Here, There And Everywhere

News of the Church from divers Quarters Part 1: The British Orthodox Church

Recent Ordinations

On 11 January 2014 James Maskery was ordained Subdeacon at the London Mission of SS George & Paul the Hermit London Mission, worshipping in St. George-in-the-East, Cannon Street Road, Shadwell, London, at the hands of Abba Seraphim.

On 11 January 2014 Daniel Martin Malyon was ordained Deacon at the London Mission of SS George & Paul the Hermit London Mission, worshipping in St. George-in-the-East, Cannon Street Road, Shadwell, London, at the hands of Abba Seraphim.

On 15 June 2014 Christopher Andrew Shaw was tonsured and ordained Reader to serve the Windsor Mission, at the London Mission of SS George & Paul the Hermit London Mission, worshipping in St. George-in-the-East, Cannon Street Road, Shadwell, London, at the hands of Abba Seraphim.

Prince of Wales’ concern for Middle-Eastern Christians

On 17 December, 2013, HRH The Prince of Wales demonstrated his concern for the Christian communities of the Middle East through a series of engagements and impressive, heart-felt speeches. Having just returned from the funeral of Nelson Mandela in South Africa, the Prince began his day with a morning visit to the Coptic Orthodox Church Centre at Stevenage, where he was greeted by HG Bishop Angaelos and civic dignitaries. He was accompanied by HRH Prince Ghazi bin Mohammed of Jordan, who is religious affairs adviser to HM King Abdullah II of Jordan and a notable advocate of interfaith harmony.

This visit began with a short service of prayer, presided over by Bishop Angaelos and Metropolitan Seraphim, after which the Princes were conducted around a display showing the many activities of the Church Centre and met with members of the local congregation and other ecumenical visitors, who had attended the service. Prince Charles was presented with a fine ikon of St. George, with another identical pone for TRH The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the infant Prince George of Cambridge. Prince Ghazi was also presented with an ikon of St. Mary the Virgin. The Princes then adjourned for a brief round table meeting to discuss some of the general concerns about the current situation in the Middle East. Following this the Princes took tea at the Manor House before flying by helicopter to West London.

Here they were received by HE Archbishop Athanasios and HG Bishop Vahan, both natives of Iraq, at the Syriac Orthodox Cathedral in Acton, where a short service was held and hymns sung in Aramaic. They were able to talk to many of the congregation and hear informed accounts of their suffering.

In the late afternoon Prince Charles held an Advent Reception at Clarence House, with particular emphasis on the plight of Christians in the Middle East. Among those attending were Archbishop Gregorios and Metropolitan Kallistos of the Ecumenical Patriarchate; the Archbishop of Canterbury, with the Bishops of London, Southwark, St. Albans, Liverpool Reading and Bishop Geoffrey Rowell; the Apostolic Delegate and the Archbishop of Westminster; Bishop Vahan Hovhannesian (Armenian Orthodox), Archbishop Athanasius (Syriac Orthodox), Bishop Angaelos (Coptic Orthodox), Abba Seraphim (British Orthodox), the Archdeacon of the Church of the East, as well as many clergy of other churches.

At the conclusion of the reception HRH Prince Ghali made and eloquent and eirenic speech followed by HRH Prince Charles, who remarked, that he had, “for some time now been deeply troubled by the growing difficulties faced by Christian communities in various parts of the Middle East. It seems to me that we cannot ignore the fact that Christians in the Middle East are, increasingly, being deliberately targeted by fundamentalist Islamist militants. Christianity was, literally, born in the Middle East and we must not forget our Middle Eastern brothers and sisters in Christ. Their church communities link us straight back to the early Church, as I was reminded by hearing Aramaic, Our Lord’s own language, spoken and sung a few hours ago.”

He highlighted his work over the past two decades for better understanding between Muslims and Christians and spoke of his fear that the dwindling Christian population might be lost altogether, and the serious  grounds for us all to be concerned, “My prayer this afternoon is for all beleaguered communities and I believe that Western Christians ought to pray earnestly for fellow-believers in the Middle East. I am reminded that to-day in the Eastern Christian calendar it is the festival of Daniel and the three boys in the fiery furnace, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They symbolize all those who are persecuted for their faith. But the important point is: they survived!”

Festal Liturgy at Orthodox Mission of St Andrew, Windsor

On the evening of 6 January  a festal Liturgy in honour of the Feast of Theophany was celebrated by His Eminence Metropolitan Seraphim, supported by Father Simon Smyth and Father Peter Farrington, the priest responsible for the Orthodox Mission of St Andrew at Clewer, Windsor, together with Subdeacon Daniel Malyon and Reader Trevor Maskery. The service took place in the beautiful and ancient Church of St Andrew, parts of which date back to the Norman Conquest and which is always filled with an atmosphere of prayer accumulated over the last one thousand years.

The Orthodox Mission of St Andrew has been growing for the last 12 months, and the congregation at this Liturgy was the most numerous so far. It was an especial pleasure to welcome the Bishop of Reading, Andrew Proud, in whose jurisdiction the Church of St Andrew is found, as well as both the Revd. Louise Brown, former priest in charge of St Andrew’s and whose hospitality allowed the mission community to begin worshipping at St Andrew’s, and the Revd. Rosie Webb, recently taking up her ministry at St Andrew’s as priest in charge. Other visitors also joined us, together with the regular members of the mission community of St Andrew.

The congregation gathers in the choir of medieval St Andrew’s, surrounded by graceful architecture in wood and stone, and the presence of many icons of the highest quality, created by Annie Shaw, a member of the mission community and a professional iconographer, only add to the creation of an atmosphere proper for our Orthodox liturgical worship. Indeed many of the prayers which were offered by the celebrant and congregation must have echoed within these walls for a millenia. On this occasion the congregation had so increased that it was necessary to spill out into the body of the church itself through the gates of the rood screen.

During the Liturgy Abba Seraphim blessed water for the Theophany and anointed the congregation. That which remained was eagerly collected in bottles and received by the congregation. Father Peter Farrington addressed the gathered worshippers in a homily which called on those present to commit themselves to prayer, study of the Scriptures and fasting in 2014.

After the completion of the Liturgy the congregation gathered in the Lodge at the edge of the churchyard and shared in a light buffet which included biscuits made according to the Ukrainian tradition by one of the worshippers.

