A Memorial Service for His Holiness Pope Shenouda III was held at St. George’s Cathedral, Stevenage, on 24 March. Bishop Angaelos officiated and clergy of both the Oriental Orthodox and other traditions officiated. Abba Seraphim and Archbishop Athanasios (Syriac Orthodox Church) chanted the psalms; the Bishop of Southwark (The Right Rev’d Christopher Chessum) read the Pauline Epistle and a message from The Archbishop of Canterbury; Abba Seraphim also chanted the Psali Adam and gave the Final Benediction. Among the bishops present were His Eminence Archbishop Antonios (Ethiopian Orthodox Church) and His Grace Bishop Elisey (Russian Orthodox Church) whilst the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Roman Catholic Church, the Armenian Apostolic Church and the Eritrean Orthodox Church were represented by priests. There were also a number of Coptic Orthodox priests who participated in the service. The British Orthodox Church was also represented by Father Simon Smyth, Father Seraphim Mina, Father Peter Farrington, Deacon Mark Saunders, Deacon Christopher Barnes and a number of subdeacons, readers and laity. There was a large congregation including state and civic leaders and all present were invited to sign the Book of Condolence for His Holiness.
Abba Seraphim and His Grace Bishop Angaelos arrived on the same flight at Cairo airport at 5.15 a.m. local time.
Abba Seraphim was met at the airport by Shenouda Mamdouh, his secretary in Egypt. The Holy Synod will meet at noon at the Patriarchate. after which details of the arrangements for the Pope’s funeral will be announced. Metropolitan Mikhael of Assuit, the senior Metropolitan (consecrated by Pope Yousab II in 1946) will preside.
The Supreme Military Council has granted Coptic Christians a three day holiday to enable them to pay their respects to His Holiness.
The embalmed body of His Holiness, fully vested in pontifical vestments, had been transferred to St. Mark’s Cathedral and is seated on his throne. The staff of the Papal Residence have been admitted before the general public come to bid farewell to the Pope.
The Sunday morning Liturgy is being celebrated in St. Mark’s Cathedral with the body of His Holiness presiding from the throne. Metropolitan Bakhomious of Beheira is the principal celebrant.
Update 11.37am: Bishop Moussa told mourners at the cathedral that Pope Shenouda would be buried at the Bishoy Monastery after the funeral in Cairo on Tuesday at 11am.
Update: 12pm: Abba Seraphim will be attending a Monday Liturgy. Tuesday is the Pope’s funeral, followed by reception of condolences from the government and religious visitors. The Synod will meet again on Thursday.
On 20 February, at the historic Church of St. George’s-in-the-East, Abba Seraphim announced the launch of a new London Mission by the British Orthodox Church. Although services have been held in the Charlton and Blackheath area of south-east London since December 1972, it was always hoped to organise something in a more central location. Having investigated various possible venues and prayed that something appropriate would become available, the Parish priest of St. George’s (Canon Michael Ainsworth) and the church’s PCC had generously offered their facilities for Orthodox use.
Believing this to be a providential arrangement and being anxious to respond to the increasing number of requests by enquirers and seekers, Abba Seraphim, assisted by Fathers Seraphim Mina and Peter Farrington, have committed themselves to provide monthly liturgies as well as monthly meetings for study and instruction in Orthodox faith and spirituality. The first Monthly Meeting will be held on Thursday, 15 March with Evening Prayer at 7.30 p.m. followed by an address by Father Peter “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke XI: 1-4) with a discussion and concluding with refreshments at 9.00 pm. The first celebration of the Divine Liturgy (St. James) will be on Saturday, 31 March (Raising of Incense 9.30 am, Liturgy 10.00 am; refreshments 11.45 am).
In his address Father Peter spoke of the nineteenth century mission of Father Bryan King, the Rector of St. George’s at that time, whose ministry to the poor and wretched in the notorious Ratcliffe Highway and Docklands environs provoked the 1859-60 Ritualism Riots. There are parallels with our own time and he hoped that our Orthodox ministry would build on the Catholic vision of sacrifice and service. It was our strong desire not merely to bring Orthodox worship and spirituality to the area for the edification of Orthodox Christians but to engage with and reach out to the local people and their needs. He desired that Orthodox would share in the ministry already being undertaken by other local Christian communities.
Abba Seraphim hoped that this mission would be an eirenic one of pan-Orthodox cooperation, demonstrating the universality of Orthodoxy as well as the richness of its local traditions. He welcomed the neighbouring outreach and ministry in the City of London, also beginning next month, under the oversight of His Grace Bishop Angaelos and the Coptic Youth and believed that this was no mere coincidence but an evangelistic impulse of the Holy Spirit. The two ministries would not only be united by a common faith but also in prayerful support of each other.
On 23 January, as part of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity the Catholic-Oriental Orthodox Regional Forum launched its first publication, Joint Statements between the Catholic and Oriental Orthodox Churches. The event was marked by a press conference and reception at the headquarters of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England & Wales at Eccleston Square, Westminster. It was introduced by the two co-chairs, His Grace Bishop Angaelos, President of the Council of Oriental Orthodox Churches in the UK and His Excellency Mgr. Kevin McDonald, Archbishop Emeritus of Southwark. Other members of the Forum attending were Abba Seraphim; His Grace Bishop Vahan Hovhannesian; Mgr. Bernard Longley, Archbishop of Birmingham; Mgr. Paul Hendriks, Auxilary Bishop of Southwark, and Father Peter Farrington (co-Secretary).
Archbishop Kevin described the various statements as “rather a well-kept secret” especially as some of the most remarkable achievements of the ecumenical movement have been precisely with the Oriental Orthodox Churches. The Joint Declarations made by both Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II with the heads of the Coptic and Syriac Orthodox Churches were “real milestones.” Bishop Angaelos spoke of the real bonds of friendship which had been established within the Forum since its establishment in 2007 and of the very clear aims and objectives which continue to animate it.
The half yearly meeting of the Anglican-Oriental Orthodox Regional Forum took place at the Coptic Orthodox Church Centre at Stevenage on 10 January under the co-chairmanship of His Grace Bishop Angaelos and The Right Rev’d Dr. Geoffrey Rowell, Bishop of Gibraltar in Europe. Among other bishops attending were Their Eminences Metropolitan Seraphim (British Orthodox Church) and Archbishop Mar Athanasios (Syrian Orthodox Church) representing the Oriental Orthodox Churches and The Right Rev’d Andrew Proud, Bishop Suffragan of Reading representing the Anglican Church.
As usual the meeting was conducted in a positive spirit of fellowship and practical ways of ensuring closer co-operation between the two traditions explored. Bishop Proud, having previously served as Area Bishop for Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa, offered some insightful reflections on Orthodoxy and the Ethiopian Church, which were much appreciated by all present. In return Bishop Angaelos updated the forum on recent events in Egypt and Archbishop Athanasios did the same for Syria and Iraq.