Accompanied by Fathers Simon Smyth and Peter Farrington, Abba Seraphim flew out of London on 25 March and arrived in Cairo in the early hours of 26 March, where he was greeted by Shenouda Mamdouh, Egyptian Secretary to the British Orthodox Church, and taken to St. Mark’s Centre in Nasr City, where they were to stay during this visit. On their flight they had the pleasure of travelling with Father John Sarkis, priest of St. Mary & St. Samuel the Confessor Church in Toronto.
The next morning they were joined by Tina Hammond, a member of the BOC Chatham congregation, her husband Youhanna Said Hakim, and Father Arsanios Amba Boula, who joined Abba Seraphim’s party. Together they drove to Old Cairo where they visit St. George’s Convent and were received by Mother Kyria and visited the shrines and churches of the monastery, before travelling on to St. Theodore’s (Amir Tadros) Convent in Hârat ar-Rûm, where they were warmly received by the Abbess, Mother Adrosios, and the nuns. After leaving the Convent they visited some craftmen in Khan El Khalili. From here they drove to the Old Patriarchate in Ezbekia, where His Grace Bishop Raphael, the newly appointed General Secretary of the Holy Synod, has established his office. Since Pope Shenouda removed the Patriarchate to Abbesseya, the Old Patriarchate has rather fallen into neglect, so it was good to see this historic building restored. Bishop Raphael received all of Abba Seraphim’s party and they discussed a number of common issues and concerns. At the conclusion of the meeting, Bishop Raphael conducted them on a visit to the private rooms and cell of the late Pope Kyrillos VI, which are shortly to be renovated.
On 27 March, Abba Seraphim met with Fr. Seraphim El Souriani, one of the papal secretaries, at the Patriarchate at Abbesseya and, afterwards, His Holiness Pope Tawadros received Abba Seraphim, Fathers Simon and Peter and Shenouda Mamdouh at the Patriarchate, where they reported on the work and ministry of the British Orthodox Church. Following their audience with the Pope, they visited the Coptic Cultural Centre and were received by His Grace Bishop Ermia, who conducted them round the new exhibition of ancient Coptic manuscripts, and afterwards they visited the Library and viewed the collections of the late Bishop Gregorios and Pope Shenouda.
On 28 March Abba Seraphim and his party drove to the Wadi El-Natrun. They first visited St. Bishoy’s Monastery, where they were received by their old friend, Father Arsanios El Anba Bishoy. After praying at the main shrines, they went to pray at the tomb of the late Pope Shenouda. From here they drove the short distance to the Syrian monastery to pray at the church and where they had lunch, before driving out on the Alexandria Road to visit the Anafora Retreat Centre, which has been established by His Grace Bishop Thomas of El Kousseya. Abba Seraphim had visited here in 2002 and 2005 and the progress in the facilities available was impressive. From the moment they arrived everyone experienced the tranquility of this spiritual haven. Bishop Thomas kindly conducted the party around the many facilities and they met and spoke with both staff and visitors present.
On 29 March Abba Seraphim and his companions visited a number of vestment makers, bookshops and craftsmen, before returning to St. Mark’s Centre, where they received a number of friends and visitors. They left a warm, sunny Cairo on the morning of 30 March and returned to a cold London with flurries of snow.
On 11 November, during the celebration of the Divine Liturgy, Abba Seraphim ordained his PA, Trevor Maskery, as a Reader and elevated Roman Benchak, a reader at the Chatham Church to the Order of Subdeacon.
Preaching on the day’s Gospel (Luke XIV: 25-35), Abba Seraphim spoke of the conditions of discipleship, “The two short parables of the man building a tower and the king preparing for war teach that to be a disciple of Jesus requires invincible fortitude and unwavering zeal or as C.H. Dodd more succinctly puts it, “to take great risks with open eyes.” Followers are reminded in stern terms of the cost which they must be prepared to pay. The need for sure foundations and sufficient means with which to complete the task are explicitly stated. If the farmer is unable to complete his building project he will be subject to ridicule, if the king has underestimated the strength of his enemy, he will be forced to submit to his terms. The message is clear for us all, know what you are taking on for a task half done would be better never to have been started.”
The small church, which was packed, also welcomed Abba Seraphim’s Egyptian secretary, Shenouda Mamdouh and his wife, Mary, who are visiting London at the present and everyone joined together in a buffet lunch and fellowship following the service.
4 November. At 9.40 GMT Metropolitan Bakhomios, the locum tenens, performed his last duty in that office by unwrapping the glass ball handed to him by the blindfolded altar boy, Bishoi Mossaed (himself chosen by lot from among twelve other altar servers), and announcing the name of the 118th Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria. The Divine choice had fallen on the General Bishop serving in his own diocese, Bishop Tawadros, it being coincidentally the new Pope’s sixtieth birthday. Bishop Tawadros had been consecrated at the hands of the late Pope Shenouda on 15 June 1997, at which Abba Seraphim had been privileged to assist as a co-consecrator.
Abba Seraphim was himself travelling to Babingley when he received a message from his Egyptian secretary, Shenouda Mamdouh, which meant that in the Liturgy that morning he not only announced the joyful result of the Papal election but was able to pray for Pope Tawadros for the first time. He will travel to Cairo for the enthronement ceremony on 18 November.
The new Pope was staying at his monastery of St. Bishoy in the Wadi El N’atrun when the Lot was drawn and on being told the news, replied, “I thank the Lord for His grace; I am undeserving.” He then joined the monks at the monastery in prayers and doxologies before the shrine of Saint Bishoy. A stream of visitors, led by Metropolitan Bakhomios, soon appeared at the monastery to offer their congratulations.
His predecessor, Pope Tawadros (Theodore) I [731-742] was the 45th Pope of Alexandria.
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.