On 5 November Abba Seraphim addressed the boys and staff of Westminster School assembled in Westminster Abbey on the topical matter of the 1605 Gunpowder Treason Plot. He noted that although Guy Fawkes and his co-conspirators had just grievances concerning the treatment of Catholics, it was clearly an act of treason and the effect of the plot was the exact opposite to what the conspirators had intended; as it led to a hardening of attitudes against Catholics and delayed Catholic Emancipation for a further 224 years. Recent terrorist attacks remind us of the ever-present threat resulting from fanatics with a cause. Violence may appear to strike a powerful and significant blow at the time but it can, by its very nature, only be destructive.
Having spoken of our Lord Jesus Christ’s commands to follow the way of peace, Abba Seraphim instanced the present civil war in Syria, which began as a laudable desire to be free from an authoritarian government but has only brought death and destruction on a terrible scale. He concluded by referring to the Buddha and Gandhi’s rejection of violence.
Later, on returning to the Church Secretariat, he recorded the text of this address for the church website:
Abba Seraphim, accompanied by Fathers Simon Smyth & Peter Farrington attended an ecumenical service of Evening Prayer at Westminster Abbey on 17 September as part of the programme of events linked to the State Visit to the United Kingdom of H.H. Pope Benedict XVI.
The Council of Oriental Orthodox Churches, of which Abba Seraphim is a Vice-President, was well represented during the papal visit: H. G. Bishop Angaelos, as President of the Council, attended the reception for Pope Benedict at the Palace of Holyroodhouse on 16 September and joined in the procession of church leaders at Westminster Abbey. Also present at the Abbey were H.E. Archbishop Athanasios of the Syrian Orthodox Church and His Grace Bishop Mathews Mar Timotheos of the Malankara Orthodox Church, as well as priests from the Coptic and Syrian Orthodox Church.
Commenting on the Papal visit, Abba Seraphim said, “Pope Benedict’s visit is very important for all Christian communities in the United Kingdom as it emphasises the deep significance of our Christian heritage in shaping our culture and the values which underpin the fabric of the British way of life. Like many other European countries, in recent decades we have become a more multi-faith society but our tolerant and hospitable ethos has enabled us to welcome and respect other religious cultures. Pope Benedict’s message is no narrow or sectarian view, but encompasses all people of faith as well as respect for those with none; but it is uncompromising in upholding the dignity of each human being, created in the divine image. His warning of the dangers of an aggressively secular agenda, which marginalises religious faith, are timely and address the concerns of many religious people who feel that they have been neglected, ignored or patronised.
I hope Christians will read and digest carefully what the Pope has said during this visit, as it is supportive of Christian principles and addressses our role in contemporary society in a challenging but realistic way and I commend it to our Orthodox faithful. The eloquent comments of the Archbishop of Canterbury were totally consistent with Pope Benedict’s message, which appeared to resonate with church leaders of all mainstream denominations.”