On 26 November His Grace Bishop Vahan Hovhannesian, in his capacity as President of the Council of Oriental Orthodox Churches (COOC) hosted a luncheon at the Randa Restaurant, Kensington, in order to introduce The Reverend Dr. Michel Jalkh, General Secretary of the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC) to some of the senior members of the Council. Among those present were HG Bishop Angaelos, HE Archbishop Athanasios Touma, HE Metropolitan Seraphim, Father Aphrem and Dr. Harry Hagopian and Dr. David Ryall ( Secretary of the Department of International Affairs of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference for England & Wales [CBCEW]). Father Michel, who is a priest of the Maronite Church, was visiting London as the guest of CBCEW as well as meeting other religious leaders and politicians to discuss the current situation of the churches in the Middle East.
A Message by Bishop Vahan Hovhanessian, Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland and President of the “Council of Oriental Orthodox Churches in the United Kingdom and Ireland” on the Recent Kidnapping of the Syrian Orthodox Metropolitan of Aleppo
and the Greek Orthodox Metropolitan of Aleppo and Iskanadrun
It is with deep sadness and much pain that we received the news of the kidnapping of our two brothers in Christ, the Syrian Orthodox Metropolitan of Aleppo, Mar Gregorios Y. Ibrahim, and the Greek Orthodox Metropolitan of Aleppo and Iskandarun, Bishop Boulos Yazigi. The two prominent clergymen were kidnapped on Monday,22 April, 2013 on their way back from the Turkish borders. Since then conflicting reports have circulated about their possible release, but the diocesan offices have confirmed as of today that the Syrian Bishops’ remain missing and their whereabouts unclear.
Both clergy are very well known, respected and eminent Christian leaders. Archbishop Boulos is the brother of the newly installed Patriarch of Antioch while Mar Gregorios is a worldwide known proponent of Ecumenism and Interreligious dialogue.
Such acts of terrorism further destroy the fabric of the community in the Middle East which for centuries has been used to having the adherers of the three monotheistic religions living harmoniously and peacefully with each other.
We call on our brothers and sisters of all peace-promoting religions to denounce this act of terrorism and pray for the safety of the kidnapped Bishops. We ask the leaders of the democratic countries around the world to condemn this act of terrorism and pursue the perpetrators, securing the harmless homecoming of these two clergymen.
The Council of Oriental Orthodox Churches (COOC) in Great Britain and Ireland prays with its sister Syrian Orthodox Church today beseeching our Lord to be with Archbishop Boulos and Mar Gregorios, protecting them from evil and harm and securing their safe return home.
“Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; [and] them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body” (Hebrew 13:3)
+Bishop Vahan Hovhanessian
25 April 2013
On Tuesday, 7th September, the members of the Council of Oriental Orthodox Churches in the UK met together at the Syrian Orthodox Cathedral of St Thomas, Acton, London. The tube strike might have been expected to deter the bishops and priests from attending, but in fact five of the member Churches were represented. Abba Seraphim and Father Peter Farrington represented the British Orthodox Church, and decided to drive to the venue, rather than rely on the over-stretched public transport system.
The meeting was chaired by His Eminence Mar Thimothios, of the Indian Orthodox Church, while His Grace Bishop Angaelos attended as President of the Council. Other members who were attending were: Father Vahan Hovhanessian, Father Shnork Bagdassarian, Father Antonious Shenouda, Father Shenouda Shenouda, Father George Joy and Father Ishak Tuza.
The main topic of discussion at the meeting was the Orthodox Education Day, which has been planned to take place on Saturday 9th October at the Nevart Gulbenkian Hall of the St. Sarkis Armenian Orthodox Church in Kensington from 10am. Members of the Council will be giving a number of presentations on the day, and His Grace Bishop Angaelos will provide a welcoming message as he is unable to be present. The Council plans to sponsor and organise four more such study days during 2011.
The council also discussed the forthcoming visit of Pope Benedict of the Roman Catholic Church. Members of the Council will be attending a service of Vespers in Westminster Abbey.
There was an opportunity for warm conversation after the meeting, while the members enjoyed the refreshments kindly provided by the Syrian Orthodox community. His Grace Archbishop Athanasios was travelling abroad but had insisted on generously providing hospitality for the Council meeting. Father Ishak was a very attentive host, and the Syrian food which had been prepared for us was very enjoyable.