The Orthodox Mission of St Andrew is presently celebrating the Liturgy one Saturday each month, and Evening Prayer one Monday evening each month.  The mission website is at

Second Orthodox Education Day

The second Orthodox Education Day, organised by the Council of Oriental Orthodox Churches (COOC), took place at St. Sarkis Armenian Orthodox Church in London on Saturday, 18 January. The topic for study was “Extra Biblical Sources of Faith and Tradition.” The day began with Morning Prayer in the Armenian Orthodox tradition. After a welcome by His Grace Bishop Vahan Hovhanessian, President of COOC, Abba Seraphim introduced the topic with a talk, “What is Tradition?” in which he drew a clear distinction between traditions or customs and Holy Tradition. Father Peter Farrington,  talking on “Tradition and Councils” examined the apostolic and earliest known local councils. After an excellent lunch Bishop Vahan explained the rich Armenian hymnic tradition with examples from the canon of sharakans, a sequence of eight hymnic chants sung in a fixed, logical succession. Deacon Daniel Malyon concluded the talks with his study of ‘The role of the canons in the formation of Orthodox Tradition”, giving some interesting examples from, the Alexandrian tradition.

After an excellent lunch Bishop Vahan explained the rich Armenian hymnic tradition with examples from the canon of sharakans, a sequence of eight hymnic chants sung in a fixed, logical succession. Deacon Daniel Malyon concluded the talks with his study of ‘The role of the canons in the formation of Orthodox Tradition”, giving some interesting examples from, the Alexandrian tradition.  Summing up, Abba Seraphim spoke of the broadness of Holy Tradition, extending not only over the Sacred Scrptures, but also encompassing worship and hymnology, as well as moral and ethical issues.

Saint Felix welcomes Catholic Bishop

Since 2002 the British Orthodox Parish of St. Mary & St. Felix at Babingley, Norfolk, has participated in the local Week of Prayer for Christian Unity by sponsoring an ecumenical lecture during The Raising of Evening Incense. This year a full church welcomed The Right Rev’d Alan Hopes, 4th Catholic Bishop of East Anglia. Introducing him to those present, Abba Seraphim spoke warmly of his predecessor, the late Bishop Michael Evans, who had been the speaker at the St. Felix ecumenical lecturer in 2005 and had also served on the Catholic-Oriental Orthodox Regional Forum alongside Abba Seraphim .

Since 2002 the British Orthodox Parish of St. Mary & St. Felix at Babingley, Norfolk, has participated in the local Week of Prayer for Christian Unity by sponsoring an ecumenical lecture during The Raising of Evening Incense. This year a full church welcomed The Right Rev’d Alan Hopes, 4th Catholic Bishop of East Anglia. Introducing him to those present, Abba Seraphim spoke warmly of his predecessor, the late Bishop Michael Evans, who had been the speaker at the St. Felix ecumenical lecturer in 2005 and had also served on the Catholic-Oriental Orthodox Regional Forum alongside Abba Seraphim .

Bishop Alan began by reviewing the progress of the Catholic Church’s ecumenical dialogue in the fifty years since the IInd Vatican Council and its serious commitment to ecumenical dialogue with a wide range of Christian traditions, of which the dialogue with the Oriental Orthodox Churches was very active. Abba Seraphim later recalled that the meeting between the two newly elected Popes, Tawadros II of Alexandria and Francis I of Rome, last year was hugely significant, being the first meeting of heads of churches of both Popes, and came exactly forty years after the visit of Pope Shenouda III to Pope Paul VI in Rome.

Following the Evening Service, at which Abba Seraphim was assisted by Father David Seeds from Cusworth and Deacons Christopher Barnes and Daniel Malyon, all present joined together for a very British tea party and Bishop Alan was able to talk with local members of the British Orthodox Church as well as the wider ecumenical visitors.

Abba Seraphim visits Milan Diocese

On 27 January Abba Seraphim arrived in Milan on a fraternal visit to His Grace Bishop Kyrillos, who – accompanied by some diocesan clergy – welcomed him at Malpensa airport.

This was Abba Seraphim’s first visit to Milan since July 1996, when he had assisted at Bishop Kyrillos’ enthronement. The party drove to the Church of Santa Maria e Sant’ Antonio at Cinisello, where Abba Seraphim gave thanks for the journey. Here they were joined by engineer Salama Salama and his wife, who had acted as Abba Seraphim’s guide during his earlier visit.

Bishop Kyrillos conducted Abba Seraphim around many of his churches so that he could see the progress in the ministry over the past eighteen years. These included the Church of Sant’ Abramo at Vigevano, formerly a plant nursery, where the original prefabricated structures had been imaginatively adapted as a church, community hall and accommodation. The spacious Church of San Mina at Rho, had previously been a garment factory, whilst a garage in Milan now served as the spacious Church of San Giorgio with multiple chapels on two levels. An instruction class was in progress when the bishops arrived and Abba Seraphim spoke briefly to the youth who were gathered.  The extensive Monastery of San Shenouda at Lachiarella (near Meltoni) had formerly been a livestock farm but was now a spiritual oasis boasting many facilities for pilgrims, with eight resident monks.

The next morning engineer Salama and Fr. Raffaele Gebrail accompanied Abba Seraphim to the Basilica of Saint Ambrose, where he was received by Mons. Arciprete Biagio Pizzi, who conducted him round the shrine housing the bodies of St. Ambrose and the martyrs Gervasius and Protassius. Following this, they were received at the Biblioteca Ambrosiana by Mons. Dr. Franco Buzzi, the Prefect of the Library; Mons. Pier Francesco Fumagalli, the Vice Prefect & Director of Far Eastern Studies at the Accademia Ambrosiana; as well as Professor Giorgo Ricchebuono, President of the Cardinal Federico Borromeo Foundation. They were joined in their tour of the library and the Pinacoteca  by the Rector of the Universidad de Playa Ancha in Valparaiso, Patricio Sanhueza Vivanco, and the Pro-Rector of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, Professor Maria Luisa De Natale. They were also privileged to be conducted into the vaults, where they saw the strong room used to house the Library’s extensive collection of drawings buy Leonardo de Vinci, but also to have a private view of the excavated Forum of Roman Milan, preserved beneath the Library, which was to be opened to the public the next day.

