Abba Seraphim flew into Cairo at 1.00 a.m. on Saturday morning, 15 June, to attend the pre-Pentecost celebrations in Cairo as well as various meetings of the Holy Synod. He was met at the airport by Shenouda Mamdouh and driven to St. Mark’s Centre in Nasr City. After a brief sleep he breakfasted with His Grace Abba Athanasius of the French Coptic Orthodox Church. He was later joined by Father Arsanios Anba Boula and Mrs. Mary Ezzat, who accompanied him throughout his stay. Later that morning they travelled to the Patriarchate in Abbesseya, where they transacted various business before returning back to Nasr City. In the evening Abba Seraphim attended the Raising of Incense at St. Mark’s Cathedral during which His Holiness Pope Tawadros II named three General bishops as diocesans and blessed eight monks who were to be consecrated to the episcopate:
- Abba Athanasius, who has previously served as General Bishop and, since the death of Metropolitan Marcos of Toulon & All France, as locum tenens of the Metropolis of Toulon, was named as Bishop of Marseilles and Primate of the French Coptic Orthodox Church
- Abba Damian, who has previously served as General Bishop, was named as Bishop of Höxter, Brenkhausen and affiliate jurisdiction, as well as continuing as Abbot of the Monastery of St. Mary & St. Maurice in Höxter, Germany.
- Abba Salib (Pistavros), who has previously served as General Bishop for Meit Ghamir in Cairo, was named as Diocesan Bishop of the Diocese of Meit Ghamir & affiliate jurisdictions.
- Father Arsanios El Baramoussy, who has served for the Coptic community in Amsterdam for many years, was named as Arsany, Bishop of the Holy Diocese of the Netherlands & affiliate jurisdictions.
- Father Pavlos Anba Bishoy, who has served the Coptic community in Athens for many years, was named as General Bishop of the Holy Suffragan See of Greece and Cyprus.
- Father Louka El Baramoussy, who has been serving the Coptic community in Geneva, was named as General Bishop of the Holy Suffragan See of Southern France & Geneva.
- Father Oulogious El-Shenoudy was named as Bishop & Abbot of the Monastery of St. Shenouda the Archmandrite in Sohag, Upper Egypt.
- Father Michael El-Antony was named, Bishop & Abbot of the Monastery of Saint Anthony the Great in Kroeffelbach, Germany.
- Father Abanoub, was consecrated as a General Bishop and named as Assistant Bishop for the Patriarchal Suffragan See of El-Mokattam in the Holy Archdiocese of Cairo, assistant to the Pope.
- Father Makary, was consecrated as a General Bishop and named as Assistant Bishop for the Patriarchal Suffragan See of Shoubra in the Holy Archdiocese of Cairo, assistant to the Pope.
- Father Youssab, was consecrated as a General Bishop and named as Assistant Bishop in the Holy Archdiocese of Cairo, assistant to the Pope.
The next morning, 16 June His Holiness Pope Tawadros, assisted by the Metropolitans and bishops of the Holy Synod, consecrated the eight monks to the sacred order of the episcopate, during a Liturgy which lasted some five hours. That evening Abba Seraphim attended the first of the Synodal sub-committees, the Faith & Education Committee, which met at the Patriarchate.
On 17 June Abba Seraphim and his party visited St. George’s Convent in Old Cairo, where they were received by Mother Kyria and later visited the stained-glass workshop under Mother Parthenia. In the evening they called to visit their old friend, the deaconess, Miss Effa, who is now 93 but was very lively and pleased to see them.
On 18 June they drove some two hours from Cairo on the Alexandsria road to receive the blessing of the Monastery of Saint Thomas the Hermit of Shenshif, originally established as a 350 acre monastic farm in 1996, from 2001 it was settled by monks from St. Thomas Monastery in Sohag. Under the guidance of Fr. Abraam El Samuelly and Bishop Abraam of Fayoum it became a walled enclosure and in 2006 the church and cells were built. It was opened and blessed by Pope Shenouda III on 9 January 2010 and now has 22 monks and 17 novices, with 100 cells. Following this they travelled on to the Anafora Retreat Centre, where they had lunch and chatted with the fathers. Returning to Cairo, they visited friends in the evening.
On 19 June Abba Seraphim attended the Ecumenical Relations Synodal sub-committee at the Patriarchate before attending the Raising of Evening Incense and the Pope’s Wednesday evening lecture at St. Mark’s Cathedral.
On 20 June the Holy Synod met in plenary session at the Coptic Cultural Centre attached to the Patriarchate. Previously meetings had been held in the Chapel of the Papal Residence, but not only had Pope Tawadros found a new venue, but the excellent facilities provided, including electron voting, shows the significance he attributes to the role of the Holy Synod. Abba Seraphim returned to London that evening.
