News of the Church from divers Quarters
Part 1: The British Orthodox Church
First Liturgy at Windsor Mission
The first Orthodox Liturgy for the British Orthodox Windsor Mission was held at St. Andrew’s Church, Clewer, on 16 March, through the kind hospitality afforded by the Rev’d Louise Brown and St. Andrew’s PCC. Despite the torrential rain it was well supported and by the end of the Divine Liturgy the sun had come out and the church’s beautiful setting could be better appreciated. At the beginning of the service Abba Seraphim received into Orthodoxy, by baptism and chrismation, Dr. Michael Brenton, who has been a catechumen for several months and serves as the Secretary of the Windsor mission. Father Peter Farrington, under whose ministry the Windsor mission was established, preached the homily.
Abba Seraphim celebrated a second liturgy on 22 June and in September Father Peter began regular Saturday monthly liturgies in addition to the Monday evening Prayer Meetings. These have been well supported.
Archbishop Justin’s Journey of Prayer
In preparation for his enthronement on 21 March, the new Archbishop of Canterbury, The Most Rev’d Justin Welby, made 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.
Abba Seraphim’s thirty-seventh visit to Egypt
Accompanied by Fathers Simon Smyth and Peter Farrington, Abba Seraphim flew out of London on 25 March and arrived in Cairo in the early hours of 26 March, where they were greeted by Shenouda Mamdouh, Egyptian Secretary to the British Orthodox Church, and taken to St. Mark’s Centre in Nasr City, where they were to stay during this visit. On their flight they had the pleasure of travelling with Father John Sarkis, priest of St. Mary & St. Samuel the Confessor Church in Toronto.
The next morning they were joined by Tina Hammond, a member of the BOC Chatham congregation, her husband Youhanna Said Hakim, and Father Arsanios Amba Boula, who joined Abba Seraphim’s party. Together they drove to Old Cairo where they visit St. George’s Convent and were received by Mother Kyria and visited the shrines and churches of the monastery, before travelling on to St. Theodore’s (Amir Tadros) Convent in Hârat ar-Rûm, where they were warmly received by the Abbess, Mother Adrosios, and the nuns. After leaving the Convent they visited some craftmen in Khan El Khalili. From here they drove to the Old Patriarchate in Ezbekia, where His Grace Bishop Raphael, the newly appointed General Secretary of the Holy Synod, has established his office. Since Pope Shenouda removed the Patriarchate to Abbesseya, the Old Patriarchate had rather fallen into neglect, so it was good to see this historic building restored. Bishop Raphael received all of Abba Seraphim’s party and they discussed a number of common issues and concerns. At the conclusion of the meeting, Bishop Raphael conducted them on a visit to the private rooms and cell of the late Pope Kyrillos VI, which are shortly to be renovated.
On 27 March, Abba Seraphim met with Fr. Seraphim El Souriani, one of the papal secretaries, at the Patriarchate at Abbesseya and, afterwards, His Holiness Pope Tawadros received Abba Seraphim, Fathers Simon and Peter and Shenouda Mamdouh at the Patriarchate, where they reported on the work and ministry of the British Orthodox Church. Following their audience with the Pope, they visited the Coptic Cultural Centre and were received by His Grace Bishop Ermia, who conducted them round the new exhibition of ancient Coptic manuscripts, and afterwards they visited the Library and viewed the collections of the late Bishop Gregorios and Pope Shenouda.
On 28 March Abba Seraphim and his party drove to the Wadi El-Natrun. They first visited St. Bishoy’s Monastery, where they were received by their old friend, Father Arsanios El Anba Bishoy. After praying at the main shrines, they went to pray at the tomb of the late Pope Shenouda. From here they drove the short distance to the Syrian monastery to pray at the church and where they had lunch, before driving out on the Alexandria Road to visit the Anafora Retreat Centre, which has been established by His Grace Bishop Thomas of El Kousseya. Abba Seraphim had visited here in 2002 and 2005 and the progress in the facilities available was impressive. From the moment they arrived everyone experienced the tranquility of this spiritual haven. Bishop Thomas kindly conducted the party around the many facilities and they met and spoke with both staff and visitors present.
