to Bishop David's blog. Here you can find news, information, articles and pictures about the Church of England Diocese in Europe. We have over 300 congregations or worship centres serving Anglican and (mostly) English-speaking people in Europe, Morocco, Turkey, Russia and some central Asian countries.

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Friday, 24 February 2017

Fr Tony Currer, "our man at the Vatican" becomes an ecumenical canon of Southwark

On Sunday evening in London, the Revd Tony Currer, who is the Official for Relations with Anglicans and Methodists at the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity was made an Ecumenical Canon of Southwark Cathedral. For Anglicans Fr Tony is very much "our man at the Vatican" and is a close colleague on much of our ecumenical work, including IARCCUM, the International Anglican Roman-Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission, which I co-chair, and ARCIC. He is co-secretary to both commissions.

But beyond these two major international commissions, Canon Currer is key to all our work at the heart of the Roman Catholic Church. A good example of this is his invaluable support and guidance to us as we prepare for the visit of Pope Francis to All Saints Church in Rome this coming Sunday.

We congratulate Canon Currer on this appointment. It speaks of our gratitude as Anglicans for his care for our international relations with the Catholic Church, and is also sign of our deep friendship with him.

Canon Currer (2nd from left) with Anglican ecumenical colleagues


Monday, 20 February 2017

Malta: a patronal festival marked by joy, ecumenical life and a new Archdeacon installed in her canonry


There are very few places in our diocese directly connected to events in the New Testament: Rome, Athens, Thessaloniki of course. But also significantly Malta, the home of one of our Pro-Cathedrals.

The Patronal Feast of our Pro-Cathedral of St Paul in Valletta, Malta, is the feast of Shipwreck of St Paul. St Paul is considered to be the spiritual father of the Maltese and his shipwreck recorded in The Acts of the Apostles Chapters 27 and 28. He stayed 3 months on the island bringing the Christian message to the inhabitants.The Feast is a national holiday in Malta.

The celebrations are very Mediterranean, with a moving procession of a (2 ton) statue of the Apostle through the streets of Old Valletta. It is a wonderful expression of what sociologists of religion call "popular religiosity". For me it was a clear sign of deep, joyous even infectious faith among the people of the island. In fact, several of the Anglicans present remarked that it was a visible way to reach out to the people with the Christian message. Perhaps a technique that Anglicans might adopt in our evangelisation strategy? The Anglican community is a welcome participant in the events, as warm ecumenical relations have been nurtured over the years with the Roman Catholic Church.

In our own Pro-Cathedral, the feast was celebrated at the Sunday Mass on 12 February. The Revd Canon Jeremy Haselock, Sub-Dean of Norwich Cathedral was the guest preacher. A tribute to the ecumenical work of the Chancellor of St Paul's, the Revd Canon Simon Godfrey, was the presence of the RC Archbishop of Malta, Monsignor Charles Scicluna, in choir habit for our entire festive eucharist. I invited him to share with me in the final blessing. Several other senior clergy from the RC Archdiocese also attended. A choir of about 40 members sung the liturgy.

The Revd Canon Jeremy Haselock
At the start of the Mass, the Archdeacon of Italy and Malta, the Venerable Vickie Sims, was installed in her canon's stall, that of St Helena, in the Pro-Cathedral, by the Chancellor. The Archdeacon is also the Chaplain of All Saints Milan and it was her first visit to the Pro-Cathedral and therefore was an important time to mark and celebrate her wider ministry in Italy and Malta.

St Paul's Pro-Cathedral

Archdeacon Vickie Sims receives a blessing for her work as Archdeacon of Italy and Malta
The Venerable Vickie Sims
Following the service the annual "Shipwreck Lecture" was given. The lecturer this year was the Reverend Professor Marius Zerrafa OP. His topic was the theft and return of Caravaggio’s “St. Jerome Writing”, a work of the great master which hangs in St John's Co-Cathedral in Valletta.

