Traditionally the Holy Synod of the Coptic Orthodox Church meets in Cairo on the Eve of the Feast of Pentecost in plenary session. However, this year it has been cancelled at short notice and Pope Shenouda will remain in Cleveland, Ohio, where he has gone for routine medical treatment.
More Disturbing Events from Cairo
As Abba Seraphim had booked his flights some time ago he planned to go ahead with his visit. However, after a few weeks of relative calm following the Revolution, there were two recent incidents in central Cairo which give cause for concern. In one a female reporter from Coptic TV went down to Tahrir Square, where a group of young men surrounded her and attempted to rape her. When she desperately called for help a police officer arrived and shot into the air to disperse the crowd. The criminals took both his gun and his phone away and beat him almost to death. On the same day, the Ezbekia Police Station (near the main railway station) was burnt down following rumours that a police officer had killed a microbus driver. As a result of these incidents, which indicate a potential resurgence in violence, Abba Seraphim was advised against travelling to Cairo at the present and, acting on this advice, reluctantly cancelled his planned trip to Egypt. These incidents will probably not be reported by the European media.
Abba Seraphim asks everyone to continue in prayer for Egypt and especially for the Christians there.
Abba Seraphim visited Egypt from 13-20 October with a small group of ecumenical pilgrims as well as members of the British Orthodox Church. Accompanying Abba Seraphim were Father Simon Smyth and Reader James-Antony Kelly from the Portsmouth parish, Dr. Katherine Mori from the Charlton parish, Dr. Gordon Beamish, James Carr, Daniel Heale, Terence Pearson and Sister Luisa Duffy of Madonna House. Arriving in Cairo on a Wednesday they were able to attend the weekly papal lecture at St. Mark’s Cathedral in Abbesseya and afterwards to greet His Holiness on his return to the papal residence. They were accompanied throughout by Shenouda Mamdouh and his wife, Mary Ezzat.
On 14 October the group travelled to St. Mina’s monastery at Maryut, where there were warmly welcomed by His Grace Bishop Kyrillos and lunched at the monastery. Following this they visited the ancient pilgrimage city of St. Menas, which is one of the seven Unesco World Heritage sites in Egypt. Daniel Heale is preparing a doctoral thesis for the University of Winchester on the conservation of historic Coptic sites, so had a particular interest in its present condition, which the Glastonbury Review previously highlighted (No. 108: July 2003) when the damage caused by rising water levels was causing serious concern. The site of the main altar is now covered by a temporary wooden church and the monks are working closely with the archaeologists and conservationists. Father Thaddeus acted as the party’s guide and invited Abba Seraphim to celebrate the Raising of Evening Incense on this historic spot. After leaving Maryut Abba Seraphim’s party stayed overnight at the Papal Residence at St. Bishoy’s monastery in the Wadi El N’atrun.
On 15 October, after visiting the church and venerating the relics at St. Bishoy’s monastery, the party visited Abba Seraphim’s own monastery, Deir El Surian to take the blessing of the churches and relics. They were received buy His Grace Bishop Mattheos, the Abbot, who sat with the group answering questions about Coptic liturgy and the monastic life. That evening the party returned to Cairo, where they used St. Mark’s Centre at Nasr City as their base.
On 16 October they were joined by Abuna Arsanios Boula and the visited the churches and monasteries of Old Cairo: Deir Abu Saifain and the tomb of the late Abbess Irene; the Hanging Church (Al-Mu‘allaqah), Ben Ezra synagogue, St. Barbara, the Church of SS. Sergius & Bacchus (Abu Sargah), the Church of SS. Cyrus & John, the Church of the Holy Virgin, the Pot of Basil (Al-‘Adhra Qariyat ar-Rihan) and the Convent of St. George (Deir Mari Girgis), where they were received and entertained to lunch by Mother Kyria.
On 17 October they drove to the Red Sea monasteries and were received at St. Antony’s monastery by Abuna Ruwais Antony, who acted as their host during an extensive visit. Following this they travelled on to St. Paul’s monastery, where they stayed the night. The next morning Abba Seraphim, assisted by Abuna Arsanios, celebrated the Divine Liturgy in the underground chapel beside the site of St. Paul’s tomb before the party breakfasted and visit the churches and shrines in the monastery.
On 19 October Abba Seraphim, assisted by Abuna Paul Girguis of St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Church, Washington DC, celebrated the Divine Liturgy at St Theodore’s convent (Amir Tadros) in Harat ar-Rum and afterwards were entertained to breakfast by Mother Adrosis, the Abbess. The party then travelled to the Papal Residence at Abbesseya for an audience with His Holiness Pope Shenouda. Following a private meeting with Abba Seraphim, at which he was able to report to the Pope on aspects of the ministry of the British Orthodox Church as well as his visit to the North American Eritrean diocese and to discuss current issues relating to the Coptic Church, they were joined by Bishops Joannes and Ermia, the papal secretaries, and His Holiness warmly received the whole group and discussed aspects of their visit with them. The meeting concluded with His Holiness praying for the whole group and distributing gifts of books and holy ikons.
Before flying back to London on 20 October Abba Seraphim and his party visited Miss Iffa, one of the first deaconesses blessed by Pope Shenouda, at her home in Heliopolis. Although she is now 90, she remains in good spirits and warmly welcomed all her visitors.
