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.

For official diocesan information please click the diocesan logo on the right.

Friday, 20 September 2019

Holy Ghost Genoa: an interesting past and an important future

Newly baptised and confirmed receive candles - the light of Christ

At one point in the 19th and early 20th centuries there were about a half dozen Church of England parishes along the Italian Riviera. When founded they tended to serve well-heeled British who would come to the region for sunshine and culture, especially in the winter season. The Anglican demographics of the region have changed and there are now only two communities remaining. Monthly services are held in Bordighera but the only community with a regular permanent week to week Church life is Holy Ghost Genoa.  

There has been an Anglican community in Genoa for over 200 years. An early member, who has a commemorative plaque in the Church, was James Smithson, F.R.S, who founded the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC (he lived in Genoa for three years prior to his death in 1829). The building, which was designed by G.E. Street, one of the greatest English architects of the time, was consecrated in 1872. It was badly damaged in 1942 when it received a direct hit from an RAF bomb. Much was destroyed: stained glass, roof, flooring and the organ. There was a restoration in the 1940s and 1950s, but still much remains to be done to restore this unique architectural gem to a fit condition, to serve its present community.

Fr Tony finds jobs for all in the parish. This young member rings the bell at the appropriate times in the mass.
That community and congregation have changed radically in 200 years. Fr Tony Dickinson is the chaplain, and he now serves a parishioners among whom are few from a UK background, but a large number from West African countries. His faithful include some who have made the dangerous journey across the Sahara desert, Libya, then risking their lives in overcrowded inflatables crossing to Lampedusa. Others come from North and South America and Asia, Italy and other European countries. 

Fr Tony and the Churchwardens, Mary and Liz
In July I made a brief parish visit to Holy Ghost, where a jubilant service of baptism and confirmation was held, with a festive meal of African and Italian food following. 

But despite the vibrant spiritual life the financial situation of the community is quite precarious, given the profile of most members. Stewardship of time and resources is a major challenge as some of the long-serving faithful volunteers find they are getting older, while many others, even if employed, live in very modest circumstances economically. Fr Tony and the Council will be looking at how to appeal for support for this unique parish with a remarkable history and an even more remarkable present ministry as a home for migrants from around the world. 

Saturday, 20 July 2019

Deacons make history in the Diocese in Europe

The ministry of deacon in the Church of England is still not well known nor understood.. Most people assume that being a deacon is simply a stepping stone on the way to the priesthood. It is true that priests must first be ordained deacon but the diaconate is also a distinctive ministry, to which people are called, and part of the three-fold ministry of bishop, priest and deacon that Anglicans teach as being characteristic of minstry in the Holy Catholic Church.

The Lambeth Conference as early as 1958 made an attempt to renew the understanding of the diaconate as a distinctive ministry and recommended that "each province of the Anglican Communion...consider whether the office of Deacon shall be restored to its primitive place as a distinctive order in the Church, instead of being regarded as a probationary period for the priesthood". The distinctive diaconate, in my view, still needs to be taken more seriously as a vocational opportnity, within the Church of England.

Deacon Giampaolo Pancetti (Florence)
In this Diocese in Europe we are blessed with having at present 4 distinctive deacons in various ministries (and two such deacons retired from active ministry).

Some ask what is the difference between a deacon and a (lay) Reader. Indeed deacons and Readers in the Church of England do many similar tasks - preaching, teaching and praying for instance. But a deacon is somethingnot simply someone who does certain things. Deacons are ordained to hold up before the Church and the world, diakonia, the distinctive ministry of Christ the Servant, as being central to all Christian ministry.

Some ask how a deacon is different from a priest; is a deacon not simply a junior priest? Well, no. A priest’s focus is on the parish community and sacrament. They are pastors/shepherds of the community, feeding them and leading them. The deacon’s focus is on outreach, service, and supporting the ministry of the faithful in the world.

Being an icon of Christ's servant ministry does not mean that a deacon is simply a servant, mind you. A 2001 Church of England report on the ministry of deacons, For Such A Time As This, emphasised that the deacon is a person on a mission, an ambassador or messenger, making connections, building bridges, faithfully delivering a mandate”.

I believe that it is the ambassadorial role which marks out the ministry of the deacon most clearly. And as an ambassador is sent as an envoy, so a deacon is an envoy between the Church and the world. This is manifest in the traditional role of the deacon in the liturgy (although the deacon's ministry is far from confined to the liturgy!). So the deacon travels from the sanctuary into the midst of the people to proclaim the Good News, and at the end of the mass sends the people out into the world to spread Christ's peace. The deacon as envoy also brings the the needs of the world into the assembled Church in the intercessions, and in the offertory presents the gifts of ordinary human life and labour, bread and wine, on the altar to be transformed in the Eucharistic prayer led by the priest.

Last 30 June was a historic occasion for this diocese. For the first time, in the same place, were to be found three distinctive deacons. Deacon Julia Bradshaw (above centre) was ordained to this order to serve in St Thomas' Church in Crete, in the Greater Athens Chaplaincy. The preacher for the ordination was Deacon Christine Saccali (above left), who is also licenced to Greater Athens. The Deacon of the mass was Frances Hiller.

If you would like to explore a possible vocation to the diaconate, have a conversation with your priest.