Father Zerafa is the former Director of the Malta Museums. The painting was stolen on New Year's Eve 1984. Fr Zerafa negotiated with the thieves for its return for almost a year! It was a thrilling story. Fr Zerafa said, "At times it was easier to deal with the Mafia, than with Ministers and Monsignori …!” It was an account worthy of a Hollywood film. (I think the clergy and people of the Pro-Cathedral would make a great supporting cast!)

Professor Marius Zerrafa
Caravaggio's "St Jerome Writing"

St Paul remarked (Acts 28.2) that when he was marooned on Malta the natives showed him "unusual kindness". Certainly any visit to our Pro-Cathedral, named after the Apostle, will be an experience of that kindness.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Chair of House of Clergy writes to the clergy of the diocese

Fr Tuomas Mäkipää
The Revd Tuomas Mäkipää is Chaplain of St Nicholas's Helsinki, Area Dean for Finland, a member of General Synod and Chair of the House of Clergy of this Diocese in Europe. Yesterday the General Synod motion to take note of the House of Bishops' Report on "Marriage and Same Sex Relationships After the Shared Conversations" was lost in the House of Clergy, and therefore the motion fell.

Fr Tuomas has written this helpful explanatory note below to the clergy of the diocese, and asks that it be shared with the members of their congregations.


Dear fellow Clergy

I believe I do not need to explain in detail the very mixed response to the House of Bishops' Report MARRIAGE AND SAME SEX RELATIONSHIPS AFTER THE SHARED CONVERSATIONS.
'Taking note' is a synodical procedure which is a way to introduce documents to the Synod thus allowing them to be used as a source, or basis, for future work. These reports usually contain suggestions and recommendations, sometimes they might include more detailed ways forward.

Normally, there is nothing special in taking note.

About a week before the Synod, it was clear that the vote on GS2055 would be seen differently. It was given much wider meaning, as was to the Report itself. Some hoped the Report to confirm the Church's teaching on marriage and others were disappointed by the prospect that the report would stop all discussion or any possible change. Many in the LGBTI+ community saw the report as hurtful and discriminating. Some who hold conservative view on marriage were in support of the report and considered it as a good basis for further work in Synod based on maximum freedom.

Not depending on how the report, or the vote was perceived, from the synodical governance point of view the situation was quite clear: it was only a report to feed in to the further debates and proceedings. Legality does not always cling with reality: words do carry different message to different audiences, a working document intended to Synod for debate can be seen as a message to wider church. And as the Archbishop of Canterbury pointed out, we are talking about human beings, not 'problems' or 'issues'.

The motion to take note was lost in the House of Clergy. In order for the Synod to take note, the motion should have been carried in all three houses. The question now is 'what happens next?'
The report, GS2055, can not be brought back to the Synod during this synod's lifetime. However, it is possible for the Bishops to introduce a new report. it is likely that they will do precisely that in due course. This vote was by no means the end of discussion. On the contrary the debate in the Assembly Hall was graceful, profoundly deep and honest. I am encouraged that the Bishops can now work, with a clear support from the Synod, to create a more clearer roadmap which will allow us to move forward.

Taking note of the Report would have not changed the current position of the Church of England on Marriage or same-sex relationships. Nor is its defeat in the General Synod to be interpreted as a sign of any legal change in the Church of England. The current guidelines still apply. The doctrine of the Church of England remains to be that marriage is a life long union of one man with one woman.