In the afternoon, accompanied by Father Antonio Ava Shenuti, Abba Seraphim travelled by train to Venice, where they were met by Bishop Kyrillos, who guided them round the extensive sight of the Coptic Cathedral of St. Marco at Campalto, on the north side of the Lagoon, facing Venice. The impressive towers, walls and roof structures are all in place and building will resume this spring.  The bishops dined in Venice where Abba Seraphim stayed overnight. The next morning he travelled down the Grand Canal to St. Mark’s Square but as the acqua alta (exceptional high tide) had covered the whole of the square, the Basilica was shut. After praying at the doors of the basilica, Abba Seraphim retraced his steps to Milan.

British Orthodox celebrate their First Centenarian

On 22 February Joyce Alice Edwards became the first recorded member of the British Orthodox Church to celebrate her hundredth birthday. (The previous longest lived member was the late Martha Coppin of Bournemouth, who died in her 99th year.)  Joyce Edwards was the first cousin to the late Metropolitan Georgius of Glastonbury (1905-1979) and mother to Metropolitan Seraphim of Glastonbury, so is well known to generations of church members. Previously a member of the Trotton Mission in Sussex she became an active member of the Charlton Parish when she moved back to London, following the death of her second husband, Peter Edwards in 1993.

Although physically frail and diagnosed three decades ago with heart failure, she lives in her own apartment in Charlton and has retained her mental acuity and independent spirit. Her good friend, Archimandrite Deiniol of the Wales Orthodox Mission summed things up when he wrote, “You know that I see you as a lady still young at heart, and I cannot imagine you as anything other than that.” As recently as 11 February she suffered a TIA (Transient Isceamic Attack) or mini-stroke but, by the Grace of God her indomitable spirit overcame that setback and she was able to attend all the events marking her birthday.

Birthday greetings were received from H.M. The Queen as well as from family and friends and from members of the Church both in Egypt and the United Kingdom. Foremost among these were personal greetings from His Eminence Metropolitan Bishoy of Damiette, “praying to our Lord to grant you sound health and long life since this is considered a blessing from our Lord” and from His Grace Bishop Kirollos of Milan, the Papal Deputy for Europe, who sent handwritten greetings to “Dear Joyce” and a reminder that “God walks each step of your journey with you … as you walk in life.”  Flowers, gifts and messages were received from all clergy of the British Orthodox Church as well as congregations and individual members. On the evening of her birthday she attended a reception and concert in her honour at St. Thomas’s Church, Charlton, and on the next day, Sunday, 23 February, she returned to attend the Divine Liturgy and to offer thanks to God for His many mercies throughout her long life. On both occasions she had to ceremonially cut birthday cakes.

The Orthodox Way of Prayer in Stoke

On Saturday 15th March, the Orthodox Midlands Mission of the British Orthodox Church within the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate organised a study day in Stoke on Trent as The Orthodox Way of Prayer.

Thanks to the kind hospitality of the Revd. Darren McIndoe and his congregation at St Paul’s, Burslem, participants from many different backgrounds came together to study the Orthodox spirituality of prayer in an atmosphere of friendship and Christian fellowship.

The event began with Morning Prayer from the Coptic Daily Office, and then a series of short talks on various themes such as The Prayer of the Heart, Prayer with the Scriptures and Developing a Prayer Rule were interspersed with practical opportunities for prayer and discussion.

An excellent buffet lunch was provided by local supporters of the Orthodox Midlands Mission and there was a great deal of conversation over the shared food. The event concluded with the offering of the prayer of the Ninth Hour from the Coptic Daily Office.

The participants included priests and the faithful from Evangelical, Anglican, Catholic and Orthodox backgrounds. Father Peter Farrington was especially pleased to be able to meet Father Samuel Carter of the Antiochian Orthodox Church who attended the study day with some of his congregation.

First Liturgy for Stoke Mission on Lazarus Saturday

On 12 April the new BOC Stoke Mission at Stoke-on-Trent hosted its first celebration of the Divine Liturgy.  This memorable event took place at St Paul’s Church, Church Square, Burslem, Stoke on Trent, ST6 4BY and was celebrated by Abba Seraphim, assisted by Fathers David Seeds, Peter Farrington, Archdeacon Alexander Astill, Deacon Daniel Malyon and Reader Petrous Louis, on his first visit to the UK from Melbourne. The celebration  received warm support from our ecumenical partners and especially from the Suffragan Bishop of Stafford, (The Right Rev’d Geoff Annas), who also attended.

Following the Raising of Morning Incense, Father David received four local enquirers as catechumens with prayer and anointing with oil. There are now five adult catechumens in Stoke preparing for baptism and the first of these will take place on 7 June. Father Peter plans to visit Stoke on a fortnightly basis to build up the Mission, when he will celebrate the Liturgy, share a communal meal with them and lead a study & instruction session.

During his homily, Father Peter used the Gospel account of the raising of Lazarus to illustrate our need for commitment and responsiveness to the divine call. Following the liturgy, all those present shared a buffet lunch and time of Christian  fellowship.

Holy Pascha, 2014

Palm Sunday saw the Bournemouth Church of Christ the Saviour decorated with palm branches and with palm crosses distributed to the faithful who had come to fulfil the blessed demands of Holy Week.  The Monday to Wednesday services (Day And Evening Hours) were led by Subdeacon John Morgan.  Father Simon (who had helped with the Portsmouth and Southampton Holy Week services through the earlier part of the week) led a well supported congregation for the Holy Thursday afternoon, foot washing, Liturgy and Eve of Friday prayers.

The Good Friday worship was, as always, well supported with many of the congregation expressing what blessing they received through these demanding, even strenuous, yet wondrous services.  Deacons and subdeacons were, as always, magnificent, reflecting faithfully Saint Ignatius of Antioch’s famous words of appreciation for the diaconate.  The Paschal greeting and response rang out Saturday night in English, Greek, Romanian and Church Slavonic reflecting the Pentecost-like multi-national congregation who had gathered together to celebrate the Resurrection of Christ.

