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.

Monday 30 June 2014

Niqash - security - false idols: ISIS puts mosul’s ancient artefacts, statues and manuscripts away for safekeeping

niqash | Special Correspondent | Mosul | 27.06.2014    

One of the things the Sunni Muslim extremists who took over Iraq’s northern city, Mosul, have forbidden is the worship of false idols. So they’ve set about removing ancient statues and shrines. They’ve also taken 800-year-old manuscripts out of local libraries. ISIS says they’re not destroying them, they’re just no longer on show for the general public.

“The worst thing about wars is that they do not distinguish between the past and the future”. So says Abdallah Ismail, a Mosul calligrapher and expert on historical sites, as he is talking about the condition of various historic landmarks inside the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, which was taken over by Sunni Muslim extremists over two weeks ago.

One of the first things that the extremist group, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, did was to show its authority and its beliefs by destroying or removing old statues and shrines around the ancient city, first mentioned by the ancient Greeks in 401BC. ISIS did this because to them the landmarks and monuments are signs of idolatry or polytheism.

Ismail says he’s seen the sad evidence of these removals with his own eyes. The statue of poet Abu Tammam, born in 788, is gone now, removed by ISIS gunmen on June 19 from the central Bab al-Toub area.

There is also an empty place now where what locals know as The Tomb of the Girl used to be. This tomb used to rise above a concrete dome in Ras al-Jada in western Mosul. Many people thought that the tomb belonged to a beautiful, young girl who died because of a broken heart. However, historians say the tomb actually belongs to Arab historian, Ibn al-Athir al-Jazari, born in 1160.

Both sites, with their statues, were apparently removed by ISIS’ bulldozers. The extremist organization did the same thing again just a few kilometres away when its henchmen removed the statue of musician and poet Mullah Othman al-Musili, born 1854, from the al-Mahata neighbourhood in southern Mosul. A lot of the music native to Mosul, played on festive occasions, was composed by al-Musili; a lot of his music is secular.

Article 13 of the city charter that ISIS distributed to locals says that false idols will need to be destroyed and Ismail believes that the removal of these icons was supposed to send a firm message to the people of Mosul that ISIS was in control; all of these statues are well known by locals and their absence would be noted daily. He also thinks it is a clever way of “taking the pulse” of Mosul’s people, to see how they react, before the group tried to do anything further in line with its more extremist doctrine of Islam.

“The reason I say this is because ISIS have removed statues of people that the city is really proud of,” Ismail explained. “But they haven’t done anything to statues like the Assyrian winged bull, which are thousands of years old and which look far more like idol worship than these other monuments. Despite what they did though, the people of Mosul have not reacted. They act as if these things are going on in another city, not their own,” Ismail complained.

ISIS has also removed other statues. Members of the group destroyed a statue of the Virgin Mary in the Chaldean Church of the Immaculate in the al-Shifa neighbourhood as well as the shrine of Sheikh Fathi in al-Mushahada, which dates back to 1760AD. There have been reports that local people tried to stop them destroying the latter.

Rumours were also spreading throughout the city that ISIS was threatening to demolish the ancient shrines of the prophets Yunus (Jonah), Jarjis and Sheet (Seth – these are inside some of the oldest mosques in the city.

The statues that have already gone have been removed but they have not been destroyed, Ghanem al-Abed, one of the prime movers behind the Sunni Muslim protests held in Mosul’s own Tahrir, or Liberation, Square, told NIQASH. They were simply taken elsewhere.

The was confirmed by Jamal Abdallah, a member of the Naqshbandi army, an armed militia with close links to Iraq’s outlawed Baath party, who are allied with ISIS in Mosul. Abdallah confirms that the statues won’t be destroyed – they’ve just been removed because they were too visible. However, Abdallah added, some shrines and tombs as well as some other statues will be demolished –because they violate the teachings of Islam, he said.

An employee of the local archaeology department in Ninawa, who did not want to be named for security reasons, told NIQASH that, contrary to media reports, the ancient Assyrian statues had not been smashed by ISIS. They were still intact in the museum, the employee said. The pictures of smashed statues that had been circulated by media actually originated from Syria.