The Church's teaching on working against any kind of discrimination, homophobia and stigmatization of any people, as set out in the Lambeth resolution I.10 (1998) and Some Issues in Human Sexuality (2003).The recommendations and findings of the Pilling Report (2013) urges us to show pastoral support and love to all people whatever they sexual or gender identity might be.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has published the following statement on his website:
"No person is a problem, or an issue. People are made in the image of God. All of us, without exception, are loved and called in Christ. There are no ‘problems’, there are simply people. 
How we deal with the real and profound disagreement - put so passionately and so clearly by many at the Church of England’s General Synod debate on marriage and same-sex relationships today - is the challenge we face as people who all belong to Christ.
To deal with that disagreement, to find ways forward, we need a radical new Christian inclusion in the Church. This must be founded in scripture, in reason, in tradition, in theology; it must be based on good, healthy, flourishing relationships, and in a proper 21st century understanding of being human and of being sexual. 
We need to work together - not just the bishops but the whole Church, not excluding anyone - to move forward with confidence.
The vote today is not the end of the story, nor was it intended to be. As bishops we will think again and go on thinking, and we will seek to do better. We could hardly fail to do so in the light of what was said this afternoon.
The way forward needs to be about love, joy and celebration of our humanity; of our creation in the image of God, of our belonging to Christ - all of us, without exception, without exclusion."

I have shared this message with David Coulston, the Chair of the Diocesan House of Laity, who asks you to share this with your congregations.

Tuomas Mäkipää
Chair of the Diocesan House of Clergy
Member of the General Synod

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

St Mark's Florence, a centre of light, mission and culture

St Mark's in Florence has been serving the English language population of Tuscany and the many visitors to the area for over 132 years. The Sunday Sung High Mass is at the centre of the parish's active liturgical life. But St Mark’s is also home to a thriving and extensive music and cultural scene, with its own choir (St Mark's Cantorum), St Mark's Opera, many concerts performed by visiting choirs and musicians, and literary events.

The parish is promoting a particularly interesting project entitled "Dignity through Art". Through this project, the needs of those in Florence who are marginalised, homeless or needy are given a voice and a platform for their skills to be shared, and for their stories to be heard. Many, whose voices are silenced by their circumstances, are given, through this project, space to recover their dignity as human persons.

On 5 February, I joined the congregation for the feast of Candlemas and administered the sacrament of confirmation to some members. It was a joyful liturgy. Some highlights can be seen in the YouTube clip below, prepared by Bob Blesse, one of the members of the parish. One of the confirmation candidates, who is a portrait artist, had prepared a painting of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which was blessed during the liturgy.

The Chaplain of St Mark's, the Revd William Lister, also looks after the St Peter's, Sienna and Holy Cross, Bologna. 

Monday, 13 February 2017

Archdeaconry of Gibraltar - growth in faith and numbers continues

Sessions of the Gibraltar Archdeaconry Synod were held from 31 Jan to 3 Feb in Torrevieja, Spain. The Archdeaconry includes, Spain, (with the Balearic and Canary Islands), Portugal (with Madeira), Morocco and Andorra. The Archdeaconry continues to grow; this year the first resident priest and parish reps from the new congregation of St James's Fuerteventura participated.

Sessions covered a range of issues from support for clergy facing problems with addiction and alcohol, communications and media strategy, environmental issues, the Pilgrim Course, and safeguarding. Bible Studies were led by the Revd Dr Richard Briggs of Cranmer Hall, Durham. Bishop Jack Nicholls (retired from Sheffield) provided inspirational reflections on mission and the Church's role.

During the course of the Synod, Paul Turner was admitted by Archdeacon Geoff Johnston to the office of Reader and licensed for this lay ministry in the parish of St Christopher's Costa Azahar. Director of Reader Ministry, the Revd Elaine Labourel, was on hand for this important moment.
Paul Turner is admitted and licensed as a Reader
 At the close of the synod the feast of Candlemas was celebrated in a nearby RC parish church. The members of the synod then processed with their lit candles from the Church through the streets to the hotel where the synod was being held.

Here is a brief YouTube clip of the conclusion of the service:

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Ministry in Tangier includes dealing with body-bags of parishioners

Fr Simon with one of his African migrant parishioners
Since the late 1990s a growing phenomenon in Morocco has been the arrival of vast numbers of sub-Saharan migrants and refugees. Roman Catholic and Anglican Churches in Casablanca and Tangier have been faced with this challenge, and now a new partnership is emerging between the Roman Catholic Diocese of Tangier and our historic Anglican Church of St Andrew in the city.