On 29 March Abba Seraphim and his companions visited a number of vestment makers, bookshops and craftsmen, before returning to St. Mark’s Centre, where they received a number of friends and visitors. They left a warm, sunny Cairo on the morning of 30 March and returned to a cold London with flurries of snow.
Shadwell Study Evenings
The monthly London Mission Study evenings held at Shadwell have been well supported. Having established a pattern of studying a new topic each quarter, the “Councils of the Undivided Church” were studied in January (Nicaea), February (Constantinople) and March (Ephesus), jointly led by Abba Seraphim and Father Peter Farrington. During the April-June quarter Abba Seraphim led the topic “Understanding the Liturgy: St. James & St. Basil”, the third quarter was “The Monastic Way: Monastic Spirituality for Daily Living” led by Father Peter and covering St. Anthony (July), St. Pachomios (August) and St. Shenouda (September). The year ended with Abba Seraphim leading the study of “Christian Baptism” – Typological (October), Doctrinal (November) and Theological (December).
Holy Pascha in BOC parishes
The Paschal Eve Liturgy was celebrated in the British Orthodox churches in Babingley, Bournemouth, Chatham and Cusworth; but the Palm Sunday Liturgy was celebrated at Charlton and additional Holy Week services were also held in Portsmouth. Services in all churches and missions were well supported and numbers were augmented on Pascha Eve by the attendance throughout of Orthodox from Eritrea, Moldova, Roumania and Russia, so that ‘Christ is Risen’ was proclaimed in several languages. Abba Seraphim officiated at St. Felix at Babingley and returned to Charlton in time to host a Paschal barbecue at the Church Secretariat for the London Mission. The marked improvement of the weather over the weekend was much appreciated. The London Mission Liturgy at Shadwell on Saturday, 11 May, served as the paschal celebration for London.
Cusworth Church celebrates its Silver Jubilee
Although the Church in Cusworth Village, near Doncaster, Yorkshire, was opened in 1965, it wasn’t until 1988 that it became Orthodox. It was consecrated by Abba Seraphim on 30 April 1988 and celebrated its Silver Jubilee as an Orthodox Church over the weekend 18-19 May.
The celebration began on Saturday morning with the arrival of Abba Seraphim and the Raising of Morning Incense, during which he spoke about the significance of the Jubilee and the fact that it was not simply looking back, but also looking forward to the future. In addition to Father David Seeds, the parish priest, and Archdeacon Alexander Astill, they were joined by Father Simon Smyth and representatives of the BOC South Coast congregations, Deacon Christopher Barnes representing the Babingley Church, as well as Fathers Habtom Ftuwi, the Eritrean Orthodox priest in Manchester; Fr. Yonas Tesheme, the Eritrean Orthodox priest in Sheffield, along with Eritrean Orthodox faithful; as well as our good friend, Archimandrite Deiniol of the Wales Orthodox Mission and friends from other parts of the country. Among the many messages of greetings received and read out were those from His Grace Bishop Makarios, overseer of the Eritrean Church in the diaspora, the Catholic Bishop of Hallam and the Anglican Vicar of Doncaster.
After a buffet lunch, traditional Eritrean hymns were sung in Tigrinyan and English in the churchyard and Abba Seraphim gave a talk on “The State of Christians in Ancient Bible Lands”. The day concluded with the Raising of Evening Incense.
On Sunday, 19 May, Father David Seeds celebrated the special Thanksgiving Liturgy for the Jubilee and Father Simon Smyth preached the homily.
Pope Tawadros meets with European clergy
Abba Seraphim was among the ten European Bishops of the Alexandrian Patriarchate who are met with His Holiness Pope Tawadros at a conference at St. Antonios Monastery in Obersiebenbrun near Vienna. between 27-30 May. He was accompanied by Father Simon Smyth and Tasoni Sheila Smyth, representing the clergy and laity of the British Orthodox Church.