Following the cancellation of the pilgrimage planned in May as a result of industrial action on British Airways, Abba Seraphim and Father Simon Smyth will lead a small pilgrimage group to Egypt 13-20 October. The group will be based in Cairo but will visit the Red Sea monasteries as well as some of the monasteries of the Wadi N’atrun and St. Mina’s monastery in Maryut. Those interested in joining this group should contact the Church Secretariat at Charlton to see if there are still places available.
From 28 July-7 August, Shenouda Mamdouh, Abba Seraphim’s Egyptian Secretary, visited England with his wife, Mary, as the guests of the British Orthodox Church. Shenouda was here previously in 2000 and 2007 but this was Mary’s first visit. During their stay they were largely based in Charlton, London. They had a busy schedule, which included visits to historic places and meetings with church friends. On 29 July the Coptologist, Dr. Carol Downer and husband Deacon Richard Downer gave a welcome dinner party at their home in Redhill, Surrey, at which were also present Abba Seraphim, Father John Whooley, Viscountess Coke, Mark Hassall and Trevor Maskery. On 30 July they visited the British Orthodox Church at Chatham and later Abba Seraphim took them to meet his mother, Joyce Edwards, who is in her ninety-seventh year, and they spent a lively time chatting with her.
On 31 July Shenouda Mamdouh joined Father Simon and Sheila Smyth as ecumenical guests at a Pontifical Mass at Saint Nicholas Church, Worth, West Sussex. The Right Rev’d Geoffrey Rowell, Anglican Bishop of Gibraltar in Europe presided. Father Simon was seated in the sanctuary, an expression of the friendship and love, not only personal but also that exists between Bishop Geoffrey and our family of Churches, towards which he has long been a good friend. Bishop Geoffrey is the Archbishop of Canterbury’s representative to the Oriental Orthodox Churches and co-chairman of both the international Dialogue and the local Forum between the Anglican and Oriental Orthodox Churches. Following the Mass there was a reception in the bishop’s residence which included a guided tour by Bishop Geoffrey of his art collection and domestic chapel including an impressive collection of icons which included Armenian, Coptic, Ethiopian, Syrian, Greek, Russian and Romanian. Bishop Geoffrey asked Shenouda Mamdouh to convey his greetings to His Holiness Pope Shenouda whom he has met on numerous occasions over the years.
On Sunday 1 August Shenouda and Mary joined the British Orthodox congregation in the Church of Christ the Saviour, Bournemouth. Following the Liturgy Shenouda gave an informative talk on his personal experience of the ministry of Pope Shenouda, beginning with his baptism by His Holiness, through Sunday School and his educational studies in which the Pope always showed interest and onto his life as translator for His Holiness at ecumenical meetings. He shared insightful knowledge into the Pope’s years under house arrest at the Monastery of Saint Bishoy, in particular emphasising His Holiness’ good humour and joy throughout that time. Several of the points that Father Simon had made in his sermon, on the example from the Gospel for the day, of Levi who when called “left all, rose up, and followed” our Lord, were well illustrated from the life of Pope Shenouda who left all to become a monk, then a hermit and as bishop and then patriarch has always left his own will and desires in order to serve the people as a faithful shepherd. A short time of questions and discussion followed Shenouda’s talk.
The next day, before returning to London, Shenouda and Mary, together with Father Simon and Sheila, visited Hampton Court Palace. When visiting the Chapel Royal the party removed shoes (to the surprise of some other visitors not familiar with this act of piety on entering a church to pray) and lit candles before a Greek icon of Christ Pantocrater. Father Simon enquired of the verger concerning a prominent silver Ethiopian processional cross and learned that this was a gift to the chapel in the 1960s. He also explained that the oval shape in the east wall has in fact never contained a picture as mistakenly thought by many visitors but was believed to represent an egg, symbolic of the resurrection, similar to our own tradition of using ostrich eggs.
The Holy Synod of the Coptic Orthodox Church, gathered on 8 June 2010 at the Papal residence and chaired by His Holiness Pope Shenouda III along with the attendance of eighty-one Metropolitans and Bishops and the endorsement of nine fathers who did not attend, declares that the Coptic Church respects the law, yet it cannot approve rulings that are against the Bible and against the religious freedom that is promised to us by the Constitution. The church also declares that for us Matrimony is a holy sacrament and a purely religious matter, not a mere administrative procedure.
The Islamic Sharia declares “govern them according to their beliefs”, likewise, the word “according to their tenet” appears in all legislation pertaining to the Personal Statute. Law 462/1955, rulings of the Court of Cassation, the Supreme Constitutional Court and the Criminal Court, all mentioned that the Patriarch is not a public official.
As for imposing on the Church, religious matters that are against our laws, i.e. against the Bible and the church canons, this is something that our consciences cannot approve and we definitely cannot execute.
For the re-marriage of divorced people, it is a strictly religious matter that is governed by the Bible.
Metropolitan of Damietta, Kafr El-Sheikh and Barary
Secretary of the Holy Synod
Pope Shenouda III
Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of St Mark
- 19 May 2013
- Raising of Incense & Divine Liturgy: DoncasterRaising of Incense – 9:45am
Divine Liturgy – 10:30am
- Raising of Incense & Divine Liturgy: Babingley10.00 a.m. Morning Incense
11.30 a.m. Divine Liturgy
- 26 May 2013
- Raising of Incense & Divine Liturgy: DoncasterRaising of Incense – 9:45am
Divine Liturgy – 10:30am
- Morning Prayer: Babingley10.00am Morning Prayer
- Raising of Incense & Divine Liturgy: CharltonRaising of Incense 2.00 p.m.
Divine Liturgy 2.30 p.m.