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Assembly of the Orthodox Hierarchs in the British Isles PDF Print

Address of His Eminence Archbishop Gregorios

Wood Green; Thursday, 10th May 2012


Dear Brothers in Christ,

       I am delighted to see you at this, the fifth plenary session of the Assembly of canonical Orthodox Hierarchs in the British Isles; and I greet you with the traditional Orthodox Paschal greeting of "Christ is Risen !", at the same time welcoming you in the name of His All-Holiness the Oecumenical Patriarch, Vartholomaeos I, who is aware of our meeting today and who has asked me to greet you with a warm and brotherly embrace.

       Since our last plenary meeting, the Educational Committee (of which I am the Chairman) has held a further meeting and has begun preparing leaflets about Marriage, Baptism, and the curriculum for the "Sunday" or catechetical schools for our young people.  We also talked a lot about the experience of the Archdiocese’s Ecclesiastical Seminary and also about the contribution that the ‘Cambridge Institute’ might make through its courses (although there were reservations about this).  One suggestion was that lectures should be organised on a local basis, with them being open to the clergy and interested laypeople (with, perhaps, some being in a language other than English).  We also addressed the question of University Chaplaincies, and it was thought appropriate to invite Archpriest Alexander Fostiropoulos to speak on this subject, given his experience in this field.  I should be interested to learn the progress of the Pastoral and Theological Committees, chaired by my beloved brothers Archbishop Elisey and Metropolitan Kallistos, which we will hear about at the appointed time in our programme.

       Since our last meeting, the sub-committees that we have appointed have met; and I should like to take this opportunity to thank them wholeheartedly for the work they have undertaken - they have done a very good job.  They have studied various subjects in connection with pastoral problems, education, and have expressed a variety of opinions - for example, in connection with having a meeting of our clergy or some of our lay leaders with our young people.

       It seems to me that we urgently need to discuss how we can cultivate closer relationships between ourselves, the Orthodox hierarchs living in this country and those with pastoral responsibility here.  Based on our experience to date, it seems to me that we have difficulty in meeting one another - for various reasons, but principally due to many of us living outside the boundaries of these Islands.  It is essential that we meet to discuss the various pastoral and practical problems that we confront in exercising our ministry in the Country we love, as well as to discuss matters which impinge on our common goal, that is to say the unity of our Church and deeper understanding and co-operation between each other's Orthodox Church.  We cannot nowadays limit ourselves to a single annual act of united Orthodox Worship at the Pan-Orthodox Vespers of the Sunday of Orthodoxy.  Our Orthodox Faithful - and others outside the Church - need to see us sharing in the unity of the Holy Eucharist and other pastoral and practical matters, as a witness to our unity in Christ.

       One of the problems that I referred to at our first meeting (on 21st June 2010) and which emphasises the lack of co-operation among us is that of a small number of clergy or candidates for ordination who, finding that they are not eligible for ordination in one diocese, hasten to another.  In such delicate and sensitive matters, we need to consult among ourselves and reach a common understanding.  I mentioned this then as a field in which we should co-operate in order to avoid creating problems between ourselves, to avoid scandalising our Faithful, and of how we need to work in accordance with the directives that we have been given by our chief bishops following the meeting of our Primates held at the Phanar on 12th October 2008 and who have given us our "Charter" for these meetings.

       There is also the question of our own "housekeeping" - that of fulfilling our obligations towards the running of our Assembly.  As you know, each participating Church is expected to contribute £500.00 annually.  Our Treasurer can give us an up-to-date picture, but I understand that so far only two Churches have forwarded their subscriptions.

       I also need to raise the matter of the title that we have given to our Assembly.  I have received both written and oral comments on the fact that we have entitled ourselves as being of "The British Isles and Ireland".  It has been rightly pointed out to me that the geographical term "British Isles" embraces Ireland and that it might be better to use the terminology "Great Britain and Ireland", with it being understood that this includes the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man.

       So, once again I welcome you; and I look forward to a fruitful discussion on the matters that I have referred to, as well as to the subjects referred to in our Agenda - in particular, that of Dialogue between the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches.
 
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