Every second Saturday of the month, 4 pm - Divine Liturgy in English of Sunday - Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Family, Duke Street, London W1K 5BQ. Followed by refreshments.
Next Liturgy: Saturday 13th May, 4pm
To purchase The Divine Liturgy: an Anthology for Worship (in English), order from the Sheptytsky Institute here, or the St Basil's Bookstore here.
To purchase the Divine Praises, the Divine Office of the Byzantine-Slav rite (in English), order from the Eparchy of Parma here.
The new catechism in English, Christ our Pascha, is available from the Eparchy of the Holy Family and the Society. Please email email@example.com for details.
Saturday, 1 November 2008
Dear Members and Friends,
Our membership is growing slowly but surely and we are hoping to recruit new members from the seminaries and to serve the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom in seminary chapels from time to time to make Latin seminarians aware of the Eastern “lung” of the Catholic Church, and of the richness of the liturgical traditions of the Oriental Rites and in so doing to encourage an interest in the Orthodox Churches as well as the Eastern Catholic Churches in union with the Holy See.
I am happy to report that John Jaques, our treasurer, is now almost fully recovered, but I would ask you to kindly keep his wife, Caroline, in your prayers as she begins to recover her strength after a long convalescence. Also please remember Pamela, Lady Torphichen, a long-standing member of the Society, who is now an invalid, but in the past did a tremendous work for us with the Ukrainian Catholics.
I would draw your attention to the various notices in this issue regarding not only our own meetings, but also those of the Fellowship of St. Alban & Sergius and the Anglican & Eastern Churches` Association, with whom we try to work closely and to support each others` events.
Since the last issue of Chrysostom some of our members attended the dinner arranged by the Anglican & Eastern Churches Association at the Serbian Orthodox Patriarchal Cathedral of St. Sava, Lancaster Road, Notting Hill, for the Orthodox observers at the Lambeth Conference. Unfortunately, the observers did not arrive until the following day; however, the local Orthodox rose to the occasion and Bishop Theodoros, the Greek Bishop-Dean of the Cathedral of Hagia Sophia, Moscow Road, Bayswater, the Archbishop of the Syrians, Bishop Angaelos of the Copts and the Romanian and Serbian clergy provided a goodly Orthodox presence at a splendid banquet for which the London Serbs are well noted. Some of us also attended the annual general meeting of the Association at St. Magnus-the-Martyr, Lower Thames Street, London Bridge; a church which in the days of Father Fynes-Clinton had strong links with the Orthodox of Russia, Greece, Serbia and Poland; and whose Priest-in-charge today is Father Phillip Warner, a member of our committee and formerly Chaplain to the British Embassy in Belgrade and Apokrisarios to His Holiness Patriarch Pavle of Serbia.
Father Robert Taft, S.J. of the Russicum, or Russian College in Rome, and an internationally renowned liturgiologist gave a lecture on the Divine Liturgy in Constantinople to the Anglican Alcuin Club at St. Matthew's, Westminster, and the Society was represented at this gathering.
The lecture arranged by the Society for Ecumenical Studies and given by Professor Nicholas Lash at Westminster Abbey on “What is a "Church in the proper sense"?” was well attended and, again, members of the Society were present.
The Anglo-Catholic History Society, which includes among its members a considerable number of Roman Catholics had a pilgrimage to two Anglo-Catholic Churches in the Home Counties and called at the former Nashdom Abbey, the home of the Anglican Benedictines before the community moved to Elmore Abbey. The mansion was built by Lutyens for Prince Alexis Dolgourouki and is a rather improbable St.Petersburg palace plonked down amid the beech woods of Buckinghamshire, and named “Our House” or in Russian -“Nashdom”. It is now luxury flats and we were entertained by two of the present residents and were shown the burial ground of the monks, which remains undisturbed, and it was interesting to see the graves of Dom Gregory Dix and Dom Benedict Ley, who worked so closely with Fr. Fynes-Clinton in arranging for the Abbe Paul Couturier to visit England and to further his great work for Christian Unity. After Nashdom we moved on to the Anglican Augustinian nuns of the Society of the Precious Blood at Burnham Abbey, a mediaeval foundation part of which had been restored as a convent of nuns following the same rule as the canonesses who occupied it until 1538. Here there are strong links with the Catholic Reunion Movement on the Continent and prayer is offered and a candle lit regularly for Unity at a statue of Our Lady blessed by Cardinal Mercier of the Malines Conversations of the 1920s. The eleven sisters kindly entertained us to tea after a tour of the abbey.
Patriarch Gregorios III came to the opening of the Lambeth Conference and was here again in September for the Manchester Congress of the Order of St. Lazarus, at which the two factions of the Order were re-united, to the great joy of the Patriarch, under a Spanish Prince of the House of Borbon, His Excellency Don Carlos Gereda de Borbon, Marquis d'Almazan, a kinsman of the Duke of Seville. He was installed in the Anglican Cathedral of St. Mary & St Denys, Manchester, by Patriarch Gregorios. On the Sunday 14th September His Beatitude served the Divine Liturgy at St. Barnabas', Pimlico, for the Melkite Community. Members of the Society were present for this and the procession through the streets of the Holy Cross, and for the luncheon which followed the Liturgy. Patriarch Gregorios is seen here with Fr. Mark Woodruff and Fr. John Salter (right).
Members of the Society were also present at the Catholic League pilgrimage to the Beguinage of the Benedictine Daughters of the Church in Brugge, organized by Father Mark Woodruff, a member of our Committee. The devotional addresses on “Theosis” were given by another member of the Committee – Father Gary Gill, our General Secretary, who is now Catholic Chaplain at St. Thomas's Hospital and other hospitals in that group. Fr. Gill hosted the Divine Liturgy at St. Anselm's, Tooting Bec, at which members of the Society participated and two Latin priests concelebrated and at which we welcomed a Deacon of Ukrainian origin – Father Deacon Michael Bykar.
I hope as many members and friends as possible will support the Christopher Morris Lecture to be given by Dr. Anthony O`Mahony after the 6.15pm Divine Liturgy at the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Family-in-Exile, Duke Street, Mayfair, on 11th November.