Still, the employee did not rule that this might well happen in the near future. Members of ISIS have seized inventory lists of items in the museum and items in other historically important parts of the province.

Rare manuscripts, some as old as 800 years, have also disappeared from the Department of Manuscripts in Mosul’s central library, the employee said. Most of these were religious books with writing on paper or leather, that included Koranic verses, religious arguments and explanations and poetry. Some were decorated with gold leaf. The same thing has happened in the Awqaf Library, which is run by the Sunni Muslim endowment, the body charged with looking after local Sunni mosques.

Members of ISIS were seen carrying the manuscripts away, the employee confirmed. And nobody but them could have done this, the employee told NIQASH, because their new city charter says that thieves of public or private goods and money will be punished by amputation.

It is hard to know exactly how many historic manuscripts ISIS have taken away because as yet, employees of the libraries have not returned to work and the libraries are surrounded by armed guards. ISIS is also keeping quiet about this.

Local and international historians and archaeologists have expressed grave concerns that ISIS will erase all evidence of the 7,000 years of civilization that exists in Mosul. If nobody reacts to ISIS’ destructive behaviour, then the organization will be encouraged to go further, they fear, perhaps to destroy the sculptures and statues in Hatra, or al-Hadr, an ancient city south of Mosul that was most likely built in the 3rd or 2nd century BC. They also fear for manuscripts in Mosul’s Museum, which is considered the second largest and most important museum of Iraqi heritage after Baghdad’s. The museum had actually been being renovated and work on it had finished only a few days before the city fell into ISIS’ hands.

Other areas of concern are unexplored heritage areas near Mosul and the heritage museum at the University of Mosul.

“Everything happened so quickly,” one of the university professors told NIQASH. “Nobody ever thought the army and police would just collapse like that. So there was no chance to save anything. This is the same tragic situation as 2003 when so many heritage objects fell into the hands of criminals and gangs.”

When US-led forces invaded Iraq in 2003, leading to the collapse of the Iraqi state headed by Saddam Hussein, many museums, including Mosul’s, were looted.

“ISIS’ gunmen should realise that the era of idolatry ended a long time ago,” the professor says sadly. “Preserving these artefacts is the only way to save Ninawa’s history and the history of civilisation.”

Source: Niqash - security - false idols: ISIS puts mosul’s ancient artefacts and manuscripts away for safekeeping

Sunday 29 June 2014

Russian-Chinese cultural center could open around oldest Orthodox church in China - Pravmir, A Russian Orthodox Church Website

Russian-Chinese cultural center could open around oldest Orthodox church in China

Samara, June 25, Interfax - Russian specialists are helping to restore the St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in the Chinese city of Wuhan, Russia's presidential envoy to the Volga Federal District Mikhail Babich said at a roundtable held in the Volga-Yangzi format.

Once the church is restored, it could be used as a base for opening a Russian-Chinese cultural center hosting both the church-museum part introducing Russia’s spiritual culture, and a permanent place dedicated to the history of the Russian-Chinese regional ties,” Babich said.

At the same time, he said he hoped for China’s cooperation in agreeing on technical procedures involving the delivery to China of complicated parts of the church architecture and their joint assembly by Russian and Chinese specialists.

The agreement on cooperation in restoring the church was reached at the first session of a joint working group for trade, economic and humanitarian cooperation between Russia’s Volga Federal District and the Chinese region of the upper and middle Yangzi River in the city of Chongqing in February 2014.

The Russian delegation expressed willingness to create and donate complex parts of the church architecture and interior and provide traditional-style mural paintings.

The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is the oldest one in China and was built by Russian merchants in 1893. In 1950s, the church provided services to the Chinese Orthodox Christians from nearby villages which were home to about 2,000 believers. The church ran a secondary school for Chinese children. In subsequent years, the church was taken away from the devout and used as a warehouse.

On May 27, 1998, the church was registered as a city protected historical monument.

