Every second Saturday of the month, Divine Liturgy in English of Sunday - Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Family, Duke Street, London W1K 5BQ.
4pm Divine Liturgy. Next: 13th November 2021

Very sadly, the Divine Liturgy in English at 9-30 am on Sundays at the Holy Family Cathedral, Lower Church, have had to be put on hold. Until the practicalities we cannot use the Lower Church space. Hopefully this will be resolved very soon. Please keep checking in here for details.

Owing to public health guidance, masks should still be worn indoors and distance maintained. Sanitisers are available. Holy Communion is distributed in both kinds from the mixed and common chalice, by means of a separate Communion spoon for each individual communicant.

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.

Friday 10 October 2008

The Last King of Western Ukraine

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.

The Church of the East, Christoph Baumer

The Church of the East: An Illustrated History of Assyrian Christianity, Christoph Baumer (I B Tauris - Palgrave Macmillan, pp 328, £25)

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.

John Salter

Mar Thomas Giwargis, Metropolitan of the Ancient Church of the East, celebrates a wedding in northern Iraq

Monday 6 October 2008

The Orthodox Church of Georgia

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.