Pope Benedict’s visit to the United Kingdom

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.”