On 11th September the Anglican Nikaean Club entertained on behalf of the Archbishop of Canterbury the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Munoz, and the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, our President, and some members of our Committee were present either as hosts or guests.
One or two members of our Society, as I write this, are leaving with the Anglican & Eastern Churches Association on a pilgrimage to the Syrian Orthodox monasteries of Tur Abdin in Eastern Turkey.
Again, one more reminder that the Annual General Meeting of the Society is following the Divine Liturgy on 11th November at the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral, preceding Dr O`Mahony`s lecture. I look forward very much to seeing you there and at the reception following the lecture.
I am now preparing to leave London for Northern Cyprus, where I hope to meet some of the Greek communities isolated in the Turkish occupied north.
Yours sincerely in Christ,
Friday, 10 October 2008
Fr Athanasius McVay at his blog Annales Ecclesiae Ucrainae gives a life of Blessed Karl of Habsburg-Lorraine, Emperor and King, last Emperor of Austria-Hungary, examining the Habsburg empire's embrace of Eastern and Western Catholic Christians, the political conditions and ethnic conflicts surrounding that, the legacy Karl inherited and the ramifications throughout the 20th century.
Three scholars well-known in Eastern Church circles recommend this large and beautifully illustrated coffee table book on the Church of the East, sometimes called Assyrian or Nestorian. The first is the Syriac scholar in Oxford University Dr. Sebastian Brock who writes:
Christoph Baumer's fine book should take its place at once as much the best available general history of the Church of the East, from its beginning to the present day. It is especially strong on the expansion of the Church in Central and East Asia, making excellent use of recent finds. Throughout it is splendidly illustrated by photographs, many of which were taken during the author`s own extensive travels.The second scholar is Dr. J.F.Coakley, who wrote the study of the relationship between the Church of the East and the Church of England, and is Senior Lecturer in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at Harvard University:
Christoph Baumer's book ranges wide, intellectually and geographically. Even readers who know the Church of the East by its missionary reputation will be surprised to discover some of the places its has been – the scattered but very fascinating evidence from Central Asia and China is impressively presented – and to consider how its theology evolved in dialogue with other currents of thought.
The third scholar is a member of the Committee of the Anglican & Eastern Churches Association - Dr. Erica Hunter, Affiliated Lecturer in Aramaic and Syriac, in the University of Cambridge and Teaching Fellow in Eastern Christianity at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London University:
This well-researched and well-written book does much to make accessible the precious and ancient history of the Assyrians. Particularly laudable is the attention that the author has paid to the Church`s internationalism, and to dioceses that spanned – for almost a millennium- a multitude of ethnic and linguistic groups, from Baghdad to China. The “Church of the East” makes fascinating and enthralling reading, not only for students of religion but also for the interested general reader.
The Church of the East was the first Christian body to enter Tibet. In a letter written in 795/798 to his good friend Sergius of Elam, Patriarch Timothy referred not only to Silk Road and today is located in the Chinese province of Gansu. In the religious cave complex of Dunhuang, which belonged to the Tibetan Empire from 781/787 to 848, European explorers found in cave 17, which had been sealed since 1036, tens of thousands of manuscripts. Although the vast majority were Buddhist, there were also Nestorian documents, among them eight fragments written in Chinese and three in Tibetan. During the Mongol period the metropolitan see of Tibet was assimilated into that of Tangut, whose centre was in what today is Ningxia. Three fragments of Nestorian writings, two in Syriac and one in Turkish, were also discovered in the city of Kara Khoto on the northern border of Tangut. Another fascinating Nestorian witness is found in Tanktse, in eastern Ladakh, which belonged to the Tibetan Empire from circa 644 to 842, and then to western Tibetan principalities. Three large and eight smaller Maltese crosses, as well as a bird – perhaps a dove - and inscriptions in Tokharin, Sogdian, Chinese, Arabic and Tibetan are carved into a massive free-standing rock and a couple of smaller rocks.
The astonishing expansion of the Church of the East was unique; at one period it outnumbered the members of the Roman Church, but with the coming of the Mongols and then of the Turks caused its demise until, when it was re-discovered by Anglicans in the 19th century, it had been reduced to an almost Stone Age existence in the Hakkiari Mountains of what is now Northern Iraq and Eastern Anatolia.
The book covers something of the West Syrian Churches and their daughter Churches in India, where the notorious Council of Diamper and the Portugese Inquisition served to hopelessly Latinize them under the Portugese Catholics, a problem that is not, in India and the Diaspora, altogether resolved to this day.
Monday, 6 October 2008
Fr John Salter writes:
The Russian invasion of Georgia sees two Orthodox countries at war with each other. This, though sad, should not surprise us when one looks at the relationship over the centuries of the Russian Church and its much older sister the Georgian Church, which, along with the Armenians, is the oldest Established Church in Christendom.
The origins of the Church go way back to the fourth century and the national apostle was St. Nina, a female saint. The Church was originally part of, and dependent on, the Byzantine Patriarch of Antioch, and was evangelized by Armenians and Syrians. As a nation the Georgians seem to have originated in the fourth and third centuries before Christ in the Tigris Euphrates area and settled in the mountains between Rus and Armenia. Their early history as a Christian nation is a tale of numberless martyrdoms at the hands of the Persians, Arabs, Turks and Mongols, but tragically their longest time of oppression came from their co-religionists –the Russians.