During the celebration of the Paschal Eve Liturgy at the British Orthodox Church of St. Mary & Felix at Babingley, Norfolk, Abba Seraphim presented the church with a reliquary containing the bones of some of the Theban Legion; illustrating the common hope of all Christians in the Resurrection. Having reminded the congregation that it is appointed for all men once to die (Hebrews IX: 27) he reminded them that Christ is the firstfruits (1 Corinthians XV: 23)  – the promise – of the great harvest of all men on the Day of Resurrection). We share that hope with Christians of all generations and with the saints of God, whom we call blessed souls. Abba Seraphim spoke of the faithful witness of the Theban Legion – Coptic Christians – serving under the Emperor Maximian in what is now Switzerland – who chose martyrdom in AD 286 rather than offer worship to the Emperor.  In entrusting the relics to the Babingley Church he expressed the hope that they would be a source of blessing and powerful intercessors to all enter the church to pray. Assisting Abba Seraphim were Deacon Christopher Barnes and Subdeacons Roger-Kenneth Player and James Trevor Maskery.

Clergy Retreat in Italy

Following Holy Pascha, at the invitation of His Grace Bishop Kyrillos, Bishop of Milan and Papal Deputy for All Europe, Abba Seraphim and the priestly members of the Synod of the British Orthodox Church, travelled to Northern Italy for a retreat in the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of Milan.

Arriving in Milan on 22 April, Abba Seraphim and Fathers Simon Smyth, David Seeds and Peter Farrington, were received at Linate airport by Bishop Kyrillos and clergy, who accompanied them to St. Shenouda the Archimandrite Monastery at Lacchiarella. The next morning, being the traditional British date for the celebration of St. George’s Day, Abba Seraphim and his clergy celebrated the Divine Liturgy of St. James in the presence of Bishop Kyrillos, some of his priests and the monks of the monastery. Later, accompanied by Father Raffaele Gebrail, they were entertained to lunch in Milan with Engineer Salama Salama before being accompanied by Father Antonios Ava Shenouti on the train to Venice, where they dined with Bishop Kyrillos.

The next day, accompanied by Father Antonios, they visited the Basilica of St. Marco and prayed at the tomb of the saint at the high altar. They then visited the Church of St. Zaccaria to pray at the shrines of St. John the Forerunner’s father, the priest Zechariah, as well as those of St. Athanasius the Apostolic. Venice is rich in relics of the saints, those of St. Mark having been stolen from Alexandria by Venetian merchants in 828, although a portion of the relics were returned to Pope Kyrillos VI by Pope Paul VI of Rome. Similarly in 1973 Pope Paul sent a portion of the relics of St. Athanasius to the late Pope Shenouda III in a fraternal gesture. The party ended their tour on foot at the Cathedral of St. Pietro in Castello, where they viewed the ancient throne of St. Peter, which had originally stood in Antioch. In the late afternoon they visited the site of the new Cathedral in Campalto, just outside the ancient city of Venice, where they joined Bishop Kyrillos and prayed for the successful completion of the work.

Returning to Milan on 25 April they lunched with Salama Salama’s son, Tariq, and his wife Christina, who then accompanied them (with Father Raffaele) to some of the significant sites in the city. As it was Independence Day in Italy, the streets were very busy with holiday makers and marchers. They prayed at the shrine of St. Ambrose, before visiting St. Maria dei Miracoli, the Duomo and the Basilica of St. Babila, named after St. Babylas, Patriarch of Antioch, who was martyred in the Decian persecution of 254.

The following morning Abba Seraphim and his priests assisted Bishop Kyrillos perform the marriage of Shady and Guiliana, followed by St. Basil’s Liturgy. This was a fitting climax to a blessed retreat during which the bishops and clergy of the two dioceses shared many insights of their respective ministries and a profound sense of fraternal love which binds them together.

Melkite Patriarch offers hope for Syria

His Beatitude Gregorios III, Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch of Antioch, was the guest speaker at the annual lecture sponsored by Embrace the Middle East and St. James’s Church, Piccadilly, on 20 May. The title of his address was “Syria: What Hope?” His Beatitude is an engaging and powerful speaker and highlighted the many positive activities and engagements between Christians and Muslims which are the first shoots of the reconciliation process needed to restore the spiritual life of the shattered communities during the destruction and pain of civil war.

He Also emphasised that this war is not fundamentally between opposing factions but stirred up by predatory and destructive foreign forces who want nothing short of the destruction of  Syria. The meeting was ably chaired by His Eminence Metropolitan Mor Eustathius Matta Roham, Syrian Orthodox Archbishop of Jazirah & Euprates. Also attending from the Oriental Orthodox tradition were His Eminence Archbishop Mar Athanasius Touma, Syrian Orthodox Patriarchal Vicar for Great Britain; Metropolitan Abba Seraphim and Deacon Daniel Malyon from the British Orthodox Church

Ecumenical Officer consecrated as Auxiliary Bishop

Orthodox clergy were among the large congregation assembled in Pugin’s impressive Catholic Cathedral in Birmingham, dedicated to St. Chad, on 13 May, to witness the episcopal consecration of the Oxford Oratorian, Father Robert Byrne, as Auxiliary Bishop of Birmingham with the titular see of Cuncacestre (Chester-le-Street). The principal consecrator was Mgr. Bernard Longley, Archbishop of Birmingham, assisted by a large number of co-consecrators. His Eminence Vincent, Cardinal Nichols, preached the homily. This was the first consecration of an Oratorian priest in England since 1874. As Father Robert had previously been serving as Secretary to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference Department of Dialogue and Unity as well as co-secretary of the Catholic-Oriental Orthodox Regional Forum there were many friends and colleagues from other Christian traditions. Among the Orthodox present were Archpriest Stephen Platt (Moscow Patriarchate), General Secretary of the Fellowship of St. Alban & St. Sergius, His Grace Bishop Angaelos, Metropolitan Seraphim and Father Peter Farrington. Following the service luncheon was served at Oscott College.

Saint Mark’s Feast celebrated in Venice

At the fraternal invitation of His Grace Bishop Kyrillos of Milan, the Papal Deputy for All Europe, Abba Seraphim was invited to con-celebrate the Divine Liturgy on the Feast of Saint Mark at his shrine in the Basilica San Marco in Venice. This is an annual tradition in the Diocese of Milan, when Bishop Kyrillos is joined by the priests of his diocese and their families for this early morning celebration before the Basilica opens its doors to the public.