On 27 May Pope Tawadros and the Bishops in Europe attended a Reception given by Pro Oriente to mark the 10th anniversary of the legal registration of the Coptic Church in Austria, which washosted by His Eminence Cardinal Schönborn, Archbishop of Vienna at his residence in Vienna. During the proceedings Pope Tawadros graciously accepted the title of ‘Protector of Pro Oriente’
Annual Ecumenical Lecture at Babingley
For over a decade, during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, St. Mary & St. Felix British Orthodox Church at Babingley, on the Sandringham Estate, has made its contribution a lecture followed by the Raising of Evening Incense. The snow and poor weather conditions in January, however, obliged this to be postponed and it was rescheduled to 1 June when the weather was better, even if not summer.
The speaker was a Norfolk lawyer, Nicholas Crampton, founder of ‘Eastern Christian Links’, an organisation established some years ago to foster understanding with and promote knowledge of the Christian Churches of the East. His subject “Nicaea Revisited” was an eloquent appeal to treat the first Ecumenical Council, held in Nicaea in 325, as a foundation stone of theological dialogue between all mainstream Christian traditions (see full text on page 179).
UK Oriental Orthodox hierarchs lunch with new Archbishop
On 10 June the Most Rev’d Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, invited the episcopal members of the Council of Oriental Orthodox Churches to join him for lunch at Lambeth Palace. The bishops were warmly welcomed and Archbishop Justin assured of his commitment to the ongoing ecumenical dialogue, especially welcoming the resumption of the Anglican-Oriental Orthodox International Dialogue, which would be hosted in October by the Church of England. Over lunch a number of topics of common interest were discusse,d with especial concern expressed for events in the Middle East, and the Archbishop spoke of the need for continuing efforts and prayer for the release of the two kidnapped Orthodox Archbishops of Aleppo. The company was joined by the Bishops of Europe (The Right Rev’d Geoffrey Rowell) and Southwark (The Right Rev’d Christopher Chessum).
Installation of Catholic Bishop of East Anglia
On 16 July 2013 Abba Seraphim was among the ecumenical guests invited to attend the Mass & Installation of the Right Rev’d Alan Hopes as fourth Catholic Bishop of East Anglia. The service took place as the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Norwich and the installation was performed by The Most Rev’d Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, as Metropolitan of the Province of Westminster. Large numbers of Catholic bishops attended as well as Anglicans. After an interregnum of two years, since the death of Bishop Michael Evans, the local clergy and faithful were filled with joy at this new appointment. Bishop Alan had previously served as an Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Westminster with the titular see of Chester-le-Street. Among other Orthodox clergy attending were His Eminence Archbishop Gregorios of Thyateira; Archpriest Raphael Armour, Dean of East England for the Russian Orthodox diocese of Sourozh; and Abuna Shishoy El Antony, Coptic Orthodox priest for St. Athanasius Parish, Easton, Norfolk.
Abba Seraphim officiates at wedding
On 14 July Abba Seraphim officiated at the wedding of Ieva Karklina & Peter Takla at St. John the Evangelist Coptic Orthodox Church at Elmers End, Beckenham. He was supported in the service by Fathers Antonius Nagib and Sergius Scott from St. John’s Church. Among those attending was Ieva’s mother from Sweden and several regular worshippers of the British Orthodox Church’s London Mission, including Subdeacon Daniel Malyon and Reader Trevor Maskery.