From 11th century to the beginning of the 19th century the Georgians were ruled by their own Kings of the (eventually) Bagration-Moukransky dynasty. But in 1802 the nation fell into the hands of Imperial Orthodox Russia, and just as those who were to fall under Soviet tyranny were oppressed and their nationality attacked, so Tzarist Russia and the Holy Synod of the Russian Church showed no tolerance for even its Christian minorities. In 1802, the King Heraklios II of Georgia, having in 1783 allied himself with the Russian Tzar to defend his nation against the Persians, found his kingdom annexed by Tzar Alexander I. Nine years later, in 1811, the Catholikos-Patriarch was forced out of his see and was replaced by a Russian Exarch. The Georgian language was suppressed in the Divine Liturgy and also in preaching. The Georgian Orthodox Church became a sorely oppressed department of the Russian Orthodox Church ruled by the Russian Holy Synod. This oppression had a terrible backlash, which would re-bound on Russia and, indeed, the world, for in the theological seminaries there was a great deal of patriotic unrest, none more than in the main seminary in Tblisi, where one Joseph Yugashvily was studying for the Orthodox priesthood. He was never ordained, but he was re-incarnated as Joseph Stalin. Visitors to Tblisi will find his room preserved in the seminary. Stalin took his revenge on the Russian Nation and above all on the Russian Church when he came to power.
At the Revolution in 1917 the Georgian Church seized its opportunity and declared itself independent of the Russian Holy Synod in St. Petersburg and of the newly elected Patriarch Tikhon of Moscow, and declared their Church autocephalous, and elected a new Catholikos, Kirion, who only lived for two years to rule his Church. Despite protests from Patriarch Tikhon in Moscow the Georgian Church went ahead with its independence and a new persecution broke out under the Bolsheviks, who arrested Kirion`s successor, Catholikos Ambrose, who was sentenced to death for writing an appeal in 1922 to the Geneva Conference complaining of the persecution of Christians by the Bolsheviks. It was later commuted to nine years in prison where he died in 1927. He was succeeded by Catholikos Christopher and today the Church of Georgia is under the spiritual control of Catholikos-Patriarch Ilya (pictured).
The large Iberian monastery or the Iveron monastery on Mount Athos is so-named because the old name for Georgia was Iberia. Although many of the icons in the church there are inscribed in the Georgian language, the monastery is now in the hands of the Greeks.
During the Russian Orthodox oppression of the Church a group of Uniate Georgians fled to the territory of the more tolerant Turks in Constantinople and kept alive the ancient Georgian language banned in all schools in Georgia and the ancient rituals and ceremonies of the Georgian Church. There is still a little known Uniate church in Istanbul today, well hidden behind one of the bazaars. They were cared for pastorally by priests of a congregation founded in Constantinople by Father Peter Karishiaranti in 1861. The priests ministered to both the Uniates and the Orthodox Georgians. Four of the priests of this congregation died in Soviet prison camps.
In more recent years there has been a revival of the monastic life for both men and women and the nunnery at Mshkent has many young nuns, who in the days of Communism, lived an underground religious life undiscovered by the Communist authorities, as did the Ukrainian Catholic nuns in Lviv.
On my visit to Georgia a few years after the fall of Communism I discovered that there had been recent burials of members of the dynasty of Bagration-Moukransky who had died in exile, but whose bodies were laid to rest in the Royal burial chapel at Mshkent.
In Paris in 1955 a Georgian chapel was opened in the crypt of the Latin church of Notre Dame de la Consolation.
The tragedy in the Caucasus today is that Orthodox Christians are fighting each other, but this ancient Christian Nation must not be forgotten.
Tuesday, 2 September 2008
Monday, 28 July 2008
Sunday, 6 July 2008
Abba Marcos died on 11th May 2008 in the Hospital of Our Lady of Good Remedy while visiting Barcelona. He was born in Holland on 20th August 1923. He had become a member of the Coptic Orthodox Church and was tonsured as a monk of the St. Bishoy Monastery in Wadi El Natrun, and was the first European to be consecrated a Bishop in the Coptic Patriarchate in 1974. He became Metropolitan of Marseilles, Toulon and All France and lived the eremetical life at the Hermitage of St. Marc, Fontanieu, Le Revest Les Eaux, France.
In his time as a bishop he accomplished a great deal. He established the Coptic Church in France, which now comprises several parishes. He ordained two Egyptian priests and ten French priests. He also planted the Coptic Church in his native Netherlands in 1976; in Belgium and in German-speaking Switzerland in 1983. He built the hermitage in Toulon and this became the seat of his diocese and it was dedicated to Our Lady of Zeitoun, who had appeared in Cairo in the 1960s. He set up at the hermitage a Coptic library and a museum of Coptic Art and established in Venice, the City of St. Mark, the Centro Culturo Coptico, in 1980 and another foundation at Porto in 2001.
He was indefatigable in his travels to ecumenical meetings in London, Venice, Toulon, Ireland, Zurich and Sweden, acting upon the Common Statement drawn up by His Holiness Pope Paul VI and His Holiness Pope Shenouda III, and signed in the Vatican in 1973.
Abba Marcos was an antiquarian who collected religious artefacts and antiques and relics of the saints. He was fond of reading particularly the lives of the saints, and of classical music. Some of his last joys were when he joined with Pope Shenouda III in celebrating the Apparitions of the Mother of God at Zeitoun, a suburb of Cairo. In his latter years he visited the Patriarch of Moscow and All The Russias, His Holiness Alexis II, in Moscow and the Cardinal Archbishop of Paris, His Eminence Archbishop Andre Vingt-Trois.
His Eminence Metropolitan Marcos was a regular visitor to the Coptic church in Abingdon Road, London, and was well known in Anglican and Catholic circles in London and in other towns where the Copts have established churches.
May Abba Marcos' memory be eternal!
Tuesday, 6 May 2008
Dr Athanasius McVay at his blog, Annales Ecclesiae Ucrainae, has posted a recent essay on Count Roman Alexander Sheptytsky, better known as Metropolitan Andrei Sheptytsky, the famous leader of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in the late 19th century and early 20th century, at decisive moments for its Catholic identity, the integrity of its distinctive tradition and history, and its life and development in fast-changing and insidious political conditions at the collapse of empire and the rise of the Soviet age.
Sunday, 30 March 2008
Fr John Salter writes:
In 1926 Lady Surma d`bait Mar Shimun issued an appeal on behalf of the Assyrian People:
We Assyrians are the last survivors of the ancient and once all-powerful Assyrian civilization. We became Christians at the preaching of the Apostle Thaddaeus – Addai, as we call him.Lady Surma then recited the Lord's Prayer in Aramaic.