A meeting with some migrants in St Andrew's
Because of its proximity to Spain - just twelve miles across treacherous straits - and with a land borders close by to the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla, Tangier has become very much a magnet to thousands of young Sub-Saharan Africans seeking a better life.  With memories of civil wars, drought, poverty, persecution and the devastation caused by the Ebola Crisis fresh in their minds, these young people - many of them illiterate - make an extremely dangerous journey up the West Coast of Africa, or trekking across deserts into Morocco.  The majority have no papers, no form of documentation, very little money but they are all empowered by a great hope for a better life and the belief that they will be able to finance their families back home.  Many of them seem to have misread a world map and believe that the Straits of Gibraltar and the Tarifa crossing present no obstacle to reaching their goal - Europe!

Spain (left) and Morocco (right) - the 12 mile straits
As well as trying to swimming highly dangerous waters or climbing heavily guarded fences to Spanish territory, some are now leaving Morocco for points east to try to buy passage on the overcrowded, often deadly boats trying to cross the Mediterranean from countries like Libya. Many of of our African parishioners, on their perilous journey north to Morocco have been mistreated by authorities, exploited by smugglers, robbed and some raped - but their dream of the Promised Land of Europe proves to be irresistible. So the movement of peoples continues.

The Anglican Chaplain in St Andrew's Tangier, the Revd Canon Simon Stephens OBE, who has been in post for a year has quickly built links with the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Tangiers and the diocesan offices of Caritas. Together they have been coordinating efforts and indeed even taking the funerals of those who have died in trying to make dangerous crossings. The collaboration is growing as are the needs. Fr Simon says, "As we consider the needs of these young people on the move, thought must also be given to the pastoral care of those working alongside them.  Both physically and emotionally many of them are living on the edge. And we would do well to remember that dealing with body-bags also takes its toll on the living, seeking to serve them!”

A supper meeting with (RC) Archbishop Santiago (3rd from rt) and some of his clergy
I have opened an exploration with Anglican mission agency USPG about this ecumenical collaboration, to see how we can work more closely together with our ecumenical partners.

African parishioners at St Andrew's

Berber market outside the Church on Sunday

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Senior Staff explore the unknown factors in making clergy appointments

The Archdeacons and Area Deans work closely with the Bishops and the Appointments Secretary in all that pertains to clergy appointments in this Diocese in Europe. A training day for them was recently led by Claire Pedrick, author of an invaluable book entitled How to Make Great Appointments in the Church. 

It was encouraging to hear so many of our Area Deans and Archdeacons agreeing that the present system and process of appointments is largely working well, and is well supported by our staff, particularly Catherine Jackson, the Appointments Secretary.  From the wide international experience of our Senior Staff, there were clear testimonies that the Diocese in Europe is much better at the complicated business of appointments than many other dioceses and other parts of the Anglican Communion.

Ms Catherine Jackson, Appointments Secretary

Nevertheless, with all aspects of life in the Church, there is always room to improve some things, and to learn some new approaches. This recent training day follows on one given about 3 years ago and and this time concentrated on "managing the unknown" factors in appointing priests to our churches. Through various exercises and small discussions, the participants were encouraged to see the appointment of a priest from many different angles, and through many different eyes - from the appointee herself/himself, to that of the spouse if there is one, the Church Council, and even the wider Diocese. There was even space given to consider how God might view our appointments!

Area Dean of Germany Fr Ken Dimmick (l) and Area Dean of Belgium Fr Stephen Murray consider a particular view of our appointment process 

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Charles I, King and Martyr

Here is a good pub quiz question: Who is the last person officially "canonised" by the Church of England? The answer is Charles, King and Martyr. Charles I was put to death on 30 January 1649. In 1662 his martyrdom was commemorated in the Book of Common Prayer. It is astonishing to know how quickly his cult expanded. In Tangiers, for instance, during the time of the English occupation in the 1680s, our own church there was dedicated to St Charles the Martyr! (Today, the present church in Tangiers is dedicated to St Andrew).

