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 8th July, 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.


Sunday, 30 March 2008

Lady Surma


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.

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.
Lady Surma then recited the Lord's Prayer in Aramaic.

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.

The Assyrian Church of the East and the Chaldean Catholic Church

The Patriarchal Cathedral of the Assyrians at Kudshanes, Turkey

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

Chrysostom - Newsletter 7, Pascha 2008

Father John Salter, Chairman of the Society, writes:

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, John Salter:

Sisters in Christ: Practical Ecumenism from contemporary documents, 1935-1951, edited by The Reverend A T J Salter, Urosevic Foundation, £6, obtainable from the Chairman of the Society

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.

Louisa Worsley



The Russian Orthodox Church of the Holy Annunciation at Harbin Quay. Built 1930 -1941 to replace a wooden structure destroyed by fire, it was closed in 1966 and blown up by the Red Guards in the Cultural Revolution in 1970