Our nation and the Church of The East was once like the sands of the sea. We sent missionaries to China and far-off India, where our daughter-Church still flourished in Malabar. We had much literature, art and science. Now we are scattered all over the world, a scanty people – less, perhaps, than 100,000.
Thirty thousand of us are waiting in Iraq and Persia to return to the mountains and plains of our fathers. We love our homelands with a love which even you British cannot understand –its villages and old churches, its trees and rocks and rivers. Yes! It is true we are in exile. We have been massacred and ill-treated. Our women and girls have been taken into horrible and hated slavery. Our nation is nearly dead. But we do not look back. Our ancestors suffered for 1,000 years, because they were stubborn, for the true faith of the Gospel. We knew the risk we ran when we fought for England. We would not take back that which we gave. If the Assyrian name and race must perish because it has been faithful to the Cross and to the Union Jack, we are content. But I speak to plead for our scanty remnant. Surely they have a claim on Great Britain, if not on all Christian civilization. If you can give them back their homeland, give it them back. But at least take care of them.
Our hearts are hot with thanks to the generous people of London for the money they have given to feed and house those of us who have escaped from the Turk and to keep them from dying in the cold and rain of the winter. But give us our land that we may increase and multiply again under the Union Jack and may be saved. We say the Lord`s Prayer often for you in our gratitude. Will you pray it sometimes for my sisters and brothers in their danger and misery? I will say it now in Syriac. The words and my accent are those of a woman who learnt it from Christ`s own lips would have used.
The old Princess's speech is as relevant today eighty-two years later as it was in 1926 for the Assyrian people, both the Church of the East and the Chaldeans, are again being persecuted and have no homeland and are fleeing into exile. It is to be hoped that sovereign territory or at least autonomous regions may be provided for this ancient people as it is believed such territory might be set aside permanently for the Kurds, who were not entirely friendly towards their Christian neighbours.
Fr John Salter writes:
The Great Schism of 1054 was between Rome and Constantinople and latterly the other Patriarchates of Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem and the so-called Patriarchal Churches such as Russia, Romania, Serbia and Georgia, and the autocephalous Churches of Greece, Slovakia, Poland, Finland and Mount Sinai, found themselves out of communion with the Holy See through retaining communion with The Phanar and the Ecumenical Throne. But the first major schism within the Christian family was much earlier than 1054 and dates from shortly after the ecumenical Council of Ephesus of post 431 A.D. which condemned the then Patriarch of Constantinople, Nestorius.
The heirs to this schism are what today comprise the Assyrian Church of the East, and known in pre-ecumenical days as the Nestorian Church. The loss of these Christians to the so-called Great Church is one of the greatest tragedies to befall Christendom, for they provided the earthly link to Our Lord in the days of His flesh. These ancient peoples still use today, as a living language, the Aramaic tongue, so that when in their Divine Liturgy, the Holy Q`arbana, they consecrate the Holy Gifts they use the words Our Lord used at the Last Supper and when they say the Lord`s Prayer they use the words in which Jesus taught His Apostles to pray and the words used to raise Jairus`s daughter from the dead. An Assyrian priest on a `bus in Baghdad was overheard to say to his young daughter, who was lolling lazily in the heat of the mid-day sun: Talitha kumi, “Get up, little girl” exactly the words used to restore Jairus`s daughter to life again. In His incarnate life God the Son thought in their thought forms and shared their Semitism.
This was brought home to me when I visited Cardinal Patriarch Rafael of Babylon in Baghdad, shortly after the First Gulf War, when one of his priests, who is a lecturer at The Oriental Institute in Rome, urged us Westerners to look again at the Semitic or Hebrew roots of the Gospel; to examine the Aramaic language in which Our Lord taught and preached and conversed and joked. He took a simple example the absurdities which have crept into our western biblical texts, such as the teaching of Jesus that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. The word in Aramaic for a camel is very close to that of a thick rope, so surely it makes more sense to speak of a thick rope being forced through the eye of a needle than a large unwieldy, over-burdened dromedary!
The Assyrians and their Chaldean counterparts are living examples of the local Tradition, the Semitic and Hebraic tradition, being still alive and well, and absolutely vital to the bringing of the Gospel to the Islamic and Jewish nations.
Mar Eshai Shimun XXI
The Assyrians or Nestorians left the Great Church after 431 A.D. following the Decision of the Fathers at the Council of Ephesus that the Blessed Virgin Mary should be known as Theotokos- The God Bearer. The East Syrian language had no word to express this truth as the Greeks had. To be God-Bearer seemed to the Christians of the Syriac speaking world to mean Mother of the Godhead itself. However, the cause of the quarrel was not, per se, a falling out with the See of Rome, but with the Emperor`s Church at Constantinople, whose Patriarch, Nestorius, and his adherents were condemned by St. Cyril of Alexandria acting, so to speak, as Papal Legate. Cyril had started the proceedings of the Council before the Bishops of Syria had arrived (just as twenty years later at Chalcedon the Fathers did not wait for the arrival of the Armenians, with further catastrophic consequences for the further unity of the Church, for the Armeninas forty years after Chalcedon adopted monophysitism at the Armenian Council of Vagharchat).
Cardinal Patriarch Rafael and Fr John Salter
Nestorius was packed off to exile to the deserts of Upper Egypt, where he had neither the time nor the opportunity to form a so-called Nestorian Church as such, nevertheless, the ancient Patriarchate of Antioch was split into two rival groups, to be split into yet a third group after the Council of Chalcedon when the Syrian followers of Jacobus Barradeus seemed to have adopted his monophysite teaching. The Patriarchate has never recovered from this blow; and a further group were to cause a new problem when in 1724 the Melkites were united with Rome. These pre-Ephesian Christians made their base in Old Persia, in what would now comprise almost exactly Iran and Iraq. Noticeably like the so-called Monophysites, who were to follow the Nestorians out of the Great Church, they were on the edge of, or beyond the boundaries of the Roman Empire, so that when the Christian Caesar in Constantinople had a quarrel with his neighbouring non-Christian sovereigns, the subjects of those sovereigns could point out that their Christianity was not the same as that professed by the Emperor, and therefore there was no need to look on them as a fifth column or persecute them.
