Abba Seraphim is currently in south-eastern Turkey on pilgrimage to various historic centres of Christianity, along with Bishop Christopher of Southwark and other pilgrims. On 5 October they travelled from Erzerum to Kars, where they visited the former Armenian Cathedral of the Holy Apostles, which had been built in the tenth century by the Armenian Bagratid King Abas. During the frequent changes of political rule, as Kars fell to different invaders, the church was used as a mosque and later restored to Christian use. In the nineteenth century when Kars came under Russia, it was even converted into. Russian Orthodox Church and a stone ikonostasis erected. It is now, once again, a mosque but the external carvings of images of the apostles and finely incised crosses are still very evident. Sadly the crosses on the ikonostasis inside have all been vandalised. They also visited another, purpose-built Russian church in the city, which is also a mosque. It’s once impressive tower and dome have been removed but it’s distinctive architecture, along with many of the Russian style houses and street plan in this part of Kars are poignant reminders of another age.
At a meeting of the Anglican & Oriental Orthodox Regional Forum held on 20 June, hosted by the Bishop of Southwark (The Right Rev’d Christopher Chessum) and co-chaired by His Grace Bishop Angaelos and the Anglican Bishop in Europe (The Right Rev’d Geoffrey Rowell) the Aims and Objectives were formally adopted. These are:
1. The Anglican Oriental Orthodox Regional Forum is the result of international dialogues but does not seek to duplicate the theological work of these dialogues.
2. The aims of the Anglican Oriental Orthodox Regional Forum are:
a. To receive and consider the documents from international dialogues between:
I. The Anglican Communion and the family of Oriental Orthodox Churches.
II. The Anglican Communion and the individual Oriental Orthodox Churches.
III. Other dialogues on both sides that impact on our relationship.
b. To take note of, discuss and explore relevant developments between both Communions, and to explore local relevance and implications.
c. To encourage opportunities for common prayer and worship within the discipline of our respective Churches.
d. To give our people and beyond, hope regarding the search for the greater unity of the Church.
e. To discuss current pastoral, social, political and other issues.
f. To explore and bear common witness, making representations (such as issuing statements) where appropriate.
g. To discover and educate one another, our clergy and laity about each of our traditions.
h. To work to achieve a greater unity expressed in common life and witness.
i. To inform our respective Church hierarchies and faithful of the work of the Anglican Oriental Orthodox regional Forum.
3. To produce a booklet containing all the relevant common statements between the Churches of the Forum.
Abba Seraphim was present to represent the British Orthodox Church and Father Peter Farrington as the Oriental Orthodox co-secretary.