Source: Russian-Chinese cultural center could open around oldest Orthodox church in China - A Russian Orthodox Church Website

Antiochian Unity - Dimensions and Demands for a united Patriarchate of Antioch

The Patriarchs of Antioch (l-r): Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III Younan of the
Syriac Catholics, Patriarch Mor Ignatius Aphrem of the Syriac Orthodox,
Patriarch John X Yazigi of the Greek Orthodox, Patriarch Bechara Boutros
al Rahi of the Syro-Maronite Catholics, and Patriarch Gregorios III Laham
of the Melkite Greek Catholics, with Patriarch Nerses Petros XIX Tarmouni,
Catholicos of the Holy House of Cilicia for Armenian Catholics
Below is the account of the speech of His Beatitude, Patriarch Gregorios III for the Melkite-Greek Catholics, just issued following the Conference for Antiochian Unity, currently underway in Balamand, together with two photographs of the six patriarchs who attended the opening day - Greek Orthodox, Greek Catholic, Maronite, Syriac Orthodox, Syriac Catholic - all Patriarchs of Antioch and All the East, and the Armenian Catholic Patriarch of Cilicia.

It is extremely important to bear in mind what Patriarch Gregorios says: after the split between Constantinople and Rome, the Patriarchate of Antioch did not take side, and sought to preserve unity for many centuries. The members of the Antiochian Church see themselves, therefore, as servants and agents of reconciliation and unity.

Fr Deacon Richard Downer, a Melkite Greek Catholic in England, writes: 
Ex Oriente Lux! 
It is the first Antiochian Conference at the University of Balamand, Lebanon, organised by the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and presided over by Patriarch John X, primate of the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch and All the East, on the theme of “Antiochian unity: its dimensions and exigencies.” 
Church tradition maintains that the Apostolic See of Antioch was founded by Saint Peter the Apostle in A.D. 34. St Peter was either followed or joined by the Apostles Paul and Barnabas who preached there to both Gentiles and to Jews, who seem to have been numerous in the city. Also, St Peter is regarded as the first Bishop of Antioch. (Acts 11.26 etc. refers). 

“With pride and humility, reverential fear and responsibility, I bear this ancient, apostolic title of Patriarch of Antioch and All the East,” says Gregorios III.

His Beatitude Gregorios III, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, of Alexandria and of Jerusalem took part in the opening day (26 June, 2014) of the first Antiochian Conference at the University of Balamand, Lebanon, organised by the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and presided over by Patriarch John X, primate of the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch and All the East, on the theme of “Antiochian unity: its dimensions and exigencies.”
“With pride and humility, reverential fear and responsibility, I bear this ancient, apostolic title of Patriarch of Antioch and All the East … “ In these emotionally charged terms Gregorios III began his talk in which he went on to mention all the factors that ensured that the culture of the see of Antioch was “multifaceted and varied. First Greek, then Syriac and Arabic, it is at once more than Greek, Syriac and Arabic, or even than Latin and Roman … The Patriarchate of Antioch is the only see to have successively composed its services in those three languages.”

“…The Antiochians loved Greek civilization and culture so much that they assimilated it to the point of baptizing and Christianizing it before making it Arab and passing it on to the Muslim Arab world, turning it into the basis of a multicultural society and laying the foundations for knowing how to live together … From the Arab world, Greek culture went on to conquer Europe.”

“Thy Nativity O Christ, our God, has shone upon the world the light of knowledge. For by it those who worshipped the stars were taught by a star to worship thee, the Sun of Righteousness, and know thee, the Dayspring from on high. O Lord, glory to thee!” Citing this troparion of the Nativity of Our Lord, Gregorios III, recalled how, though Jesus Christ was born in Palestine, Christianity itself was born in Antioch, and that light came from the East, as Pope Saint John Paul II splendidly explained in his Apostolic Letter, Orientale Lumen.

“The Patriarchate of Antioch took up the challenge of keeping the deposit of faith and being open to others, such as the Muslim Arab world, Constantinople and the West, and was similarly distinguished by preserving Christian unity, and refusing to tear Christ’s tunic, the seamless robe, and not taking sides when Rome and Constantinople split apart…”

Gregorios III wished that “this first Antiochian Orthodox conference might in future years become an Antiochian conference in which laity and clergy of the five Churches belonging to the See of Antioch would participate, so fulfilling the prayer of Our Lord Jesus Christ: that they might be one…that the world may believe!”