Emmanuel III with Fr John Salter and Fr Roman Cholij (Ukrainian Catholic)
The Nestorians flourished while Western Christendom floundered in the Dark Ages, and had a bishop in Peking and in Turkestan at Bokhara and Tashkent, and had missionized a great deal of the territories east of Antioch. Marco Polo writes of a church in the city of the Great Khan at Karaorum. The Chinese Tang emperors began to expel foreigners in the 9th century, but a pillar dating from 631 A.D. known as the Xian-Fu monument lists the names of those Nestorian clergy who had served in China from the monk Alopen in 635 A.D. to the time of its inscription in the 8th century, thought at first to be a Jesuit forgery, was discovered in China. One bishop was described as `Bishop and Pope of China`. This Church was headed by a Chinese Patriarch of the East from 1248-1317. A bishop of the Chinese Church visited King Edward I of England, and ecclesiastical romantics liked to claim that the Holy Q`abana or Divine Liturgy of Mar Mari and Addai was once celebrated in Westminster Abbey. However, it is thought that King Edward was in Gascony when he met the Chinese prelate. The bishop went on to meet Pope Nicholas IV in Rome and it is said that he celebrated in St.Peter`s basilica, rather than in the Pope`s cathedral of St.John Lateran, as Nicholas was the first Pope to live in the Vatican. It is said that the Pope gave Nicholas Holy Communion.
Pope John-Paul II with Mar Dinkha
The Mongols` rule helped to spread Nestorian Christianity, but with the conversion in 1295 of the bulk of the Mongols to Islam, the decline of the Nestorian Church began. It was Tamberlaine who gave the Church its coup de grace, so that eventually the remnants of this once great missionary-minded Church, whose membership may at one period have outnumbered the Patriarchate of the West in the Dark Ages, were confined to the wild mountain fastnesses of Kurdistan. Settled now away from the great cities, where they had flourished they were now reduced to a most primitive, almost Stone Age, peasantry. They looked to their by now hereditary spiritual and secular chieftain the Prince-Catholikos Patriarch of the House of Mar Shimun, Catholikos of Seleucia-Ctesiphon and Patriarch of The East, who ruled them as Patriarch and Prince right down to the last Prince-Patriarch, Mar Eshai Shimun XXI, who was shot and killed by a member of his own Church-Nation in California in the 1970s. With His Holiness`s death the hereditary system of passing the succession from uncle to nephew or brother to brother came to an end.
The aftermath of the murder of Mar Eshai Shimun was not the first time that there had been an attempt to end the hereditary system. In 1551 on the death of their then hereditary Patriarch the tribal elders thought the time had come to abolish the hereditary principle of the the Patriarchate passing from uncle to nephew, brother to brother and cousin to cousin, because it had led to abuses. The immediate predecessor of Mar Eshai Shimun XXI was his uncle Mar Polus Shimun, XX and Mar Polus`s elder brother Mar Benjamin Shimun XIX had been consecrated at the age of eight years, and Mar Eshai was a Prince-patriarch while a schoolboy at King`s School, Canterbury. Just as happened in the period following the assassination of Mar Eshai in our own times, so the sixteenth century tribal elders in their capital Kudshanes chose a Patriarch from outside the Princely Family of Shimun, one Iohan Sulaka.
Latin Franciscan travellers from the Holy land persuaded Patriarch Iohan Sulaka to seek consecration from the hands of Pope Julius III (1550-1555). This Sulaka did, but was murdered by the Turkish Ottoman authorities on his journey home. For a hundred years, despite Su;laka`s murder, the Nestorians were united with Rome. Then a curious thing happened. The nephew of the hereditary Patriarch who had reigned before Sulaka, Mar Dinka Shimun, continued the the ancient Nestorian hierarchy and in the 17th century this, too, became Uniate in the city of Mosul, apparently without consulting the the Uniate Sulaka hierarchy living up in the well-nigh inaccessible craggy mountains to the north of Mosul, so there were two entirely separate branches of the Nestorian Church both in communion with Rome! In the 18th century both fell out of communion with the Holy See. In 1826 a Patriarch of the Nestorian Mosul-based hierarchy became Uniate under the Pontificate of Pope Leo XII, and from that union is derived the present Patriarch of Babylon, His Beatitude Emmanuel III Delly and the Chaldean Catholic Church, whilst the former and earliest Uniate succession is represented by Patriarch Mar Dinka IV, the first of the non-hereditary Patriarchs of the present day, the successor of Mar Eshai Shimun Mar Dinka IV visited the late Pope John Paul II in Rome and from that meeting discussions were inaugurated with the Catholic Church and meetings were also held between Mar Dinka IV and the late Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans, Cardinal Rafael. Relations between the two Patriarchs were very good, as was the relationship between the old Princely-Patriarchal Family of Mar Eshai Shimun, now resident in California, and the late Cardinal Rafael.
The Chaldean Catholic Church, alone of the Uniate Churches outnumbers its opposite number the Assyrian Church (so named because the Nestorians occupied a corner of the ancient Assyrian Empire). The Assyrian Church is tragically split over the hereditary principle and the Calendar and the crying need for a political homeland. The break-away group calls itself the Ancient Assyrian Church of The East, but when I met their Archbishop in Baghdad and Mosul in the early 1990s he was in his dress the most Latinized prelate there, whereas Bishop Emmanuel Delly as he then was, dressed in the traditional garb of an Assyrian, although in union with Rome. The Chaldean Catholics number 180,000 and the Assyrians of both jurisdictions put together,110,000, both the Chaldean and Assyrian Christians are possibly more numerous in Ealing and West London than they are in Baghdad or Mosul, where their numbers tragically dwindle daily.
