In preparation for his enthronement on 21 March, the new Archbishop of Canterbury, The Most Rev’d Justin Welby, has been making a ‘Journey of Prayer’ around the Province of Canterbury. On the afternoon of 16 March he visited Southwark Cathedral to meet with the clergy and people of that diocese as well as representatives of other Christian communities, who would be his new ecumenical partners in his new ministry. Although Southwark Cathedral was cheerful and bustling, the emphasis on prayer in its many manifestations was apparent as was a general spirit of welcome and good-will. The Archbishop, Bishop Christopher Chessum of Southwark and his suffragans were scattered around the cathedral and all easily accessible to those who came to greet them and especially to assure the new Archbishop of their prayers. Among these were Mgr. Peter Smith, the Catholic Archbishop of Southwark, and Abba Seraphim, who both greeted him warmly. In his prayers in their presence Archbishop Justin gave thanks for the recent elections of both the Coptic and the Roman Popes. The afternoon concluded with a short evening prayer, which included two Orthodox elements: the Trisagion and the Great Litany.
During a visit to the clergy and faithful of the new Eritrean Orthodox Diocese of Europe in the UK, His Grace met with Abba Seraphim in London. On 12 June following pastoral visits to his communities in Manchester and Birmingham, Bishop Makarios was greeted at Euston Station by Abba Seraphim who accompanied him to Southwark Cathedral, where they were welcomed by the Bishop of Southwark (The Right Rev’d Christopher Chessum). Accompanying Bishop Makarios were Father Teklemariam (Frankfurt) the likekahnat (hegumen) of the European diocese, Father Habtom Ftuwi (Manchester), Deacon John Gebrehewit (Manchester), Deacon Teklit Eyob (London), Deacon Habtom Tesfahuney (Birmingham) and Deacon Robel Fessahaye (Birmingham). After showing them some of the highlights of Southwark Cathedral, Bishop Christopher entertained his visitors to tea and discussed the issues related to the current situation of Christians in Eritrea. After an exchange of gifts, prayers were said for Eritrea and especially Patriarch Antonios in his imprisonment. The two bishops and their party joined Bishop Christopher at Choral Evensong, which was led by Canon Paul Saunders, the Sub-Deacon & Canon Pastor.
In the evening Abba Seraphim entertained Bishop Makarios and his clergy to supper at the Church Secretariat at Charlton, where they were joined by Subdeacon Daniel Malyon and James Carr. Bishop Makarios stayed overnight at the Secretariat.
On 13 June Abba Seraphim and Bishop Makarios and his party visited the Old Naval College at Greenwich, where they viewed the Painted Hall and the Chapel and were received by the Rev’d Jeremy Frost, the chaplain. In the afternoon they visited St. John’s Church, Walham Green, Fulham, where they were welcomed by Father Mark Osborne, the priest-in-charge. On Saturday, 16 June Bishop Makarios will inaugurate Eritrean Orthodox worship in this church with a service commemorating Eritreans who have died in recent wars.
Bishop Makarios’s visit followed his attendance at recent meetings of the Holy Synod in Cairo where he was recognised as the sole canonical representative of the Eritrean diaspora rather than the government controlled hierarchy in Asmara.
As the British Orthodox Church Secretariat is in the Royal Borough of Greenwich, Abba Seraphim was delighted to join in the celebrations of our local martyr, Saint Alfege. St. Alfege was Archbishop of Canterbury 1005-1012, having previously served as Abbot of Bath and Bishop of Winchester as a protégé of St. Dunstan. When the Vikings attacked and burned Canterbury, they took Alfege prisoner and attempted to ransom him for a huge sum of money. Declining to place his flock under this burden, he refused to be ransomed and was slaughtered during a drunken feast in the Viking encampment at Greenwich, where the parish church dedicated to him now stands.
Joining the pilgrims for a commissioning service at Southwark Cathedral at midday, led by the Bishop of Southwark (The Right Rev’d Christopher Chessum), Abba Seraphim and the other pilgrims set off for Greenwich during heavy rain. Accompanying the main party were the Bishop of Bergen (The Right Rev’d Halvor Nordhaug) and representatives of the Scandinavian Churches in London. At this point they were also joined by the Archbishop of Canterbury and boarded a specially chartered pilgrim boat to travel to Greenwich by water. By the time they reached Greenwich the heavy showers were subsiding and the pilgrims were met at Greenwich Pier by various civic dignitaries led by His Worship the Mayor of Greenwich (Councillor Jim Gilman).
The first stop was at St. Alfege Primary School where the pupils greeted them with heartily sung songs and the Archbishop spoke to the pupils about the message of St. Alfege. The procession formed-up led by the pupils in home-made Viking longships which the Archbishop helped to steer through the town centre to the Parish Church. Here there was an Anglo-Saxon encampment by the Regia Anglorum who greeted the pilgrimns.
The festivities concluded with a Solemn Eucharist in St. Alfege’s Parish Church, at which the Archbishop presided and preached. The entire day was a very worthy commemoration of St. Alfege and brought together a diverse mix of pilgrims who had all come to honour his memory and perpetuate his message of the real worth of every human soul.
On Monday, 27 September, His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury (Dr. Rowan Williams) opened an exhibition of photographs of Tur Abdin by the Italian photo-journalist, Giulio Paletta.
Tur Abdin in south-east Turkey has been the home of Syriac Christians since the ealy days of the church and these villages were once the flourishing centre of a great Christian culture, which suffered during the unsettled years which marked the fall of the Ottoman Empie and the persecution faced by ethnic minorities. In more recent times the Syriac Christians were caught up in the violence of Kurdish separatism and a population of some 20,00 had fallen to a mere 2,000 by 1995. Today the ancient monastery of Mor Gabriel stands as the centre of Syriac culture in this area but is under threat from predators who lay claim to ancient monastic lands.
This exhibition was organised by the Tur Abdin Focus Group to raise awareness of the Christians of Tur Abdin and to show concern and support for the problems they are facing. In welcoming the Archbishop, the Bishop of Woolwich (The Right Rev’d Christopher Chessun), who is the chairman of the Group, read out letters of greeting and appreciation from Archbishop Samuel Aktas of Tur Abdin as well as H.H. Mor Ignatius Zakka I, the Patriarch of Antioch. Dr. Williams spoke movingly of the invaluable spiritual tradition embodied in the Tur Abdin community and of its spiritual and cultural value to the wider community.
The opening was well supported and attended both by His Excellency the Syrian Ambassador and representatives of the Turkish Embassy and covered by both Turkish and Syriac media including Suroyo TV, Suroyo SAT and Hurriyet. Metropolitan Mor Polycarpos Aydin, Patriarchal Vicar in the Netherlands, represented the Patriarch of Antioch. Abba Seraphim, attended as a member of the Tur Abdin Focus Group, and represents the Council of Oriental Orthodox Chuerches in the United Kingdom.
The photographs are not merely of churches and liturgical ceremonies but contain some very striking images of the simple rural life of the Suriani and personal portraiture which highlight the vitality and uniqueness of this community. The exhibition can be viewed at Southwark Cathedral until 18 October after which it will be moved to Chichester Cathedral and travel to other centres.