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.
At the invitation of the North American Archdiocese of the Eritrean Orthodox Church Abba Seraphim attended its twelfth annual conference, held this year in Stamford, Connecticut. Accompanied by Mr. Trevor Maskery, he was received at the Hampton Inn on Friday, 23 July by His Grace Bishop Makarios and introduced to the clergy and senior lay representatives of parishes as far afield as Oakland (California), Atlanta (Georgia), Seattle (Washington) and Toronto as well as east coast communities.
From here the clergy processed the short distance to the hall of the Sacred Heart Parish in Schuyler Avenue, which was made available for conference sessions by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport. Upon arrival the clergy were greeted by a large body of laity and vested deacons who conducted them to the hall with traditional songs and the beating of drums. They were then formally welcomed by Bishop Makarios, following which Abba Seraphim spoke of his close association with the Eritrean Church since its independence and his delight at visiting the North American diocese, which had remained such a staunch supporter of His Holiness Abune Antonios. Later that evening Abba Seraphim and Bishop Makarios dined together and were able to discuss matters of common concern and interest.
On Saturday morning, 24 July, Abba Seraphim and Bishop Makarios, assisted by the priests and deacons, celebrated the Divine Liturgy (Anaphora of the Apostles) at Archangels Greek Orthodox Church in Bedford Street, Stamford, during which Professor Deacon Habtu Ghebre-Ab was ordained a priest (with the name Father Athanasios) to serve the Eritrean community in Cincinatti. The new priest had only visited Abba Seraphim at the Church Secretariat in Charlton two months previously when he had spoken of his planned ordination although at that time Abba Seraphim had not planned to be in New York this summer.
During the Liturgy Abba Seraphim preached on the Gospel (John X: 11-21) and illustrated the importance to the apostolic faith and traditions, which recognised Abune Antonios as the canonical Eritrean Patriarch or the one who “entereth in by the door” as “the shepherd of the sheep” in contrast to the government appointee who “enterest not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.” Abba Seraphim declared that the clergy and faithful who upheld the canonical church order were faithful to the apostolic tradition and were right not to follow a stranger but rather to “flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.” During the service special prayers were said for Abune Antonios and those imprisoned in Eritrea for their faith and the Patriarch’s picture was prominantly displayed in the church.
After lunch Mr. Trevor Maskery, who has designed the websites for Patriarch Antonios and the British Orthodox Church, spoke about the importance of harnessing the power of the internet and directed attention to some of the opportunities which still needed to be grasped.
Abba Seraphim also gave a keynote address, “How shall we sing the Lord’s Song in a strange Land?” addressing some of the issues which face an expatriate community which has largely fled from persecution at home. The text of this talk is now available in booklet form from www.lulu.org In the evening Abba Seraphim and Mr. Maskery dined with a group of lay leaders and explored further some of the issues raised during the day’s meeting.
On Sunday. 25 July Abba Seraphim and Bishop Makarios, assisted by the priests and deacons, celebrated the Divine Liturgy (Anaphora of St. Jacob of Serough) with St. Gabriel Eritrean Orthodox Parish of New York which worships in the basement chapel of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church at 469 W. 142nd Street, New York, which was also the commemoration of the Archangel Gabriel. After the liturgy the clergy and people went in solemn procession around the entire block as an important witness in the community where they worship. Many people came out to watch with deep respect and to share in the joy which the procession presented to all around. After a festive agape Abba Seraphim again preached on St. Gabriel and the angelic ministries and Bishop Makarios made commemorative presentations to Fr. Athanasios and those also ordained hegoumenos and reader over this blessed weekend. Abba Seraphim returned to London on 26 July.
Commenting on his visit Abba Seraphim spoke of the deep joy experienced in the opportunity to have close contact and eucharistic communion with this particular diocese of the Eritrean Orthodox Church which is notable for its integrity and fidelity to Abune Antonios and the Orthodox tradition. He was impressed by the dedication and commitment of the clergyand by their energy, which not only involved teaching the faith but also in studying for theological degrees (often in addition to degrees already earned in other disciplines) to advance their own knowledge. The continuing love and pastoral concern which His Holiness Pope Shenouda has always shown for the Eritrean Church was manifested recently by providing them with a bishop highly respected for his fidelity and integrity, which will provide the oversight long needed by the dio0cese. “Under the wise leadership of Bishop Makarios, these faithful priests and people will prove to be a powerful witness to this authentic expression of Orthodox ecclesiology, and with its eirenic and spiritually based ethos, this diocese will one day be the means of blessing the Orthodox in Eritrea who remain and quietly witness to their long and preciously held faith in Christ.”
On Sunday, 18th July, Abba Seraphim ordained Seraphim Mark Boorman as a Reader for St Alban’s Orthodox Church in Chatham. Members of the congregation of St Alban’s had travelled to join the congregation of the Orthodox parish of St Thomas’ for the Liturgy, including Father Peter Farrington, Seraphim Mark and Susanna Boorman and Tina Hammond.
During the Liturgy Abba Seraphim received Tina Hammond as a catechumen, and then ordained Seraphim as a Reader. The members of the St Alban’s congregation who had been able to be at the Liturgy at Charlton were pleased to be able to spend time with Abba Seraphim, and the clergy and congregation of St Thomas’.
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
Abba Seraphim assisted at the Divine Liturgy for the Feast of Pentecost in St. Mark’s Cathedral, Abbesseya, Cairo, on 23 May 2010. During the Divine Liturgy His Holiness Pope Shenouda III ordained a number of new priests for both the churches in Cairo and those in the lands of emigration. These included Father Boula to work alongside Fr. Kyrillos in Abagaya, where Abba Seraphim and other British Orthodox members have been regular visitors; and Fr. Mina for the Coptic Orthodox Parish of St. Mary & Archangel Mikhael at Golders Green.
In the afternoon, Abba Seraphim, accompanied by Shenouda Mamdouh and his wife Mary, visited the Monastery of St. Macarios (Deir Abu Maqar) in the Wadi al Natrun to pray at the shrines of the three St. Makarios, St. John the Short, the 49 Martyrs of Sheheet and the more recently discovered relics of St. John the Baptist and the Prophet Elijah. They were warmly received by the fathers and entertained to lunch. Returning to Cairo Abba Seraphim invited the family of his host, Mr. Mamdouh Abdou to a Nile felucca trip.