Although there are now no nuns in the Assyrian Church, women have often played a very important role in the life of the Church-Nation. Most prominent amongst these was the old Princess, known as the Lady Surma d`bait Mar Shimun (i.e. of the House of Mar Shimun), aunt of the last hereditary Patriarch Mar Eshai, who for many years in the 1950s until her departure for Santa Monica, California, in the early sixties, held a small court at the house in Sutherland Road, West Ealing. She was very well educated and highly intelligent and had been largely educated at the Anglican Mission School in her homeland run by the Anglican Sisters of Bethany. Lady Surma represented our smallest ally of the Great War, the Assyrian Nation at the Versailles Peace Conference, but failed to achieve a homeland for her people, who having fought for the British, were badly let down by the Imperial government after the Great War was over. The last Patriarch`s niece-in-law, Mme Lucrece de Matran takes a full part in the life of the Assyrian Church and was on amicable terms with Cardinal Rafael. She married the nephew of Mar Eshai Shimun, who hade done some training at the Anglican theological college, run by Anglican monks at Kelham in Nottinghamshire, and although de Matran was ordained a deacon in the Assyrian Church he did not feel he wished to succeed his uncle and married, otherwise the hereditary succession might have continued for a further generation, but the system had run its course.
The Assyrians and the Chaldeans have shown a certain independence of spirit, none more so than the then Catholic Patriarch of Babylon, Joseph Audo, who made strong representation at the time of the first Vatican Council to Pope Pius IX against the dogma of Papal Infallibility being pronounced. These ancient Christians, descendants of the stock of Nebuchadnezzar, are in God`s plan, and God is always creative, indispensable in the search for Christian Unity and for bringing the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Islamic and Jewish peoples, particularly the Semitic peoples.
In Baghdad I heard a Syrian Jacobite Metropolitan, of the same stock as the Assyrians, but not of the same Church, arguing for the Holy Trinity with Moslems, using Islamic terms over dinner in Baghdad. No Western Christian could have equalled him in his argument, nor could any Westerner Latin or Greek, have thought in his thought forms.
The Chaldean clergy in Baghdad and in Rome are very keen that the ancient traditions of the east are preserved or revived, not least because they represent the earthiness, so to speak, of the Incarnate Lord, the humanity of the Saviour whose language they speak.
Saturday, 15 March 2008
The last half year has been eventful for the Society. The collapse of the ceiling of the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Family- in-Exile in Duke Street, Mayfair, our regular meeting place, has meant that the building has had to be scaffolded. Fortunately the disaster happened in the early hours of a Monday, had it been on a Sunday morning it could have been very serious, but fortunately no one was injured. However, it has been a headache for Father Benjamin, not in the best of health himself, and for Father Irineu, Father Pedro and Father Athanasius, our committee member. The Society will be sending a donation towards the repairs to the roof. Happily, the cathedral is now functioning normally, but your prayers are asked for the clergy and congregation, and should members wish to make a donation to the cathedral it should be sent to Father Benjamin at the clergy house 21/22, Binney Street, Mayfair, London, W1.
Our treasurer and membership secretary, John Jaques, is now on the road to recovery after major surgery and thanks members for their prayers on his behalf. Father David White, Melkite Greek Catholic priest in Devon, known to many of our members, has been undergoing medical treatment and I would ask for your prayers for him. Father Gary Gill, our General Secretary, has been appointed by the Archbishop of Southwark to the Catholic chaplaincy at St.Thomas`s hospital. We wish him well in his new work.
In October I visited for two weeks the Latin Catholic Church and the Serbian Orthodox Churches in Dubrovnik, Croatia. This was my fifth visit to this beautiful city, the so-called “Pearl of the Adriatic”, but since my first visit in 1963 I was shocked at the small congregation in the Serbian cathedral. Forty years ago it was packed for the Divine Liturgy, but on the two Sundays I visited it there were less than thirty worshippers and they were mostly old ladies. It is a sad reflection that under the Communist regime of Tito the churches were packed, but due to so-called ethnic cleansing, the Serbs and the Croats are not friends and the Serbs bear the resentment of the bombing of Dubrovnik, although it is now totally repaired. In Serbia there is still much ruined church property; and there is the prospect of further trouble should Kossovo declare independence, which will mean the preponderance of Albanians over Serbs. The Balkans remains the tinder-box of Europe!
On the feast of St. John Chrysostom we celebrated the Divine Liturgy at the Ukrainian cathedral and this was followed by the Christopher Morris lecture, given by Father Mark Woodruff on “The Catholic and Protestant Martyrs of the Reformation Period in England “. After the lecture a party was held to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the foundation of our society, nearly a year late owing to illness.
I was very pleased to meet again after so many years His Grace Bishop Abouna of the Chaldean Catholic Patriarchate of Babylon based in Baghdad, who was in London for medical treatment. His followers are having a very difficult time and many are fleeing abroad or seeking safer refuge in the areas of the Hakkari Mountains north of the largely Christian city of Mosul. We were entertained to luncheon by Mr and Mrs Anton Dabous, Mrs Dabous being a Chaldean and Mr Dabous a Melkite Greeek Catholic. The Chaldean chaplain was also present.
May I on behalf of the committee wish all members and friends a very happy and peaceful 2008.
Thursday, 6 March 2008
Sisters in Christ is a unique record of the correspondence between Mother Cicely of the Society of St. Margaret, Mother Superior of the Anglican convent of St. Saviour, Haggerston, East London, and the Abbess Roofina and her successor Abbess Ariadne of the Russian Convent in Exile of Our Lady of Vladimir, Harbin, Manchuria and Shanghai, China, over the years 1937 – 1951.
Their efforts and the efforts of their supporters to obtain a property near San Francisco for the Russian sisters, and to transport the sisters and their dependent orphans (children and victims of 1929 massacre by the Bolsheviks in Manchuria), were fraught with difficulties and vouch for the faith and perseverance of those involved and the warm friendship which developed between them.
It is rewarding reading, but what is sad is that it all took so long, and owing to the American visa regulations none of the orphans were actually conveyed to a safe home, though most of the sisters were.
Wednesday, 6 February 2008
Silent as a Stone – Mother Maria of Paris and the Trash Can Rescue, Jim Forest.£9.99p Both books obtainable from Marston Book Services Ltd, P.O. Box 269, Abingdon, Oxford, OX14 4YN
It is good to see the late Father Sergei Hackel's moving book on Mother Maria (now canonized by the Russian Church) is back in print, and is complemented by Jim Forest`s book.