The Basilica was originally erected in 828-832 as the Chapel of the Doge of Venice to house Saint Mark’s body, which was brought to Venice by two Venetian merchants, Buono da Malamocco and Rustico da Torcello. They claimed to have removed it from its shrine in Alexandria in order to protect it from feared destruction during the Fatimid Caliphate. This church was destroyed in 976 during a rebellion and although a second church was built in 1063 the relics were believed to have been lost in the fire. It was not until 1094, after Saint Mark’s relics were miraculously rediscovered, that the Basilica was formally consecrated. Today the relics rest in a shrine in the High Altar, which extends into the crypt chapel immediately below, where the Coptic Liturgy of St. Basil was celebrated on his feast. Following the service all the clergy and their families gathered together for lunch in a nearby restaurant.

Protest Vigil at Eritrean Embassy

Abba Seraphim joined a Prayer vigil outside London’s Eritrean Embassy on 22 May to mark the twelfth anniversary of the Eritrean government’s persecution of Christian churches. This event is jointly sponsored by the British Orthodox Church, Church in Chains, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, the Evangelical Alliance, Human Rights Concern Eritrea and Release Eritrea.

As in previous years the protest is dignified and composed of scriptural readings, prayers, hymns and short talks highlighting the plight of Christians in Eritrea. Abba Seraphim spoke of the uncanonical deposition and long imprisonment of Abune Antonios, the legitimate Patriarch of the Eritrean Orthodox Church. Only recently OCP Media Network released a clandestinely taken snap of Abune Antonios from a cellphone, which showed His Holiness looking tranquil and at peace, although still under house arrest. Requests for him be moved to a monastery have fallen on deaf ears.

Commenting on this photograph Abba Seraphim noted that although the government had stripped away his regalia, his authority and his freedom, they had not been able to take away his inner peace and life of prayer. The photograph showed a monk at peace with himself and his God, having served faithfully and refused to compromise with truth in order to retain his status and worldly honour. By contrast, Bishop Dioskoros, who allowed the government to place him upon a stolen throne, was now suffering from the effects of recent debilitating stroke, which left him physically and mentally incapacitated. We pray that, while he still has time, he may yet repent in his heart for his faithlessness and receive forgiveness. “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Mark VIII: 36).

At the conclusion of the vigil, Abba Seraphim, accompanied by Andy Dipper, David Turner and Dr. Berhane Ashmelash, (on behalf of the participating organisations) handed in a letter of protest to His Excellency the Eritrean Ambassador.

Deacon Daniel speaks at Winchester University

On Wednesday 11th June, Deacon Daniel Malyon spoke at Winchester University as part of the University’s Religious and Theological Studies Postgraduate Seminar. As a former student of the University’s Mth Orthodox Studies programme, he accepted the opportunity to present his research. The subject of his talk was ‘The development of the Papal Election system in the Coptic Orthodox Church,’ looking at the various influences which have influenced this system over the past two thousand years.

The talk was well received and led to interesting discussions and observations on the Coptic Canonical tradition. Amongst other speakers were doctoral students and Father Nicholas Spencer of the Benedictine order, who spoke on the influence of Eastern Christian Mystical Theology on Medieval Western Christian thought. After the Seminar, the Orthodox students were invited for the Vespers service by Fr Andreas Andreopoulous of the Romanian Orthodox Church. This was followed by an address on ‘Ethics and Empathy’ by Lord Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury.

First Baptisms at Stoke Mission

On the eve of Pentecost, Saturday 7th June, five adult converts to the Orthodox Faith were received into the Church by baptism and chrismation during a moving and beautiful baptismal liturgy at St Paul’s Anglican Church, Burslem, Stoke on Trent. Father Peter Farrington has been preparing this group for baptism, and was encouraged that despite many obstacles laid in the way, they have grown even closer together as they have made their journey towards Orthodoxy.

Father Peter drove up to Stoke early on Saturday morning, and met some of the baptismal candidates at St Paul’s Anglican Church to begin preparations. An inflatable baptistery was unpacked and pumped up, and the a hose pipe began to fill it with cold water. The altar was set up for the liturgy which would immediately follow the baptism. Slowly the candidates all arrived, and then the many guests who were determined to brave the wet weather to share in this special and significant occasion. By the time that the baptismal rite was ready to begin there were over 55 people in the church hall, including Father Samuel from the nearby Antiochian Orthodox Church, and many of his own congregation.

Father David Seeds, from the British Orthodox Church of St Hubert, Doncaster, had made the journey to celebrate the reception of these first five members of the Orthodox Community of St Chad in Stoke. The morning services began with the baptism of Julie, Jenny, Maria, Des and Phil who had taken the baptismal names of Photini, Genevieve, Mary, Anthony and Philip. The baptismal waters were perhaps not as warm as they could have been, but the candidates braved the cold and entered the waters one by one to be baptised into Christ by Father Peter. Standing with the waters of the baptismal font still upon them they were then chrismated, anointed with holy oil, and with the laying on of hands the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out upon them.

The joyful congregation processed behind the newly illumined Orthodox into the church of St Paul where Father David celebrated the liturgy assisted by Father Peter. Before the liturgy itself began two more candidates were received as catechumens by the customary prayers and anointing with blessed oil.

Father Peter preached on the Spirit of Truth, and asked the congregation to consider that the newly baptised had become Orthodox in their own search for Truth, and for a Christian community rooted in the Apostolic Church of the first century.

After the liturgy had concluded, and the new members of the Orthodox Community of St Chad had received the Holy Mysteries for the first time, a warm and generous time of fellowship and conversation was shared in the church hall over an excellent buffet prepared by the Orthodox Community. Father Peter wishes to congratulate the members of the Orthodox Community of St Chad for organising such a successful event, and to thank Father David for his support and encouragement, and Father Samuel for his generous attendance.

Father Peter will be visiting Stoke very regularly to build up the community here, and there are many plans already being considered for local activities.

British Orthodox join Glastonbury Pilgrimage

As in previous years, clergy and laity of the British Orthodox Church joined the annual Anglican Pilgrimage to Glastonbury, on 21 June. By tradition an Orthodox liturgy is generally celebrated in St. Mary’s Chapel (the Undercroft) on the morning of the pilgrimage, by Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox in alternate years.

