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!”
The recent visit of His Holiness Mar Basilius Mar Thoma Paulose II, Catholicos of the East, to England, was not only a great blessing for the Indian (Malankara) Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom but also a significant ecumenical event. His visit marked a number of historic anniversaries: 80 years since the first celebration of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Qurbana in the Chapel of King’s College, London; 75 years since H.H.The Catholicos, Mar Baselios Geeverghese II visited the UK in 1937; 60 years since the Malayalee migration to the UK and 40 years since the formation of the St. Gregorios Congregation in London.
Abba Seraphim, accompanied by Subdeacon Daniel Malyon and Reader Trevor Maskery, attended the Divine Liturgy celebrated by the Catholicos at St. Gregorios Indian Orthodox Church in Brockley on Sunday, 8 September, and assisted in the liturgical celebration and the parochial speeches and festivities which followed.
On Monday, 9 September a Banquet of some 90 guests was held to honour the Catholicos at Lambeth Palace. In the absence of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishops of Gibraltar in Europe (The Right Rev. Geoffrey Rowell) and Southwark (The Right Rev. Christopher Chessum) acted as hosts. Representatives of all the major churches were present as well as many leading members of the Malayalee community in the UK and friends of the Indian Orthodox Church. The British Orthodox Church was represented by Abba Seraphim, Father Peter Farrington and Father & Mrs. Simon Smyth.
Accompanied by his wife Tasoni Sheila, Father Simon Smyth represented Abba Seraphim at the consecration of the new Indian Orthodox Church of Saint Mary in Pilning, Bristol, on Saturday 7 September. The building in Bank Road, Pilning, BS35 4JG was formerly St. Peter’s Primary School. The consecration and first liturgy was celebrated by His Holiness Baselius Mar Thoma Paulose II, Catholicos of the East, supported by the diocesan bishop, His Grace Metropolitan Doctor Mathew Mar Thimothius and His Grace Metropolitan Thomas Mar Athanasius, Bishop of Chengannur, together with seven Indian Orthodox priests and an enthusiastic congregation of several hundred. The whole day typified Oriental Orthodoxy at its best, filled with love, warmth and joy.
Although the Indian Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom & Ireland has twenty-three congregations, this is their third freehold church building. The Bristol parish was founded in October 2002 with only 25 families, but began growing rapidly, so that it was constituted a parish in August 2003 and now has 95 families. Plans to erect a traditional Malankara Church facade received support from the local council as likely to enhance the building’s appearance but is being opposed by the County Council as the building falls within the Green belt. Your prayers are invited for a successful outcome to the church’s appeal. Donations to the building fund can be made via the parish website: http://www.stmarysindianorthodoxchurchbristol.com/new-church-project/
On 19 August Subdeacon Daniel Malyon and Janice Oommen were joined together in Holy Matrimony in Kerala. The service was performed by His Grace Gabriel Mar Gregorios, Bishop of Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum) in his Domestic Chapel at Aramana, assisted by three of his priests and was conducted in both Malayalam and English in the presence of some 240 guests. On 16 August Daniel had an audience with His Holiness Baselios Mar Thoma Paulose II, Catholicos of the East, who gave them his blessing.
The Betrothal of Daniel and Janice had been performed on 16 December 2012 by Father Simon Smyth at Christ the Saviour Church in Bournemouth, where Daniel and Janice had first met.
In his letter of greeting to Mar Gregorios, Abba Seraphim had written, “The forthcoming wedding is a source of much pleasure to the clergy and faithful of the British Orthodox Church, not only because we have come to know and love Janice during her stay in the UK; but also because it symbolises the deep affection band respect with which the British Orthodox regard the venerable Orthodox Church of India, which has proved such a vibrant witness to our common faith, both here and in its homeland in Kerala.”
His Holiness Moran Baselios Mar Thoma Didimos I, Catholicos of the East & Malankara Metropolitan, announced his abdication at the meeting of the Holy Episcopal Synod of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, held at Devalokam on 29 November. The Catholicos Designate, His Beatitude Paulose Mar Milithios will be enthroned at Parumala Seminary on 1 November 2011.
Abba Seraphim responded to the news by sending his congratulations to the Catholicos Designate with “warm fraternal greetings and assurance of prayers” and spoke of the great importance of the advancement and ecumenical witness of the Malankara Church for the Oriental Orthodox tradition, not only for its sister Orthodox churches but also for all Christians. During his visit to Kerala in January, Abba Seraphim and his party were warmly received by Paulose Mar Milithios at Kunnamkulam. The new Catholicos was consecrated a bishop at the age of thirty-eight and elected Catholicos-Designate in 2006. At the relatively youthful age of sixty-four, he will bring energy and dynamism to a church which has already possesses vibrancy and vision. The former Catholicos, who abdicated on his eighty-ninth birthday, showed his deep love for the church by laying aside his high office to enable his successor to take up his responsibilities in time for the Centenary of the re-establishment of the Catholicate, which will be celebrated in 2012.