Abba Seraphim chaired the half-yearly Synod of the British Orthodox Church, which met at the Church Secretariat in Charlton on 14 January. Reports were presented on behalf of all the parishes and missions as well as financial reports and church activities in relation to inter-church relations, religious education and publications. A principal topic discussed was the planned expansion of the work in London and the increase of the catechumenate.
Your Holiness, dear Father in God,
For the second time this year it is my melancholy duty to send to you the profound condolences of your British Orthodox clergy and faithful at the deaths of so many faithful Christians who were peacefully protesting against recent attacks on Coptic churches. We join wholeheartedly in the three days of prayer and fasting and share the grief and shock which the loss of so many innocent lives deserves.
We also extend our deep sympathy to the families and friends of all the departed as well as well as those who were injured in the vicious and unwarranted attacks which took place.
We earnestly pray for peace and justice in Egypt so that all sections of society may be united in rebuilding a free and fair society so that the people of Egypt may be united together in common cause for the benefit of all.
We thank God for preserving Your Holiness in health and safety to lead the church and ask Him to uphold you in your sacred ministry.
Commending myself to Your Holiness’s prayers.
Your loving and faithful son-in-Christ,
Many people were killed and hundreds were injured in Cairo on Sunday, 9 October when police and armed forces fired tear gas and live ammunition at a peaceful march, beginning in the suburb of Shoubra, to protest at the recent destruction of St. George’s Coptic church in El Marinab, Aswan. This had taken place after Friday prayers on Friday, when the dome, walls and columns of the church were demolished and set on fire. In addition to drawing attention to the attack on the church in Aswan, the demonstrators were also requesting an effective conclusion to investigations into several sectarian attacks, and the passing of a new law governing the building of churches,
Members of the security forces surrounded and attacked the Cairo marchers as soon as they arrived at the state television station in Cairo’s Maspero suburb. The marchers claimed that they were pelted by people within the TV station itself. Most of the casualties suffered gunshot wounds. Others victims were severely beaten. However, several died or were seriously injured when members of the security forces deliberately drove at the 150,000-strong crowd in armoured vehicles.
In a worrying development, while the attack was underway, the security forces are reported to have forcibly closed at least two independent media sources, while state television broadcast statements inciting against “Coptic protesters”. These included claims that the security forces were protecting the TV station from “angry” Copts, that the allegedly armed marchers had killed one officer and injured 20 others, that “foreign agendas” were at work, and a call for people to take to the streets in order to “protect” the army. In a possible response to the latter, men in civilian clothing were later spotted amongst security personnel as they attacked protesters, and Cairo’s Coptic Hospital, which received most of the dead and injured, came under a two-hour attack by a group of men who approached the premises chanting “Islamiya, Islamiya”.
The next day, at a meeting of the Holy Synod of the Coptic Orthodox Church, chaired by Pope Shenouda III and attended by 70 metropolitans and bishops, the following statement was issued:
The Holy Synod was troubled by the incidents that happened yesterday, Sunday; the martyrdom of more than 24 Christians and the wounding of 200 during their peaceful march.
While stressing our Christian faith rejecting violence in all its forms, we cannot neglect that strangers might infiltrate among our sons and commit mistakes that are attributed to the latter.
Still Copts see that their problems are consistently repeated without punishment or legal action against their aggressors or implementation of radical solutions to these problems. The Holy Synod invites the Coptic people to pray and fast for three days starting tomorrow Tuesday so that the Lord dwells with His peace in our beloved country Egypt.
In solidarity with the Mother Church in Egypt, His Eminence Abba Seraphim, has commended this spiritual discipline to members of the British Orthodox Church and asked that services of commemoration for those who lost their lives in Cairo should be held in all churches and missions. “Our hearts go out to all the friends and families of the departed as well as for the many injured. As Christians we deplore all violence and under the wise guidance of H.H. Pope Shenouda we have been taught that our protests must always be peaceful. The Church respects the authorities but also asks that justice and the rule of law should be upheld. Without that it becomes increasingly difficult to rebuild a society in which all people of faith can co-exist harmoniously to ensure the stability and unity for which all decent people long.”
Photo source: http://theorthodoxchurch.info/main/
His Holiness Pope Shenouda, accompanied by a number of Coptic bishops, recently visited Budapest to receive an honorary doctorate from Pázmány Péter Catholic University in Budapest for his outstanding academic work in humanities, especially in literature, philosophy and the history of sciences. On 19 August he was welcomed by the University’s President (György Fodor) and Cardinal Péter Erdő. The next day, at the invitation of the Hungarian Deputy Prime Minister, Zsolt Semjén, he attended celebrations for the Hungarian National Day. Mr Semjén, who is also responsible for religious affairs, said that the visit by Pope Shenouda was a landmark event in East-West religious dialogue. His Holiness participated in the official ceremony at the parliament building where he met President Pál Schmitt, who decorated him with the Hungarian medal of State. He then joined Zsolt Semjén to attend Mass in St Stephen’s Basilica. On 21 August His Holiness consecrated the first Coptic Orthodox inBudapest’s eighteenth district, during which he anointed and consecrated the altar and the icons.
Photo source: hungarianambiance.com