Abba Seraphim was this year’s celebrant, but as an archaeological dig in the Undercroft was over-running schedule, the Liturgy of Saint James was celebrated in the adjacent St. Patrick’s Chapel. Assisting Abba Seraphim were Father Simon Smyth, Deacon Daniel Malyon and Subdeacons Paul Ashdown, Anthony-Paul Holland and Trevor Maskery.

Abba Seraphim and his clergy later attended the Anglican Eucharist and afterwards joined the Procession of the Blessed Sacrament to the Abbey. The principal celebrant was The Right Rev’d Bishop Roger Jupp, Chairman of the Glastonbury Pilgrimage Association, who warmly welcomed Abba Seraphim and his people, and the sermon was preached by The Right Rev’d Jonathan Goodall, Bishop of Ebbsfleet, who also attended the Liturgy of Saint James.  The day was further blessed by especially clement weather.

Abba Seraphim attends UNHRC in Geneva

On 16 & 17 June, Abba Seraphim attended the 26th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council at the Palais des Nations in Geneva. This is organised under the auspices of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. On 17 June he was one of a panel of witnesses who spoke at an NGO meeting on “Human Rights in Eritrea: The Impact of Gross Human Rights Violations on Vulnerable Groups within Eritrean Society.” Abba Seraphim specifically addressed the topic of Religious Persecution in Eritrea. This was sponsored jointly by Amnesty International, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), Human Rights Watch, the East & All of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project, Human Rights Concern Eritrea, the International Fellowship of Reconciliation (IFOR) and Civicus (World Alliance for Citizen Participation) and moderated by Matthew Jones of CSW.

In addition to representatives of various governments and others involved in human rights, there was also present Ms. Sheila B. Keetharuth, the first Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights in Eritrea, who was appointed in October 2012 and is currently presenting her second damning report.

In his address Abba Seraphim recounted his close involvement with the Eritrean Church in the diaspora over two decades and the steady increase in government interference in the affairs of the Orthodox Church, culminating in the uncanonical deposition of Patriarch Antonios in 2007. He traced the efforts of the Asmara government to divide and control the church communities in the diaspora and spoke of the principled support given by the late Pope Shenouda and the courage of Bishop Makarios and the priests who remained loyal to their Patriarch. Referring to the recent pastoral letter, “Where is your Brother” issued by the four Catholic bishops of Eritrea, Abba Seraphim said, “One cannot but admire the integrity of the Catholic bishops, who at great personal risk have spoken honestly about the situation in their country. Any hope that the Orthodox Church would respond in a comparable way was lost when Patriarch Antonios was silenced and the Holy Synod became a subservient mouthpiece of government policy. As the most high-profile victim of state oppression, Patriarch Antonios’s continued imprisonment and enforced silence are in fact eloquent testimony against tyranny and injustice. Yet for all his symbolic importance this mild old-man, in indifferent health, has been held unjustly in detention now for more than seven years – as have so many others – and the responsibility for this wilful oppression and other atrocities can be clearly attributed to the Eritrean government. If civilised people fail to condemn such actions and to work for humanitarian relief of its victims, they too share in the complicity of the oppressors. “

Twenty Years of Unity

After several days of torrential rain, the morning of 12 July proved to be a perfect day for the British Orthodox Church to hold its special Thanksgiving Service for the twentieth Anniversary of the union of with the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria. The Thanksgiving Service was held in the bright and airy church of Saint George-in-the-East at Shadwell, on the eastern borders of the City of London. His Grace Bishop Kyrillos, Bishop of Milan and Patriarchal Exarch of all Europe, accompanied by Their Graces Bishops Louka of Geneva and Pavlos of Greece had been delegated by His Holiness Pope Tawadros II to convey his hearty congratulations for this celebration. In his message His Holiness  spoke of his knowledge of Abba Seraphim’s ministry and pastoral work, preaching and praying and also his admirable lectures about Orthodoxy and the deep faith of the Coptic Orthodox Church, in which he explained the history and dogma and how the Copts had kept the faith pure and clear. He also spoke of the strong links made by Abba Seraphim with the mother church in Egypt.

In welcoming the bishops and the message from the Pope, Abba Seraphim noted that the  psalmist tells us how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity and it was right that they should mark with thanksgiving two decades of unity with the mother church. “The British Orthodox Church came into being almost a century and a half ago, but in the intervening years we lost contact with our Oriental Orthodox roots until, through the vision and generosity of Pope Shenouda we were brought back into the fullness of church unity. We owe him so much and for us British Orthodox he will always be a profoundly loved and venerated figure.”

He went on to say, “The British Orthodox Church, in fulfilment of the church’s catholicity, exists to preach that apostolic tradition of the gospel to the British people. It is not part of a diaspora ministry from a mother church elsewhere, but the implanted seed from those ancient Christian churches which have faithfully preserved their heritage through centuries of persecution and hardship. In seeking the continuity of faith from the apostolic age, many people find the faith and spirituality of the Orthodox Church fills their emptiness and satisfies their yearning. Someone once observed that if the British Orthodox Church did not exist it would be necessary to invent her. Of course, there are British clergy and faithful in other parts of the Orthodox Church so we do not assert that we alone have this vocation to mission, but for us it is our primary purpose.”

In outlining some of the work done over the past twenty years, he said, “Our relations with other churches inspired by the same apostolic spirit, means that we can share partnership in our witness to our increasingly secular society, as well as profound love and respect between brethren. Over the past few years – when the situation of Christians in the Middle East has become so dire – both the spiritual and practical support of others has been quite humbling. To know that fellow Christians really do care and desire to stand alongside their beleaguered brethren in solidarity shows a powerful unity of love. For me it is best characterised by the abduction in May 2013 of the two Orthodox Metropolitans of Aleppo: Mar Yohanna Ibraham of the Syrian Orthodox Church and Boulos Yazigi of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch. No news of their fate has been forthcoming but we continue to pray for them every day. They had always worked closely together in trying to help all communities suffering in the breakdown of society in Syria. Significantly it was whilst on a mission to negotiate the release of two priests held as hostages, one an Armenian Catholic and the other a Greek Orthodox, that they were taken.”