Abba Seraphim attends Holy Synod in Cairo
Abba Seraphim flew into Cairo at 1.00 a.m. on Saturday morning, 15 June, to attend the pre-Pentecost celebrations in Cairo as well as various meetings of the Holy Synod. He was met at the airport by Shenouda Mamdouh and driven to St. Mark’s Centre in Nasr City. After a brief sleep he breakfasted with His Grace Abba Athanasius of the French Coptic Orthodox Church. He was later joined by Father Arsanios Anba Boula and Mrs. Mary Ezzat, who accompanied him throughout his stay. Later that morning they travelled to the Patriarchate in Abbesseya, where they transacted various business before returning back to Nasr City. In the evening Abba Seraphim attended the Raising of Incense at St. Mark’s Cathedral during which His Holiness Pope Tawadros II named three General bishops as diocesans and blessed eight monks who were to be consecrated to the episcopate:
Abba Athanasius, who has previously served as General Bishop and, since the death of Metropolitan Marcos of Toulon & All France, as locum tenens of the Metropolis of Toulon, was named as Bishop of Marseilles and Primate of the French Coptic Orthodox Church
Abba Damian, who has previously served as General Bishop, was named as Bishop of Höxter, Brenkhausen and affiliate jurisdiction, as well as continuing as Abbot of the Monastery of St. Mary & St. Maurice in Höxter, Germany.
Abba Salib (Pistavros), who has previously served as General Bishop for Meit Ghamir in Cairo, was named as Diocesan Bishop of the Diocese of Meit Ghamir & affiliate jurisdictions.
Father Arsanios El Baramoussy, who has served for the Coptic community in Amsterdam for many years, was named as Arsany, Bishop of the Holy Diocese of the Netherlands & affiliate jurisdictions.
Father Pavlos Anba Bishoy, who has served the Coptic community in Athens for many years, was named as General Bishop of the Holy Suffragan See of Greece and Cyprus.
Father Louka El Baramoussy, who has been serving the Coptic community in Geneva, was named as General Bishop of the Holy Suffragan See of Southern France & Geneva.
Father Oulogious El-Shenoudy was named as Bishop & Abbot of the Monastery of St. Shenouda the Archmandrite in Sohag, Upper Egypt.
Father Michael El-Antony was named, Bishop & Abbot of the Monastery of Saint Anthony the Great in Kroeffelbach, Germany.
Father Abanoub, was consecrated as a General Bishop and named as Assistant Bishop for the Patriarchal Suffragan See of El-Mokattam in the Holy Archdiocese of Cairo, assistant to the Pope.
Father Makary, was consecrated as a General Bishop and named as Assistant Bishop for the Patriarchal Suffragan See of Shoubra in the Holy Archdiocese of Cairo, assistant to the Pope.
Father Youssab, was consecrated as a General Bishop and named as Assistant Bishop in the Holy Archdiocese of Cairo, assistant to the Pope.
The next morning, 16 June His Holiness Pope Tawadros, assisted by the Metropolitans and bishops of the Holy Synod, consecrated the eight monks to the sacred order of the episcopate, during a Liturgy which lasted some five hours. That evening Abba Seraphim attended the first of the Synodal sub-committees, the Faith & Education Committee, which met at the Patriarchate.
On 17 June Abba Seraphim and his party visited St. George’s Convent in Old Cairo, where they were received by Mother Kyria and later visited the stained-glass workshop under Mother Parthenia. In the evening they called to visit their old friend, the deaconess, Miss Effa, who is now 93 but was very lively and pleased to see them.
On 18 June they drove some two hours from Cairo on the Alexandria road to receive the blessing of the Monastery of Saint Thomas the Hermit of Shenshif, originally established as a 350 acre monastic farm in 1996, from 2001 it was settled by monks from St. Thomas Monastery in Sohag. Under the guidance of Fr. Abraam El Samuelly and Bishop Abraam of Fayoum it became a walled enclosure and in 2006 the church and cells were built. It was opened and blessed by Pope Shenouda III on 9 January 2010 and now has 22 monks and 17 novices, with 100 cells. Following this they travelled on to the Anafora Retreat Centre, where they had lunch and chatted with the fathers. Returning to Cairo, they visited friends in the evening.
On 19 June Abba Seraphim attended the Ecumenical Relations Synodal sub-committee at the Patriarchate before attending the Raising of Evening Incense and the Pope’s Wednesday evening lecture at St. Mark’s Cathedral.
