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 9th September, 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 johnchrysostom@btinternet.com for details.

"It's Now or Never: The Return of the Eastern Christians to Iraq and Syria" - John Pontifex of Aid to the Church in Need gives the annual Christopher Morris Lecture in the Society's 90th year. Monday 27th November at the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Family. 6-15 pm Divine Liturgy, 7-15 pm Lecture, 8-15 pm Reception. £10 donation requested. RSVP to johnchrysostom@btinternet.com







Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Mother Maria Skobtsova

The Pearl of Great Price: The Life of Mother Maria Skobstova, 1891-1945, Father Sergei Hackel. £12.99

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.

John Salter

Resurrectoin 1991-2003: The Orthodox Autocephalous Churhc of Albania, Lynette Hoppe


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)

+ ANASTASIOS Archbishop of Tirana, Durres and All Albania
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.

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.

John Salter