“In fulfilment of our responsibilities, the British Orthodox Church has played an active role in the Council of Oriental Orthodox Churches in the UK and endeavoured to work alongside them in a shared witness to our faith. Over the past two decades we have also assumed a particularly active ministry with regard to those outside this country who have come, through conversion or persecution, as asylum seekers and it rejoices my heart to know that there are some here today whom we have been privileged to serve in this manner. The British Orthodox were not the only beneficiaries of Pope Shenouda’s benevolent outreach and in 1994 the ancient Christian community in the newly independent Eritrea was granted the status of an autokephalous patriarchate. From that time the British Orthodox always felt a particular affinity to their Eritrean brethren and when the shadow of authoritarian and oppressive government was cast over the church in Eritrea we have been a consistent voice for justice. Nor have we forgotten the imprisoned Patriarch of Eritrea, Abune Antonios, who was ordained to the episcopate in 1994 at the same liturgy when I was made a Metropolitan by Pope Shenouda. Last month I was privileged to attend the meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva to remind the world of the suffering Christians of Eritrea.”

“Over the past couple of years, despite our limited resources, we have been able to establish new missions of the British Orthodox Church in places where local people have asked for our ministry and we have discovered openings up and down the country which challenge us for a response. Some of those who have answered the call and committed themselves to the Orthodox faith are with us here today as the fruits of that seed which was planted by Pope Shenouda two decades ago. In fulfilment of that commission we are planning a more active outreach in response to such requests, whilst placing our trust in God to continue His blessing on all that we do in His name. At the conclusion of this service the bells of St. George-in-the-East will ring out in celebration, proclaiming our joy and thanksgiving. The poet Longfellow said that “Bells are the voice of the church; they have tones that touch and search the hearts of young and old.” On this day they also proclaim our commitment to share our precious Orthodox faith with those who have none, so that through our ministry God may touch and search their hearts also.”

“Anniversaries look back to events which we commemorate but they also should enable us to reflect on the path before us or they are merely opportunities for nostalgia. Today’s gospel records the mission of the 70 and we should take our inspiration for the future from the Lord’s words to them, ‘The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray you therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest.’ ”

In an address to the congregation, Bishop Kyrillos said that he was delighted by the generous invitation to share this joyful occasion of the twentieth Anniversary of the unity of the British in Coptic Orthodox Church into one church, a church that we love dearly, and that lives in us every day. He went on to speak of the spiritual; foundation of the Church, “The church, which our beloved Lord Jesus Christ has bought with his precious blood, is our dearest mother, and when we were baptised we came forth from her womb as heavenly children and as earthly angels. Our beloved Lord Jesus Christ, bought the church with His precious blood, so that all the children of His church are very precious to him. And her beloved bridegroom, our Lord Jesus Christ, wipes away the tears of sadness from her children’s eyes. It is not enough just to enter the church, we must let the church penetrated into us. We remember the Virgin St Mary when she was young, she entered the temple and in the end, she was transformed into the Temple of God. The children of the church are always joyful because they feel the church is their mother, and that our beloved  Jesus Christ, who is the head of the church is their father. Any person who keeps God in his heart but has no parents cannot be considered as an orphan, but the ones who have parents and live far away from God indeed orphans. Our loving Heavenly Father said, ‘Even if your mother and forsake you, I will take care of you … I have carved you on the palms of my hand.’ (Psalm XXVII:10 & Isaiah XL: 16). The Church is our mother and has many names. She is called: the Bride of Christ, the House of God, the House of Angels, the Mother of Martyrs, the Bride of the Rock. She Is the Ship of Salvation and the Dwelling Place of God amongst His people.

We are filled by her teaching, and comforted within her loving and tender embrace. For this reason, every day new children are welcomed into her embrace and into her heart. The Church is our mother, educates, teaches and guides us in the way of salvation, and with open arms she accepts all people who come to her as Jesus said, “And the one who comes to me, I will by no means cast out.” (John VI: 37). We must always remember and keep in our heart what our mother the Church gives us through her teachings and love. Through the water and spirit of baptism we are born into the church, and through her teachings, we are filled and grow. Our mother the Church carries the holy sacraments, in which the gifts and the fruits of the Holy Spirit are hidden and made visible in her good children. When we marry, the sacrament of marriage is officiated by the hand of the priest in the Church. And then when we finish our days on earth, the church becomes our path to obtain victory in heaven. And through repentance, we received the forgiveness of our sins and absolution from the priests whop are appointed as stewards of Christ’s holy mysteries. With his blessed hand, Our Lord Jesus Christ founded His church forever, therefore no one can attack her. He promised us saying, “No weapon formed against Him shall prosper: and every tongue which rises against Him in judgement, He shall condemn’ ( Isaiah LIV:17). And in these blessed days, following the feast of the holy apostles, we may remember the strength and unity of the early church ‘who were of one heart and one soul and had all things in common’ (Acts IV: 32). We pray that our beloved church continues to be a living witness of the goodness of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to keep us united in Christian love.”

Bishop Kyrillos then presented Abba Seraphim with an ikon of the Holy Theotokos, sent by His Holiness Pope Tawadros and Bishops Louka and Pavlos also made presentations. Later, to mark the occasion, the three bishops were presented with commemorative glass paper weights inscribed with the Anniversary logo.

Assisting at the celebration of the Liturgy were Fathers Simon Smyth, David Seeds and Peter Farrington; Archdeacon Alexander Astill, Deacons Christopher Barnes, Theodore de Quincey and Daniel Malyon; Subdeacons Michael Kennedy, Paul Ashdown, Nicolae Popa, Edward Smyth, Anthony-Paul Holland, Trevor Maskery and Reader Christopher Shaw. Representatives of British Orthodox communities attended from Babingley (King’s Lynn), Bournemouth, Chatham, Cusworth (Doncaster), Glastonbury, London, Portsmouth, Southampton, Stoke-on-Trent and Windsor, as well as the Eritrean churches in London and Sheffield.  Also seated in the sanctuary were Fathers Yonas Tshemi and Shenouda Haile of the Eritrean Orthodox Church, Father George Joy (representing H.G. Dr. Mathews Mar Thimothios) of the Malankara Indian Orthodox Church and Father Aphram (representing H.E. Archbishop Athanasius) of the Syrian Orthodox Church. Among the distinguished visiting clergy were His Grace Bishop Hlib of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Deacon Meliton Oakes (representing H.E. Archbishop Gregorios of Thyateira); Father Andreas Andreopolous of the University of Winchester; Father Mark Woodruff, Vice Chairman of the Fellowship of St. John Chrysostom; Father John Salter and Deacon Richard Downer of the Greek Melkite Church as well as clergy of the Anglican and Catholic churches. Dr. Simon Bryden-Brook played the organ.