On 20 June the Holy Synod met in plenary session at the Coptic Cultural Centre attached to the Patriarchate. Previously meetings had been held in the Chapel of the Papal Residence, but not only had Pope Tawadros found a new venue, but the excellent facilities provided, including electronic voting, shows the significance he attributes to the role of the Holy Synod. Abba Seraphim returned to London that evening.
Annual Glastonbury Pilgrimage
Ably supported by Subdeacon Wulfric Ashdown, Father Simon Smyth represented His Eminence Abba Seraphim, Metropolitan of Glastonbury, at this year’s Glastonbury Pilgrimage.
Prior to the Anglican Mass there is a celebration of the Divine Liturgy in the Undercroft of Glastonbury Abbey. The British Orthodox and Russian Orthodox Churches celebrate the Divine Liturgy on alternate years and this year the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom was celebrated by Mitred Archpriest Father Benedict Ramsden and members of his Russian Orthodox community. The British Orthodox Church is always represented, however, as we are keen to show fraternal support for our fellow Orthodox on this occasion. This was especially pleasing this year as Father Benedict was also celebrating this weekend the fortieth anniversary of his ordination as priest. Father Benedict referred more than once to the suffering and persecuted Coptic Church and showed the British Orthodox clergy the same deep respect he always does on these occasions.
Owing to Father Benedict having to depart straight after the Divine Liturgy Father Simon and Subdeacon Wulfric were the only Orthodox clergy to attend the Solemn Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary, at which The Right Rev’d John Ford, Bishop of Plymouth and Chairman of the Glastonbury Pilgrimage Association presided. The Bishop of Plymouth publicly expressed his appreciation for Father Benedict having celebrated the Liturgy even though he had been unable to stay for the Mass and also welcomed both British Orthodox clergy, announcing that Father Simon was representing Metropolitan Seraphim and expressing his joyat our being together for the pilgrimage, united by our common baptism. The homily was preached by The Right Rev’’d Michael Langrish, Bishop of Exeter.
The rain which had fallen to some extent during the Divine Liturgy and to a far greater extent during the Solemn Mass held off for the procession through Glastonbury which was largely bathed in sunshine. Come rain or shine, though, it was a joyful day and seemed generally appreciated and valued by all present.
Daniel Malyon marries Janice Oommen
On 19 August Subdeacon Daniel Malyon and Janice Oommen were joined together in Holy Matrimony in Kerala. The service was performed by His Grace Gabriel Mar Gregorios, Bishop of Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum) in his Domestic Chapel at Aramana, assisted by three of his priests and was conducted in both Malayalam and English in the presence of some 240 guests. On 16 August Daniel had an audience with His Holiness Baselios Mar Thoma Paulose II, Catholicos of the East, who gave them his blessing. The Betrothal of Daniel and Janice had been performed on 16 December 2012 by Father Simon Smyth at Christ the Saviour Church in Bournemouth, where Daniel and Janice had first met.
In his letter of greeting to Mar Gregorios, Abba Seraphim had written, “The forthcoming wedding is a source of much pleasure to the clergy and faithful of the British Orthodox Church, not only because we have come to know and love Janice during her stay in the UK; but also because it symbolises the deep affection and respect with which the British Orthodox regard the venerable Orthodox Church of India, which has proved such a vibrant witness to our common faith, both here and in its homeland in Kerala.”
New Anglican bishops consecrated
On 25 September, the Archbishop of Canterbury (the Most Reverend & Right Hon. Justrin Welby), assisted by the Bishops of London and Rochester, with the College of Bishops, consecrated two new bishops at Westminster Abbey. These were the Venerable Martyn Snow, Archdeacon of Sheffield & Rotherham, to be Suffragen Bishop of Tewkesbury in the Diocese of Canterbury, and the Reverend Canon Jonathan Goodall, the Archbishop’s Ecumenical Secretary, to be Bishop of Ebbsfleet in the Diocese of Canterbury.