Mother Maria`s life was somewhat outlandish even for an ordinary woman, let alone a nun. She was married to a man who later became a priest and there was a daughter by this marriage, who used to shock the Russian emigre community in Paris by announcing at dinner parties that her father was a Roman Catholic priest and her mother an Orthodox nun. Few believed her, but it was perfectly true. She was professed by Metropolitan Evlogie, the Russian hierarch in Paris who was under the Ecumenical Throne.
When the Second World War came to Paris and the rounding up of the Jews began Mother Maria had established a small farm outside Paris in which she concealed Jewish refugees, particularly children, whom she hid under the loads of cabbages or in dustbins. She was eventually rounded up and sent to Ravensbruck extermination camp, where, like St Maximilian Kolbe in Auschwitz, she substituted herself to be gassed instead of, in her case, a young terrified Jewish mother. She died as the sound of the Red Army`s guns could be heard approaching. She died on Orthodox Good Friday.
But there was a strange twist to her story. A year later, the war over, the Russian émigré poet George Rajevsky was walking on a path on Mother Maria’s old farm, when suddenly he saw her coming towards him, smoking her usual fag (she enjoyed a cigarette, as did Prince Phillip`s mother despite being a nun) and wearing her shabby habit and the men`s shoes she found so comfortable. “Mother Maria! “exclaimed Rajevsky “They told me you were dead “. Mother Maria looked at him over her wire framed spectacles and said, “Well, people tell all sorts of stories” and she disappeared. Rajevsky, not a believer, felt he had had a Resurrection experience.
The Ecumenical Patriarch Batholomeos & Archbishop Anastasios in Tirana
Resurrection 1991-2003 – The Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania, Lynette Hoppe, with Introduction by Anastasios, Archbishop of Tirana, Durres and All Albania. Published by Ngjalla Publishers, Rruga e Kavajes 151, Tirana, Albania. £27.95
In the summer of 1967 I managed to get into Albania, whilst holidaying in Dubrovnik. I had just received a new passport and my photograph looked rather like a Balkan bandit as I had hidden my clerical collar under a rather flashy scarf. I described myself perfectly accurately as a “Clerk in Holy Orders”. At the frontier the 15 year old soldier read my passport upside down and obviously could not read, this was helpful as I knew he would not know what a Clerk in Holy Orders was. Passing through the hillside villages we were jeered at by the local peasantry, not because we were English but because the `bus was Yugoslavian and therefore “revisionist” unlike the ultra -Stalinist state we had just entered. Needless to say our vehicle was trailed by two men in large hats and off-white raincoats, who could have been difficult, had they not been rather distracted by an earth tremor as soon as we crossed the frontier.
On arrival in Scudari we saw the shell of a burnt-out Franciscan church in which the friars had been locked in and burned to death. The Orthodox church and the mosque were also devastated. It was the summer of the Dictator Enver Hoxha`s inauguration of the first atheist state. Religion – Christian, Islamic and Jewish had been abolished. That Christmas the Holy Father announced in his Christmas broadcast that “The Church in Albania has peace: the peace of the grave!” I witnessed the visible signs of this in the grisly image in Scudari. On returning to London I was ticked off by the then Bishop of Gibraltar for this, in his opinion, dare-devil trip to a country where the death penalty awaited priests.
That was 41 years ago and at the time I never thought that the Churches would ever revive in Albania, but only in the Italo-Albanian villages in Calabria and Sicily. But I was wrong. Twenty-four years later in 1991 there began the process of resurrection. Here is Archbishop Anastasios `s foreword, (and how appropriate is His Beatitude's name, Resurrection!):
“During the final decades of the twentieth century, the Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania found herself in a unique ecclesiastical position, and, consequently, the centre of much attention worldwide. From 1967 until 1990, people believed that the Church in Albania had been totally eliminated by the implacable pressure of the most atheistic state and that she was a thing of the past. From 1991 onwards, however, a remarkable revival and development began which radiated into many social sectors. This photographic album captures the first twelve years of the “Resurrection” of the Orthodox Church in Albania and systematically highlights various facets of the Church`s life through its reliable texts, but more particularly through its expressive photographs which often prove, as the Chinese expression has it “a picture is worth a thousand words” Many more aspects to Church life in Albania exist than are present in this volume, but these require a different type of research and writing. This work, however, will remain precious and wholehearted congratulations and thanks are due to its author, our distinguished co-worker in Christ, Mrs Lynette, who has struggled with us in Albania since1998. Other information on this subject has been published in various other languages. In a recent book, The Resurrection of the Orthodox Church of Albania, by Jim Forrest, the voices of a few people who lived – to a greater or lesser degree- this crucified and resurrected experience, have been recorded. All of us who have been blessed to work these years for the reconstruction of the Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Albania have the certainty that we have the treasure of faith “ in earthen vessels to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us (2 Cors.4:7) “Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, to him be glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus to all generations for ever and ever” (Eph. 3 : 20-21)The progress is phenomenal. Old churches have been restored and new churches have been built. There is a splendid new campus of the Resurrection of Christ Theological Academy, built on the site of the ancient monastery of St. Vlash, which offers the theological students a dramatically different context in which to live and learn. The facility can house up to 90 students and is used during the summer months for conferences.
+ ANASTASIOS Archbishop of Tirana, Durres and All Albania
The malice of Enver Hoxha`s regime was aimed particularly towards the clergy. In the 1940s more than 440 clergy were serving the Orthodox Church. After World War II the Communist grip on power increased. Clergy were murdered or blinded, to have a cross whether owned by a clergyman or a lay person was a criminal offence attracting severe punishment. By the early 1960s only 330 remained. Then came the final coup de grace of 1967 when all Church activities were totally outlawed, all facilities closed down. Clergy caught doing priestly duties were executed, blinded or imprisoned. In 1990 when priests could function again there were only 22 left and they were old and worn down by endless persecution. In 2005 there were only three priests remaining from the Hoxha years and those too ill to serve. Archbishop Anastasios`s first priority was to train young men for the priesthood. Despite his heavy load of duties as Orthodox Primate of Albania he puts aside time to lecture the students himself.