At the conclusion of the service, for which the church was packed, a buffet lunch (with a specially baked cake bearing the Anniversary logo) was served to all present mingled in the courtyard while the bells were rung in celebration. Later Fathers Yonas and Shenouda led the Eritreans present  in traditional Eritrean songs and dance on the terrace in front of the main entrance.

Among the many messages of greetings received were those from His Grace Bishop Angaelos, who wrote, “It is with great regret that I am unable to join you today on this joyous occasion as I’m currently in Australia for my annual youth ministry visit. I could not let this occasion pass, however, without extending my congratulations and fraternal wishes to your Eminence, my dear brother in Christ, as well as your clergy and congregations. Praying that God continues to bless your ministry, and looking forward to our continued witness, I ask your prayers for me and my Ministry as I assure you of mine for you and yours.”  Also received was a formal message of greeting from the Executive Council of OCP (Orthodoxy Cognate Page) Society, which expressed joy and great pleasure on the glorious occasion of the twentieth anniversary, “The commendable growth of the British Orthodox Church in the past 20 years has borne a great witness of her holy mission to restore the ancient Orthodox roots of the British Isles. The relationship established between the British Church and the ancient Coptic Patriarchate stands tall as the true model of Orthodox Conciliarity Union. Words are not enough to congratulate Your Eminence for the phenomenal leadership given to the British Orthodox Community that has taken the church far beyond the borders of the nation.”

Abba Seraphim replies to Pope Tawadros

Your Holiness,

Kissing your holy hands and asking for your blessing.

In expressing my heartfelt thanks for the kind message which you sent by the hands of H.G. Bishop Kyrillos, to mark the 20th anniversary of the union of the British Orthodox with the Patriarchate of Alexandria, I do so on behalf of all our clergy and faithful who look to you as their spiritual father. The inspired choice of Bishop Kyrillos as the Papal Exarch for all Europe has already begun a process of deeper co-operation between the churches here, and the presence at our celebration of my brothers, Bishops Pavlos of Greece and Louka of Geneva, eloquently manifested that same fraternal spirit.

Over these two decades we have worked zealously, endeavouring to fulfil our commission for the restoration of Orthodoxy among the British people and to provide a powerful witness to the Orthodox Faith and Tradition in an increasingly secular society. Equally, we have sought to draw strength and inspiration from the profound spiritual riches of the Coptic Church as well as our wider Oriental Orthodox family. Her saints have become our saints; her faith has become our faith.

Twenty years ago, the late Pope Shenouda welcomed the union of the British Orthodox, saying it would mean more people to pray for him and it was our joy and privilege to do so while he was among us, as it is now to commemorate him in the heavenly realm. For us he will always be a deeply venerated and loved figure.

We pray daily for Your Holiness that our Heavenly Father will use you to pour out His blessings to the faithful and to grant you good health, strength and wisdom in discharging your duties as Pope & Patriarch. On the occasion of this Anniversary we take the opportunity to renew in love our commitment to the Holy Orthodox Faith, to the Alexandrian Patriarchate and to Your Holiness’s person.

Asking that you will continue to remember the British Orthodox in your holy prayers.

Your affectionate and devoted son-in-Christ,

+ Seraphim

Metropolitan of Glastonbury

Stand in Solidarity with Iraqi Christians

Following reports of the threats against Christians in the Northern Iraqi city of Mosul, which has led to their flight from a city with a continuous Christian presence for more than 1,600 years; the Iraqui Christian community in the UK organised a demonstration outside Parliament on 26 July. Among its leaders were His Eminence Archbishop Mar Athanasius Touma, Syriac Orthodox Patriarchal Vicar for the United Kingdom; Mgr. Nizar Semaan of the Chaldean Catholic Church and Archdeacon Yonan Yonan of the Assyian Church of the East. They were joined by clergy of many other churches, including Abba Seraphim and the Suffragen Bishop of Warwick and some Muslim leaders anxious to stand in solidarity with their suffering brethren. Following similar demonstrations in the Middle East this past week, several Muslim speakers declared, “I am Iraqi, I am Christian” After several speeches addressing the large crowd which filled Old Palace Yard opposite the Victoria Tower at Westminster, the clergy processed to Downing Street, where the leaders presented an appeal for support to the Prime Minister.

Orthodox Way of Prayer in Farnham

In the prayerful setting of St Peter’s Church of England, Wrecclesham, Farnham, the Orthodox Way of Prayer ecumenical study day was presented for the second time by Father Peter Farrington. The beautiful little Church was made available to us thanks to the hospitality of the Revd, Anne Gell, Dean of Farnham, and the other clergy and people of St Peter’s.

The study day began with Morning Prayer from the Daily Office of the British Orthodox Church, our edition of the Agpeya of the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria. A series of short talks complemented by discussion and the practical experience of prayer led the participants through a reflection of some aspects of Orthodox spirituality. These included: What is Prayer? The Prayer of the Heart, Praying with Icons, and Developing a Prayer Rule.

A buffet lunch was provided for those attending the event, which gave an opportunity for warm and friendly conversations and Christian fellowship. Chris Hunter and Bronwyn Holder are to be commended for the efforts they put into making the day a success and their constant attention to the practical details of the event. It was a wonderful surprise to be able to welcome Father Simon and Sheila Smyth who supported the day and who helped to bear witness to our British Orthodoxy in all their conversations with the other participants.

The day concluded with Afternoon Prayer from the Daily Office of the British Orthodox Church. Everyone who attended seemed to have appreciated the opportunity to spend a day in thoughtful consideration of the spirituality of the Orthodox Church. This is the first activity of the British Orthodox Church in Farnham and has hopefully served as a useful introduction to our community and our mission among the people of our own British Isles.


On 23 January 2014 Abba Seraphim attended a book launch at St. George’s in the Borough, Southwark, to mark the publication of Father Stephen Griffiths’ new book on the Christians of Tur Abdin,

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