Abba Seraphim was among the many ecumenical guests invited to the service and to the reception at Lambeth Palace following the consecration service. Canon Jonathan Goodall’s work with both the Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Churches meant that they were well represented at the service. Among those attending were Archbishop Gregorios of Thyateira (Ecumenical Patriarchate); Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, Chairman of the Department for External Church Relations & Archbishop Elisey of Sourozh (Moscow Patriarchate); Bishop Dositej of Great Britain & Scandinavia (Patriarchate of Serbia); Archbishop Iossif of Western & Southern Europe (Patriarchate of Roumania); Bishop Youhanna of Laodikea (Patriarchate of Antioch) and Archbishop Nikiphoros of Askalon (Patriarchate of Jerusalem). Others representing the Oriental Orthodox Churches were Bishop Angaelos and Fathers Shnork Bagdassarian and Garegin Hambardzumyan.
It was a particular pleasure that the Sermon on this auspicious day was preached by The Right Rev’d & Right Hon. the Lord Williams of Oystermouth, the previous Archbishop of Canterbury.
Historic Visit of the Catholicos of the East
The recent visit of His Holiness Mar Basilius Mar Thoma Paulose II, Catholicos of the East, to England, was not only a great blessing for the Indian (Malankara) Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom but also a significant ecumenical event. His visit marked a number of historic anniversaries: 80 years since the first celebration of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Qurbana in the Chapel of King’s College, London; 75 years since H.H.The Catholicos, Mar Baselios Geeverghese II visited the UK in 1937; 60 years since the Malayalee migration to the UK and 40 years since the formation of the St. Gregorios Congregation in London.
Accompanied by his wife Tasoni Sheila,, Father Simon Smyth represented Abba Seraphim at the consecration of the new Indian Orthodox Church of Saint Mary in Pilning, Bristol, on Saturday 7 September. The building in Bank Road, Pilning, BS35 4JG was formerly St. Peter’s Primary School. The consecration and first liturgy was celebrated by His Holiness Baselius Mar Thoma Paulose II, Catholicos of the East, supported by the diocesan bishop, His Grace Metropolitan Doctor Mathew Mar Thimothius and His Grace Metropolitan Thomas Mar Athanasius, Bishop of Chengannur, together with seven Indian Orthodox priests and an enthusiastic congregation of several hundred. The whole day typified Oriental Orthodoxy at its best, filled with love, warmth and joy.
Although the Indian Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom & Ireland has twenty-three congregations, this is their third freehold church building. The Bristol parish was founded in October 2002 with only 25 families, but began growing rapidly, so that it was constituted a parish in August 2003 and now has 95 families. Plans to erect a traditional Malankara Church facade received support from the local council as likely to enhance the building’s appearance but is being opposed by the County Council as the building falls within the Green belt. Your prayers are invited for a successful outcome to the church’s appeal.
Abba Seraphim, accompanied by Subdeacon Daniel Malyon and Reader Trevor Maskery, attended the Divine Liturgy celebrated by the Catholicos at St. Gregorios Indian Orthodox Church in Brockley on Sunday, 8 September, and assisted in the liturgical celebration and the parochial speeches and festivities which followed.
On Monday, 9 September a Banquet of some 90 guests was held to honour the Catholicos at Lambeth Palace. In the absence of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishops of Gibraltar in Europe (The Right Rev. Geoffrey Rowell) and Southwark (The Right Rev. Christopher Chessum) acted as hosts. Representatives of all the major churches were present as well as many leading members of the Malayalee community in the UK and friends of the Indian Orthodox Church. The British Orthodox Church was represented by Abba Seraphim, Father Peter Farrington and Father & Mrs. Simon Smyth.