Each year, close to his feast day (30 January) the "Royal Martyr Church Union" gathers for a solemn eucharist to honour King Charles. Last Saturday, in St Mary le Strand Church in London, assisted by Deacon Frances Hiller, my Chaplain, and other clergy, I had the honour of presiding and preaching at this mass.

Whatever one thinks of King Charles the Martyr, he suffered and died for what he believed in.

Monday, 30 January 2017

27 explore vocation to the sacred ministry from across the Diocese

Fr William (bottom right) with members of his team and the 27 enquirers
27 enquirers from across the Diocese in Europe, from Sweden to Sicily, gathered in London last weekend to explore issues related to ordained ministry in the Church of England. It is an annual conference run by our Director of Ordinands, the Revd Canon William Gulliford, to give our enquirers an intensive exposure to the Church of England in its heartland. It is often a first stage in the process which may lead to clarifying a vocation to the sacred ministry.

During the three days, the process of discernment for holy orders is explained, as well as the selection, training and deployment norms of our Church. Advice is given on spiritual direction to assist in personal discernment. Some topics pertinent to ministry in the Church of England are covered, such as the norms of obedience and authority, the 5 marks of mission and issues in human sexuality. Parish visits are set up for a variety of experiences, often contrasting with the enquirer's own home congregation. As well as priesthood, the distinctive diaconate is set out as one of the possible vocational journeys.

Such a level of interest in the sacred ministry from these enquirers is indeed heartening. Of the 27, 19 were men, and 8 women. The average age was 36.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

The Revd April Almaas: I stand here for justice


"I am here today in solidarity with all who are oppressed. I stand here for justice". The words of the Revd April Maja Almaas.

April is a priest of our Diocese in Europe, who serves the Anglican congregation in Trondheim, Norway. She participated in a march in that city last Saturday, joining with millions of others around the world. (It is estimated that in the USA alone more than 4.5 million marched. Others marched around the world, from Iraq to Antarctica.) "As a multi-ethnic American and a Christian I felt that it was important to speak out", said April.

In addressing the crowd, April recalled that this march was in a long line of such historic demonstrations, from the first march for women's voting rights in Washington in 1913, to that led by Martin Luther King against racism 50 years later. Along with her sisters around the world, April wished to declare that the rhetoric used in the US election campaign was unacceptable, that many have been discriminated against, and that such discrimination is not right. The tone of the march was not an anti-Trump political demonstration, but a peaceful witness for the fundamental and basic human rights of all.

In her speech, April cited the words of the US author, Lillian Smith:

“Without words, it comes
And suddenly, sharply,
one is aware of being separated
from every person on one’s earth and every object,
and from the future
and even, a little,
from one’s self.
A moment before one was happily playing;
the world was round and friendly.
Now at one’s feet there are chasms
that had been invisible until this moment.
And one knows, and never remembers—
how it was learned,
That there will always be chasms,
and across the chasms, will always be those one loves.”

April's powerful speech continued, echoing sentiments of many of us across Europe, "Around the world nationalism is on the rise, Fear sown, hatred harvested. Wrong skin. Wrong creed. Wrong documents. Wrong place—wrong time. Walls are being built. Discrimination legalized. Brutality accepted. Ism’s are being taken out of their closets, dusted off and being worn again—racism, sexism, heterosexim, classism, ableism". Turning again to Smith's words, “Suddenly, sharply, one is aware of being separated from every person on earth and every object, and from the beginning of things, and from the future, and even a little from one’s self.”

The Revd April Almaas addressing the crowd

April challenged her hearers to ponder, "How has it come to this? That we are standing here in bondage, trapped on our islands of privilege and need? With chasms at our feet—separating us from our sisters and our brothers, from the beginning of things”—which is God—who created each and every one of us in the very image of God? Today, I am asking all of us to extend our arms out from our islands, across the chasms that separate us, and to grasp hands in solidarity with all who are oppressed.This is not any easy task. The path towards justice is always difficult, but it is also, always the right way to go".