Abba Seraphim will be in Cairo from 14-20 June attending the annual plenary session of the Holy Synod. In previous years this was always held on the Eve of Pentecost, but His Holiness Pope Tawadros has moved it forward to enable bishops to celebrate the Pentecost Feast in their own churches. The Synodal sub-committees will be held 24-26 June and the plenary session will meet on 27 June.
At a meeting of the Holy Synod in Cairo on 22 November, the Holy Synod elected a new General Secretary to replace the outgoing secretary, His Eminence Metropolitan Bishoy. Their choice fell on Bishop Raphael, who had been one of the three candidates whose names had been submitted for the Sacred Lot and who has served as General Bishop for Central Cairo. He will be supported by three assistant secretaries, Bishop Thomas of El Qussiya, Bishop Youssef of Florida & the South of USA and Bishop Apollo of South Sinai, the last being nominated by His Holiness Pope Tawadros.
Abba Seraphim, who returned to London after the papal enthronement, had sent his apologies for not attending the Synod, but stated that he believed the bishops had reflected the wider opinion of the Coptic community and that the choice had fallen on able and talented men.
Abba Seraphim writes from Cairo: “The meeting of the Holy Synod which was held on 22 March was memorable for a number of reasons. In fact it was a joint meeting of the Holy Synod, the Maglis Milli (Coptic Community Council) and the Al Awkaf (Council for Church Endowments), so there were also a number of laity present. The session was opened by H.E. Metropolitan Bishoy, General Secretary of the Holy Synod, who spoke respectfully of the church’s loss of H.H. Pope Shenouda and, havimg circulated the 1957 Statutes governing the procedure to be followed after the death of a Pope, reminded us that our first task was to formally elect a locum tenens (sometimes called an Acting Patriarch) for the Church. By seniority this would fall to Metropolitan Mikhael of Assuit, but as he is a nonogenerian, he had humbly waived all rights and proposed that Metropolitan Bakhomious should preside. Whilst seniority is respected, the Synod is free to chose whoever it wishes from among its number. However, the unanimous choice of Metropolitan Bakhomious which followed owed nothing to his seniority and everything to the respect and affection in which he is held by those present. This election was made by 86 bishops and 20 members of the laity. As locum tenens, he will enjoy all the powers of the Pope with the exception of ordaining new bishops during the interregnum.
Assuming his position, the Metropolitan thanked the Synod for its confidence in him and expressed his unworthiness. He spoke of the critical times through which the church is passing and read from Ephesians IV: 1-6. He emphasised the necessity of living according to these verses and desired that we might live in love, peace and unity as we desire to know the will of God and to discover where the Lord is leading His church. Accordingly he encouraged everyone present to speak and be heard in that same spirit. There can be no room for individual interests, Pope Shenouda has left us with a precious treasure. The Church places us in a unique position; we cannot disappoint the people and we carry the responsibility together. It is our task to steer the ship of the church safely into the harbour.
The Synod lasted for five hours, 25 minutes, the longest session in recent memory, and many bishops and laity spoke constructively of their vision for the church’s future and addressed the many issues needing to be considered. It was a long, but fruitful meeting and there was a refeshing openness of debate. The next meeting of the Synod will be held on 27 March and Metropolitan Bakhomious indicated that, if necessary, it would meet twice a week to deal with all the required business. The public will be kept informed of its decisions and progress in the preparations for electing a new Pope by official statements issued from the Patriarchate.”
Abba Seraphim returns to London late on 23 March and will be attending the Memorial Service for H.H. Pope Shenouda III to be held at St. George’s Cathedral, Stevenage, on Saturday, 24 March at 3.00 p.m. He will be celebrating the Divine Liturgy as scheduled at Charlton on Sunday, 25 March.
On 21 March Abba Seraphim visited His Grace Athanasios of the French Coptic Orthodox at St. Mark’s Centre, Nasr City, to greet him and discuss matters of common interest for the church in France and the British Orthodox Church. Abba Athanasius extended a warm welcome to Abba Seraphim to visit France later this year and Abba Seraphim reciprocated with an invitation to the United Kingdom.
At the Patriarchate in Anba Rueiss Their Eminences Metropolitan Bakhomious of Beheira and Metropolitan Bishoy of Damiette (General Secretary of the Holy Synod), supported by a number of bishops, spent the whole day receiving a stream of visitors who had come to offer condolences on the death of H.H. Pope Shenouda.
On 22 March the Holy Synod, the Maglis Milli (Coptic Community Council) and Council for Church Endowments (Al Awkaf) will meet together at the Patriarchate to begin the process leading to the election of a new Pope.