Inspirational talk by HRH Prince Hassan of Jordan
Abba Seraphim was among the civic, ecclesiastical and inter-faith leaders invited to the Coptic Orthodox Church Centre at Stevenage on 13 November to meet with HRH Prince Hassan of Jordan. The Prince is noted for his humanitarian and inter-faith initiatives and has worked tirelessly for peace and justice for many decades. Welcomed by Bishop Angaelos, who hosted the meeting of a relatively small group of those sharing the same aspirations, the Prince spoke frankly and engagingly on a number of issues related to the unrest in the Middle East following the so-called “Arab Spring”. Having spoken from his wide and rich experience of engagement with statesmen, politicians and all key figures in the Middle East over half a century, as well as his family’s central role in affairs of state, he demonstrated profound understanding of the current situation, a deep commitment to justice and peace, underpinned by integrity and vision. Abba Seraphim commented, “Too often such discussions leave one with a sense of hopelessness in the face of so many intractable problems, but I returned home feeling encouraged that a resolution is not entirely beyond our reach, even though it may take manyyears to achieve
Eritreans – The Lampedusa Tragedy
The tragedy which occurred off the island of Lampedusa, in which hundreds of Eritrea and Somalian refugees were killed in a shipwreck, took place on 3 October, while Abbas Seraphim was on pilgrimage in Turkey and without proper access to current news. This meant that he did not learn the full scale of the tragedy until after his return to the United Kingdom.
On 6 October a candlelit vigil was held at Speakers’ Corner at London’s Hyde Park, at which Elsa Chyrum, an Eritrea human rights’ activist spoke movingly of the plight of those driven out of their country by the current regime. Also present was Father Shenouda Haile, the London priest of the free Eritrean Orthodox Church under His Grace Bishop Makarios, whose simple but heartfelt speech also moved many people. One of those present later wrote on Facebook, “What impressed me is his analysis of the underlying reasons why Eritreans at home and in Diaspora found themselves in such helpless situations. It can be summarised as fear, greed, selfishness “a culture of I don’t care about others” and indifference to the injustice that is driving people to flee Eritrea …. He pleaded to change our behaviours to care for each other, to be tolerant and help those who are in dire needs such as those languishing in refugees’ camps in Sudan and Ethiopia. He pleaded with us to turn ourselves to God to help us to awaken our authentic self and stands up to injustices with unity and love for each other. He also prayed to God so that he whispers to the ears of the [current Eritrean ruling] authorities to come to their senses and stop oppressing the Eritrean people. His advice was worth listening to, it was words of wisdom.” Another commentator spoke of his “courage, clarity and words of wisdom” and expressed the hope that “his words will reverberate in the ears of the other religious leaders and their followers who have chosen to ignore the plight of our youth – their very flock.”
Abba Seraphim attended Solemn Evensong at the Guild Church of St. Dunstan-in-the-West, London, on 17 April for the ceremony of Licensing the Right Rev’d Jonathan Baker, Suffragen Bishop of Fulham, as Guild Vicar of St. Dunstans. Bishop Baker is a former Principal of Pusey House, who was consecrated as Bishop of Ebbsfleet in 2011 and translated to Fulham in February this year. Presiding at the service was The Bishop of London (The Right Rev’d Richard Chartres), who preached an engaging and inspiring sermon. Among the guests present was His Eminence Metropolitan Iosif, of the Roumanian Orthodox Diocese of Western and Southern Europe, with whom Abba Seraphim discussed the Joint Commission between the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches. A reception followed afterwards at Hoare’s Bank in Fleet Street.
Mary Goodchild and Bridget McConnachie represented the British Orthodox Church South Coast congregations of Bournemouth, Southampton and Portsmouth at the celebrations to mark the one hundredth anniversary of the death of Etheldreda Anna Benett, the Reverend Mother Foundress of the Society of the Sisters of Bethany. The celebration was held on 29 July 29, the Feast of Bethany, in Saint Clement’s Church, Bournemouth where Mother Etheldreda is buried in the churchyard. Bishop Trevor Willmott (formerly Bishop of Basingstoke, then with oversight for Bournemouth) presided at the celebratory mass and service of thanksgiving, following which a memorial stone was blessed in the churchyard. Although originally founded in Clerkenwell in 1866 (the same year as the ordination of Mar Julius as the first bishop for the British Orthodox Church) the society’s association with Bournemouth goes back well into the nineteenth century with a convent built in the 1870s and an orphanage run there for many years. The Bournemouth House of Bethany took a direct hit from an enemy bomb in the Second World War (resulting in the death of two sisters). In the early 1960s the Bournemouth House of Bethany became the Mother House for the society. This was closed in the mid 1980s and the present Mother House of Bethany opened in Southsea. The Sisters of Bethany have always been known for their ecumenical spirit (the Archbishop of Canterbury’s 1890s mission to the East Syrian Christians being a famous example of their ecumenical work) and in their early years received both Russian Orthodox and Syrian Orthodox visitors. This Orthodox link continues to this day with the British Orthodox Church of Saint Mary the Mother of God and Saint Moses the Black in Portsmouth enjoying warm relations with the Sisters of Bethany in neighbouring Southsea.