April's son is holding the "She's Someone" sign

Thank you for your witness, April. "Amen" is all I can add.


The Revd April Maja Almaas


Friday, 20 January 2017

Anglicans sing Evensong at Papal Basilica of St Paul's Outside the Walls

Fr Marcus Walker of the Anglican Centre in Rome
Our parish of All Saints in Rome keeps busy during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Last night, on the second day of unity week, the choir sung Evensong in the Papal Basilica of St Paul's Outside the Walls. I was present to preside and preach at the service. The Associate Director of the Anglican Centre in Rome, the Revd Marcus Walker, assisted me.
All Saints Choir rehearse in the. Basilica
It is a moving experience to read and and then to preach on the words of the Apostle (II Corinthians 5.14-20 was one of the lessons) just a few metres from where, according to Christian tradition, his earthly remains lie. The basilica, built by Constantine in 324, rises above the place venerated as the site of his burial. St Paul who was of course Saul of Tarsus, was beheaded in Rome sometime in the reign of Nero, likely between 65 and 67 AD. As he was a Roman citizen, he was able to be buried on this site about 2 miles from the heart of the ancient city, where there was a necropolis for citizens. St Paul lies in a tomb several metres below the high altar. There is an inscription on a slab of marble which lies on top of his sarcophagus. It bears the inscription Paulo Apostolo Mart (Apostle Paul, Martyr).
The Papal Altar over the tomb of St Paul
We Anglicans were welcomed most warmly by the Benedictine monks who live at St Paul's. The Abbot, the Most Revd Roberto Dotta, invited us to a reception following. The Archpriest of St Paul's, Cardinal James Michael Harvey, was also present for the service and welcomed us. Anglican liturgy and spirituality is at its heart Benedictine, so we are all very much at home in each other's company. Our unity in Christ is felt very deeply indeed.

At the conclusion of evensong, the monks chanted the ancient Latin hymn to the Apostle:
Pressi malorum pondere te Paule, adimus supplices, qui certa largus desuper, dabis salutis pignora.
(Pressed by the might of the wicked, thee, O Paul, we approach supplicant, who are lavish to give from above the certain assurances of salvation).

Thursday, 12 January 2017

CTBI - not simply about Britain and Ireland!

Why is a bishop in Europe a trustee of the Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (CTBI)? A good question. Of course the basic reason is because the Church of England is a member of this ecumemical instrument. But beyond this, the work of CTBI takes on many international dimensions, not least in its advocacy and support for refugees and migrants.This is an issue which transcends national or regional boundaries as we in the diocese are well aware. (It was a visit by CTBI to Greece, hosted by our own Fr Malcolm Bradshaw back in 2015 that was a catalyst for increased focus, both in churches and in government circles to the refugee crisis). CTBI also has historic and fruitful partnership relations with Churches in the Middle East (where Christians must not slip from our sight in the midst of current conflicts), as well as in other regions such as Sri Lanka and China. So CTBI is itself a body with a global focus, even as it seeks to serve the member Churches, including our Church of England, with their historic roots on the islands of Great Britain and Ireland.
A meeting of the trustees has just concluded in Leeds. The agenda ranged from communication of the Churches' work in a digital age, to refugees and migrants, to theological questions related to inter-religious dialogue. Also, we did some work on an exciting proposal to bid for the next General Assembly of the World Council of Churches (WCC) in 2021 to be hosted by the British and Irish Churches in Glasgow. We hope that the WCC Central Committee will find our proposal to be an attractive one when it comes to decide the venue at its next meeting.
Churches in our Diocese in Europe will find a host of very useful resources, such as Lent courses, theological reflections, and ideas for programmes and action on the CTBI website which can be found here
The Moderator of CTBI is my good friend and colleague Bishop Angaelos of the Coptic Orthodox Church.
CTBI trustees review how its resources on refugees are being used