvo Gnavi. In the same quarter of the Chancel was to be found the Chief Rabbi of Turkey, Ishak Haleva.
In the left area of the Chancel, in the vicinity of the patriarchal throne, itself draped in black, were seated various Turkish local political figures, along with lay leaders of the Armenian community.
The singing of the Gospel concluded, various addresses were given in Armenian and in Turkish, concerning the achievements of Patriarch Mesrob, with special mention of his ecumenical interests.
One of the most moving episodes, after the coffin was transported up onto the very sanctuary itself, was the anointing of the former 84th Patriarch of the city by all the participating prelates, this ceremony being led by Patriarch Manougian. The full ensemble of the Armenian clergy, including the various grades of altar assistants, then paid their respects.
At the conclusion of the Liturgy, the Patriarch was borne out of his Cathedral, with pauses for prayers and intercessions. He was then placed in front of the Patriarchate itself, within its gates. A large crowd listened to messages of appreciation read from the steps of the building, including one from Pope Francis. Further prayers were offered, after which the move to the Shishli cemetery began, where further numbers of the faithful were already in attendance. Without delay, the patriarch was carried to that portion of the grounds where his predecessors were buried, his own grave being next to that of Karekin II Kazanjian. A crush ensued around the place of burial as further prayers were offered for the repose of the departed; crowd pleasure increased when soil was distributed to be added to that already covering the patriarch’s remains.
Most fortunately, throughout these days of farewell to such a gifted leader, lost too soon through debilitating illness, the weather proved itself at its most accommodating, with clear skies and warm sunshine, reflecting earlier and happier times in the life of Mesrob II, Armenian Patriarch of Istanbul.
May he rest in the peace of Christ !
Issue No. 129 (March 2019) of the Glastonbury Review has just been published. This issue is 128 pages. The front and back covers carry pictures taken at the historic episcopal consecration of Abba James as the new Mafrian: the Perpetual Coadjutor of the Metropolis of Glastonbury, which is reported in detail in the “Here, There & Everywhere”, along with key items of news since the last issue. The “Oriental Orthodox Church News” section contains an update detailed report of the trial of the two monks found guilty of the murder of Bishop Epiphanius, the Abbot of St. Makarius monastery with reviews of press comments suggesting that the murder might have been linked to contemporary church policies. As 2019 marks the fortieth anniversary of the death of Metropolitan Georgius and the succession of Abba Seraphim, an article Forty Years Ago records detailed church events at that time with some previously unpublished historic photographs; whilst an earlier article An Important Anniversary for British Orthodoxy written in 1997 by the late Father Gregory Tillett, offers an historical insight on recent past history.
Among the articles is a theological one by Abba Seraphim on Divine and Human. In the Likeness of Christ, whilst he has also written another The Letter Killeth, but the Spirit giveth Life addressing the issue of the misuse of canonicity and Phyletism with reference to contemporary church issues, such as the problems of the Russian Exarchate under the Oecumenical Patriarchate and the divisions caused by the recent grant of autokephaly to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. There is also the text of one of Abba Seraphim’s homilies on Luke XII: 1, “Beware the Leaven of the Pharisees, which is Hypocrisy.”
The ‘Book Review’ section includes Abba Seraphim’s latest book As Far as the East is from the West. Sidelights on Assyrian Church History and Martin Mosebach’s tragic but informative account of the 21 Neo-Coptic martyrs murdered in Libya in 2015 by Isis. This issue concludes with lengthy obituaries of Archdeacon Mark Saunders of the Babingley Church; Vanessa Tinker, Principal of the Glastonbury School of Ikonographer and Father Gregory Tillett, of Sydney, Australia.
Copies can be obtained directly from www.Lulu.com