On 7 August Gabriel and Maria, members of the British Orthodox congregation of St. Felix at Babingley, became United Kingdom citizens. The ceremony, which took place in the Council Chamber of County Hall in Norwich, was presided over by Mrs. Hilary Cox, Chairman of Norfolk County Council 2013-14 supported by the Deputy Lord Lieutenant. Gabriel was born in Lisbon in Portugal and Maria was born in Novgorod in Russia, but their two children, Daniel & Stephanie were both born in Norfolk. Abba Seraphim and Trevor Maskery both attended the Citizenship Ceremony in support of the family.
Abba Seraphim and Father Peter Farrington were among clergy assisting in the special Service commemorating the Coptic Feast of Nayrouz, hosted for the second year in succession at St. Margaret’s Church, Westminster. His Grace Bishop Angaelos presided and preached. Messages of welcome were made by the Rev’d Canon Andrew Tremlett, Rector of St. Margaret’s; The Archbishop of Canterbury (read in his absence by the Bishop of Gibraltar in Europe) and H.M. The Queen (read by the Countess of Verulam, Lord Lieutenant of Hertfordshire). At the conclusion, addresses were given by Baroness Cox of Queensbury; the Right Hon. Alistair Burt, MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and the Right Hon. John Bercow, MP, Speaker of the House of Commons. The Church was full and a large number of clergy from other churches joined the procession as ecumenical guests.
On 15 October Baroness Berridge, convenor of the All Party Parliamentary Group for International Religious Freedom, hosted a reception at the House of Lords to relaunch the AAG (Asylum Advocacy Group). It was founded in 2007 under the chairmanship of His Grace Bishop Angaelos, to bring together a wide range of people working in the field of support for those seeking asylum on the grounds of religious persecution. Initially its remit was to support Egyptian Christians, but events in the Middle East and North Africa over the past few years, led to a desire to widen its remit to support those of other faiths and in other countries, where people suffer for their religious convictions. At the relaunch there were also representatives of Baha’i and Shia Muslim Groups and those who spoke expressed the desire to see a wide range of faiths represented as witnesses of their commitment to human rights and justice. Abba Seraphim, who is a founder member, attended along with representatives of some sixteen diverse bodies. He spoke of his active support over many years for those persecuted for converting to Christianity, as well as Christians suffering injustice under regimes in Egypt, Sudan and Eritrea.
On 23 October the Anglican Diocese of Europe held a Thanksgiving Eucharist at St. Margaret’s Church, Westminster, to mark the retirement of The Right Rev’d Geoffrey Rowell, Bishop of Gibraltar in Europe. Bishop Geoffrey’s affection for and close involvement with the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches (which goes back to his days as a student at the Greek Orthodox Seminary at Halki) was symbolised by the presence in the sanctuary of His Eminence Archbishop Gregorios of Thyateira (Ecumenical Patriarchate), His Eminence Abba Seraphim and His Grace Bishop Angaelos (Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate) as well as Father Shnork Bagdassarion and Father Thomas John representing the Armenian and Indian Orthodox Churches respectively. At the end of the service Archbishop Gregorios was invited to consecrate a newly commissioned ikon of the Saints of Europe, which was presented to Bishop Geoffrey. Bishop Geoffrey will continue his work as co-chairman of the Anglican-Oriental Orthodox International Commission as well as the Anglican-Oriental Orthodox Regional Forum.