Despite the poverty of Albanians the Orthodox Church has been instrumental in providing refuge, shelter and food for the Albanians of Kosovo victims of the Balkan war. Nursery schools have blossomed, the one at Kavaja being very attractive. Orphanages and Old Peoples' Homes and clinics have sprang up under the Church's care.
Archbishop Anastasios Yannoulatos was appointed by the Ecumenical Patriarch. He had been Exarch in Kenya and is a Greek, but there was no Albanian clergyman able to take on the reconstruction of the Orthodox Church so the Ecumenical Patriarch had to intervene to save the remnants of Orthodoxy and heroicly Archbishop Anastasios took on the heavy responsibilities of the Church.
This is a wonderful book, full of exquisite photographs and is a superb story of Resurrection and therefore ideal Easter reading. It is nothing short of miraculous what has been achieved in so short a time. It must be unique in Christendom.
Sunday, 20 January 2008
Fr John Salter writes:
His Beatitude Patriarch Gregorios III, Melkite Greek Catholic of Antioch and All The East, of Alexandria and of Jerusalem, the Bishops of the Holy Synod of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, His Grace Elias Rahal, Archbishop of Baalbeck, the Clergy and Faithful of the Eparchy of Baalbeck, His Grace Bishop Youseff Joel Zraiy, Patriarchal Vicar for Egypt and the Sudan, the Clergy and Faithful of the Patriarchate of Alexandria, the Zoghby Family and their relatives here and abroad regret to record the passing to the Lord, of His Grace Archbishop Elias Zoghby, on Wednesday, 16th January 2008.
My memories of Archbishop Elias Zoghby go back to my visit to the Melkite seminary in Harissa above Beirut during the Conference of Middle Eastern Patriarchs in communion with the Holy See. In the common room over coffee after the second meeting I witnessed Archbishop Elias's extreme displeasure that the Orthodox hierarchy were not taking part, except for some guests attending the opening Divine Liturgy in the Maronite Basilica next door. 'This is pure Uniatism,' complained His Grace. To look at his life one sees why he was so upset.
Elias Zoghby was born in Cairo on 9th January 1912 and was ordained to the priesthood at the Melkite seminary of St. Anne in Jerusalem on 20th July 1936. In 1951 he was made an Archimandrite and was appointed Patriarchal pro-Vicar in Alexandria. Here he was pursued and threatened with arrest by the Public Prosecutor of Alexandria, for having prevented the execution of a sentence of the Sharia Tribunal in favour of a renegade Catholic spouse. In August 1954 the Patriarchal Synod elected him Archbishop-Patriarchal Vicar General for Egypt and The Sudan, but a year later he was imprisoned by the Nasser regime for having publicly denounced and refused the project of the Law of Personal Statute which was unfavourable to Christians. But his role as a gadfly also extended to what he thought unfair in Church affairs and he intervened eleven times at the Second Vatican Council; one of these interventions favoured an innocent spouse definitively abandoned by the other. His argument deeply moved Pope Paul VI.
When His Beatitude Maximos IV Saigh Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch, accepted a Cardinal's hat from the the Pope, Archbishop Elias resigned immediately in protest. An Eastern Patriarch, in his view, ought not to accept a Latin position that was of a lower rank. He thought this was utter Latinization for a Patriarch to become a Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church. It was later changed for Eastern Patriarchs to “Cardinal of Holy Church”. This did not pacify Elias Zoghby. Despite his resignation he was elected Archbishop of Baalbeck in August 1968.
In the mid-1970s he was the author of a ground-breaking document, that of the Project of Double Communion, which, was presented to the Patriarchal Synod in 1975, which sought to re-establish communion within the fractured Patriarchate of Antioch, that is between the Melkites and the Antiochian Byzantine Orthodox, while maintaining full communion with Rome within the limits recognized in the first millennium of the Christian era. Twenty-one years later in 1996 the Project was again presented to the Melkite Patriarchal Synod which unanimously approved of its propositions, whilst Rome and the Greek Orthodox Synod of Antioch voiced some reservations, there was an enthusiastic welcome to the project in ecumenical circles.
In 1982 Archbishop Elias was kidnapped by the Pro-Iranian Lebanese integrists. He voluntarily retired in 1988 aged 76.
Archbishop Elias Zoghby wrote a considerable number of books and articles among them are the following, which are invaluable to those seeking unity between the Eastern Churches and the Latin West and the problems which face the so-called Uniate Churches.
- St. Matthieu, lu par un Eveque d`Orient, 2 volumes, from Francois Xavier de Guibert, 3, Rue Jean Francois, Gerbillon, Paris 6e, France.
- Tous Schismatiques, English translation: We are All Schismatics, Educational Services, Diocese of Newton, 19 Dartmouth St., West Newton, MA 02165, 1997.
- Le Credo de l`Amour, Poems
- Pour Vivre Notre Foi, Poems. Libraires des PP.Paulists, Jounieh and Beirut (Rue de Liban)
- Memoires. Un Eveque peu commode, dit-on
- Pensees et Maximes
- Une Experience de Vie en Christ (Italian translation: Fede Senza Paura, Edizioni Dehoniane, Bologna,1997)
- Quand la Tendresse divine se fait Mere: Josephine Masri
- Orthodoxe Uni, oui! Uniate non! Brochure. (English translation: Orthodox in Union? Yes Uniate No! Eastern Churches Journal, Vol 2 (1995), No 3, pp.11-28)
- A Voice from the Byzantine East, Educational Services, Newton, as above
- The Desire for Christian Unity, article in The Easterrn Churches and Catholic Unity, Herder/Palm Publishers, Montreal 1963, pp 91-98. In the same book a further article by Elias Zhogby, Christian Unity Involves the Whole Church
- Uniatism and Ecumenism, undated pamphlet, printed by C. Thomas & Co