Abba Seraphim, accompanied by Deacon Daniel, visited Cairo 22-29 May for the annual plenary meeting of the Holy Synod. As usual, they stayed at St. Mark’s Centre in Nasr City, where they were also joined by Shenouda Mamdouh, the BOC’s Egyptian Secretary; Fr., Arsaniuous El Anba Boula; Marina Tina Hammond and her husband, Youhanna Said Hakim Gourguious from Luxor as well as other old friends. Also staying at the Centre was His Grace Bishop Athanasius of the French Coptic Orthodox Church.
On 23 May they visited Miss Effa at her home in Heliopolis, which now accommodates Coptic girls studying in Cairo. Miss Effa will be 100 in December. In the evening Abba Seraphim was present at Vespers at St. Mark’s Cathedral and participated in the ceremonies preparatory to the episcopal consecration of six bishops elect as well as the elevation of two general bishops to diocesan stratus. Bishop Yoannes El Anba Boula, former Secretary to the late Pope Shenouda has become Bishop of Assuit and Bishop Luka as Bishop of Geneva and Southern France. The six new bishops were 1- Hegomen Monk Bishoy Al-Muharaqi, as His Grace Bishop Boktr, General Bishop of Al Wadi Al Gadeed Diocese;
2- Hegomen Monk Bakhoum Al-Bakhoumi, as His Grace Bishop Youakim, General Bishop of Esna and Armant; 3- Hegomen Monk Ilarion Ava Mina, as His Grace Bishop Ilarion, General Bishop of Ezbet El Haganna, Almaza and Nasr City; 4- Hegomen Monk Iklemandos Ava Mina, as His Grace Bishop Iklemandos, General Bishop of East Canada; 5- Hegomen Monk Apollo Anba Bishoy, as His Grace Bishop Mark, General Bishop of Paris, France; and 6- Hegomen Monk Hermina Al-Baramosi, as His Grace Bishop Hermina, General Bishop of Ain Shams and El Matareya. The following morning Abba Seraphim joined with other members of the Holy Synod at the Divine Liturgy in St. Mark’s Cathedral celebrated by His Holiness Pope Tawadros and in the laying-on of hands of the new bishops. Deacon Daniel Maylon assisted Archdeacon Dr. Rushdi during both services.
In the evening, after the Liturgy, Abba Seraphim and his part visited some of the churches of Old Cairo to the south of the Fortress: The Church of the Virgin (Babylon al-Darag), known as Babylon of the Steps and the Church of SS. Cyrus and John (Abu Qir wa Yuhanna) and The Church of St. Theodore the Oriental, where they were greeted by Fathers Mina and Youssef. Later they took tea in Al Azhar Park in Cairo. On 25 May they visited Prince Theodore Convent in Haret al Zuela, where they were greeted by the Abbess, Mother Adrosis. Whilst there they met with Father Tadros Samaan of Sydney, whom Abba Seraphim last met when visiting Sydney in 1995. In the evening Abba Seraphim attended the Synodal sub-committee on Ecumenical Relations, chaired by Metropolitan Bishoy of Damiette.
On 26 May Abba Seraphim and his party visited St. George’s Church, Heliopolis, to meet with Father Daoud Lamie. Whilst there they also met with Shenouda Mamdouh’s parents, Mamdouh and Soheir. Following this they travelled to Old Cairo, where they were received by His Grace Bishop Niphon (Tsavaris), Greek Orthodox Bishop of Babylon and afterwards given a private tour of the newly restored portion of the old Fortress of Babylon built beneath the Greek Orthodox Church (Mari Girgis) as well as the museum and burial vault of the Greek Patriarchs of Alexandria. On leaving the Greek Patriarchate they briefly visited the Ben Ezra Synagogue, the Church of SS. Sergius and Bacchus (Abu Sarga) and the Hanging Church (al Mu’allaqa), where they were received by Bishop Julius of Old Cairo. They also visited the Convent of St. George to greet the new Abbess, Mother Thekla. In the evening Abba Seraphim attended two further Synodal Committees, Faith and Education, chaired by His Grace Bishop Moussa and the Lands of Immigration, chaired by His Grace Bishop Serapion.
On 27 May the weather in Cairo reached a record temperature of 45 degrees Celsius (113 Fahrenheit) so Abba Seraphim postponed his planned visit to the western desert whilst his companions decided to visit the Coptic Museum in Old Cairo instead. The Holy Synod met on 28 May at the Coptic Cultural Centre in Anba Rueiss, where H.H. Pope Tawadros II presided over a gathering of 107 bishops out of the total of 123 members of the Holy Synod. The meeting lasted over four hours and was followed by the traditional photograph and lunch and Abba Seraphim took his leave of the Pope and receiving his blessing. That evening Abba Seraphim dined with members of his party and friends at St. Mark’s Centre before returning to London on 29 May.