News that His Holiness Marthoma Paulose II (Catholicos-Mooppan, and Malankara Metropolitan), the Primate of the Indian Orthodox Church in Kerala, has tested positive for the Covid-19 virus and has been admitted to the St. Gregorious Hospital at Parumala to undergo treatment, is the first case of an Orthodox Patriarch or Primate having succumbed to the current pandemic.
On hearing this news Abba Seraphim has urgently directed all the clergy and faithful of the British Orthodox Church to sustain His Holiness in prayer and to hope that he will respond very effectively to the treatment he will receive, so that he will soon be able to resume his full duties. He is highly respected by the British Orthodox Church and expressed a most warm and generous hospitality when Abba Seraphim led a pilgrimage to Malabar in 2010.
The new national lockdown which is to be introduced by the UK government on 5th November in response to the second wave of the current pandemic, requires all churches and places of worship to cease from holding public services until the infection and death rate declines and the new lockdown eventually ceases. https://www.gov.uk/guidance/new-national-restrictions-from-5-november. Sadly, therefore all public services at our British Orthodox Churches will now be suspended although our clergy will continue to uphold their faithful in prayer.
The current war being fought between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the ancient territory of Nagorno-Karabagh is a source of much grief. Originally named Artsakh, it was an ancient Armenian territory but was later absorbed into the Ottoman Empire and like all native Armenians living in Turkey suffered Genocide at the hands of the Turks during 1915-1923. Following the eventual fall of both the Ottoman and Imperial Russian Empires these ancient Armenian territories became part of the Soviet Union, although fighting occurred in 1920 between the Christian Armenians and Islamacists and broke out again during 1988-1994 when the republics of Azerbaijan and Armenia regained their independence although Christian Artsakh sought independence from Islamic Azerbaijan.
During August 2003 Abba Seraphim visited the numerous ancient churches and monasteries in ancient Artsakh and was the guest of Archbishop Pargev Martirossyan, the prelate of the Armenian Diocese of Artsakh (which covers Nagorno-Karabagh and adjacent liberated territories of historic Artsakh) belonging to the Armenian Apostolic Church.
During his visit Abba Seraphim encountered with increasing frequency burnt-out villages as well as the khaki shells of burnt-out tanks at the side of major roads. At one junction he even counted nine piled together, a potent reminder of the fierceness of the fighting in this area and of the human sacrifice to liberate it.
Whilst obviously sympathising with the desire of the Armenians to regain their historic independence, Abba Seraphim deplores the fact that this has not been achieved by diplomatic negotiations but rather that war has again resumed and he hopes and prays that peace and harmony between Armenia and Azerbaijan may soon be achieved and that the powerful neighbouring states may be able to support a non-violent and harmonious settlement which will bring an end to hostilities and restore Armenian hegemony over part of its original homeland.
In 1971, almost half a century ago, whilst still a priest, Abba Seraphim published his first major book on Julius, Bishop of Iona, which was “An investigation of the claims of Jules Ferrette (1828-1904)”. His cousin and predecessor, Metropolitan Georgius referred to the book as having been written with a “thoroughness and industry which does him credit” and stated, “Father Seraphim’s book is a ‘must’ for all interested in the establishment of Western Orthodoxy, and his painstaking scholarship cannot be too highly commended. “
Although his original research led to the discovery of a large collection of letters written by Bishop Julius to Père Hyacinthe Loyson during 1896-1902, from which he made copious references, in this second revised edition these having been translated into English, are now published in full. In the years following its publication, Abba Seraphim continued his research and in 1980 he published in the Glastonbury Bulletin, after a lapse of 114 years, his discovery of Foreign Office correspondence with the Archbishop of York which threw new light on Ferrette’s consecration. In 2006 & 2017 he also wrote about Bishop Julius in his Flesh of our Brethren, an historical examination of Western episcopal successions originating from the Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch. In his preface to this new edition Abba Seraphim also recounts his personal contacts with modern Syrian Orthodoxy. The first edition – which although not now generally available – is still referred to online as a significant historical resource, comprised 64 pages, whereas this new edition is now six times longer.
The terrible explosion which took place in Beirut, the capital of Lebanon, on Tuesday this week has stimulated fraternal concern for the people who suffered such a major tragedy. Not only were there a large number of victims who lost their lives but also a considerable number of people have undergone serious injuries and their homes have been destroyed, causing them to face serious health and employment issues at a time when the world is already struggling with the coronovirus pandemic.
Abba Seraphim has encouraged clergy and faithful of the British Orthodox Church to uphold the people of Beirut in their prayers. More than 40% of the population of the Lebanon are Christians and include among them both Eastern and Oriental (Armenian, Syrian & Coptic) Orthodox faithful, as well as a number of Eastern Rite Catholics (Maronites, Melkites and Chaldeans). The Red Cross Beirut Emergency Appeal is a charity well deserving of support and the message of condolence sent by our Sovereign Lady Queen Elizabeth, as well as the United Kingdom’s readiness to send medical experts and humanitarian aid to Lebanon following the deadly explosion in Beirut as well as a five million pound aid package, are to be highly commended. Equally the personal visit by the French President, Emmanuel Macron, actively demonstrating concern for the city’s inhabitants, is to be extolled, as is his promise to sponsor a conference of European, American, Middle Eastern and other donors to raise money for food, medicine, housing and other urgent aid.