Concern for Syrian Christians
The recent escalation of fighting in Syria and the spread of unrest to Homs, Aleppo ands Damascus, is putting the future of many ancient Christian communities in danger. The estimated 2.3 million Christians, who comprise around 10% of the population, have lived peacefully under the current government, which has encouraged good intercommunal relations between the diverse faiths. With support being given to the so-called Free Syrian Army by Saudi Arabia, there is concern that Christians will be targeted if the minority Shia Alawite regime falls.
Already some 80,000 Christians have been cleared from the homes in Hamidiya and Bustan al-Diwan in Homs province amid widescale destruction, which has now spread to Aleppo and Damascus, where there are large Christian communities. As the situation deteriorates the heads of churches have jointly called on their flocks to show love, reconciliation, forgiveness, cooperation and wisdom and to distance themselves from violence in all its aspects. Faced with a worsening situation they have urged their people to be patient, trust in God, prayer and fasting and to carry out acts of mercy towards the displaced and affected people.
The Syrian Orthodox Patriarch, Mar Ignatius Zakka I, is currently in Frankfurt recuperating from surgery, whilst many bishops and their flocks have been forced to leave in the face of considerable danger.
New Officers for the Council of Oriental Orthodox Churches
At its meeting on 17 July at the Armenian Church Hall in Iverna Gardens, the Council of Oriental Orthodox Churches in the UK & Ireland held its trienniel elections. Having served two terms as President, His Grace Bishop Angaelos (Coptic Orthodox Church) retired from the Presidency and His Grace Bishop Vahan Hovhanessian (Armenian Orthodox Church) was unanimously elected his successor. Abba Seraphim paid tribute to Bishop Angaelos’ commitment to the Council and the spirit of fraternal co-operation which he had encouraged between the sister churches. Bishop Angaelos was then elected as Chairman of the Council in succession to His Grace Mathews Mar Thimothios, who was not standing for a second term because of his frequent absences abroad. Father Peter Farrington was re-elected for a second term as Secretary and Father George Joy (Indian Orthodox Church) was elected successor to Father Snork Bagdassarion as Treasurer.
Eritrean Loyalist priests ordained for Montreal & London
On 19 February 2012 in New York, Bishop Makarios ordained Deacon Simon Hadgu a priest under the name of Father Moses, to serve the loyalist Eritrean community in Montrreal, Canada. As a deacon he formerly served for several years serving in the Eritrean Orthodox Church in Camberwell.
On 17 June 2012, during his visit to Sheffield, His Grace Bishop Makarios ordained Deacon Teklit Haile to the sacred order of the priesthood and gave him the name of Father Shenouda. He is now the third Eritrean priest in Britain serving under the Eritreran Orthodox Diocese of Europe and will have responsibility for the pastoral oversight of those Eritreans loyal to Abune Antonios rather than the government controlled ‘Synod’ in Asmara.
Bishop Marcos, one of the bishops instrumental in the betrayal of Abune Antonios, has been sent back to London from Asmara in an attempt to counteract the growing disillusionment among informed Eritreans in the diaspora about their government’s attempts to control the church.