Friday, 19 July 2019

Ministry in Tangier

St Andrew's Tangier has a growing ministry among migrants and refugees from sub-saharan African countries. It is an oasis of calm and peace in the heart of the city, where a very international community finds their spiritual home.

St Andrew's Tangier
Fr Dennis Obidiegwu (pictured above with Archdeacon of Gibraltar, Geoff Johnston) is the Chaplain of St Andrew's and is himself a priest of Nigerian origin, who was trained and served in Ghana as well as worked in Togo. He is well experienced in the challenges that West Africans face, who seek to find a life with dignity. An increasing number are flee north towards the Mediterranean shores of Morocco, looking with desperation for a way to enter Europe. From certain vantage points in the city, Europe seems tantalisingly close. However the waters are treacherous, and many lose their lives attempting the crossing.

On the horizon, Europe can be seen, from Tangier
In partnership with USPG Fr Dennis is building a ministry in St Andrew's that not only seeks to address immediate spiritual needs of the migrant population, but also to explore ways to encourage them not to take to the dangerous waters of the straits, but to consider other options, including returning to their homelands. He recently was a guest speaker at the USPG annual conference about the work in Tangier.

Some of the congregation of St Andrew's
The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Tangier is a solid ecumenical partner for us, and provides many inspiring models of outreach and ways of bearing witness to the love of Christ for all persons. The Archdiocese has several projects serving both migrants and Moroccans who are themselves in grave need, through severe disability or through circumstances of their lives. 

The Archbishop of Tangier (centre) with some of his workers

Sunday, 23 June 2019

An historic day at St John the Evangelist, Casablanca

The Community Centre is opened by Fr Medhat, UK Ambassador Tom Reilly, Bishop David, HE Rachid Afirat, Governor of  Casablanca-Anfa, and Archbishop Cristobal Lopez
St John the Evangelist Church, Casablanca, is the oldest church in continuous use in the city. Consecrated in 1906, by the then Bishop of Sierra Leone, it has been the home to English speaking Christians in Morocco's largest city for over 100 years.

Fr Medhat greets HE Governor Rachid Afirat

In recent times, especially under the direction of its current Chaplain, the Revd Canon Dr Medhat Sabry, St John’s has grown significantly. Two packed church services are now held each Sunday. The community itself counts on people from at least 17 different nations around the world. St John's also hosts a Chinese congregation and a French speaking student congregation which both use the church each week.

Fr Medhat in 2016 began working with the parish in putting together an ambitious development project in two phases. Phase One included the construction of a community centre with facilities to serve the burgeoning migrant and refugee community in the city. The community centre includes classrooms where basic skills can be taught and training given, and a place for assistance with pastoral questions, counselling, documentation and other advice, and mutual support groups for the various sub-Saharan nationalities, as well as being a centre for the St John’s humanitarian outreach programme. It will also provide an office for the priest, new toilets, and space for the parish's own educational work with children and adults. 

On Friday 21 June, in a joyful civic occasion, the community centre was opened. Among the official guests were the Governor of Casablanca-Anfa, representing His Majesty King Mohammed VI, the UK Ambassador, the US Acting Head of Mission, a host of other diplomats, the Archbishop of Rabat, and several ecumenical dignitaries. Ribbon cutting, official speeches and a festive reception marked this, the conclusion of Phase One of the development project. 

Rebecca Boardman from USPG, (United Society Partners in the Gospel) which has been supporting the project, remarked on the significance of the community centre, in terms of the Church's ministry to those in need: "Within the perimeter walls of St John’s is a safe space for the many who are now finding themselves, either permanently displaced in Morocco, or among the thousands seeking a route eventually to Europe, to meet, and to have their needs addressed, in a country and city, where for many refugees and migrants, there are few such options".

The door to St John the Evangelist compound.

Mr Andrew MacDonald, US Acting Deputy Head of Mission signs the guest book
Fr Medhat greets the UK Ambassador, HE Thomas Reilly
Following the civic opening, a eucharist was celebrated in the church during which a procession was made to the community centre, (accompanied by African songs and drum), for it to be formally blessed. Archdeacon Geoff Johnston spoke of the vital witness of St John's and its impressive international and lively community. Canon Joanna Udal, who is currently serving as locum priest in Tangier, was also able to join us in Casablanca.


Phase Two, an expansion of the church building itself to double its seating capacity begins almost immediately. The total cost of the development project, (Phases One and Two) is about 5 million Moroccan Dirhams, (approximately £400,000) of which all but about 200,000 Dirhams remains to be raised. It has been an incredible cooperative effort by parishioners, partners such as USPG, and other individuals. But most of all it is due to the constant prayer and hard work on the ground by Fr Medhat and the parish lay leadership team which have brought us to this day. 

Laus Deo 

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Turning red in St Alban's Copenhagen

"Wear red for Pentecost" was the instruction given to the people of St Alban's Copenhagen by their priest the Revd Smitha Prasadam. And bold flashes of red - the colour of flame, the colour traditionally associated with the Holy Spirit - were certainly on display in what is already a very colourful congregation.

During the festive eucharist on Sunday a member of the congregation was formally received into the communion of the Church of England. (He had been episcopally confirmed in another Church tradition). It gave an opportunity for the whole assembly to give thanks for the Spirit's movement in their lives and in the community, and to consider how that same Spirit imight be moving them forward in their congregational life and mission. As Mother Smitha said in the St Alban's Parish Magazine:  "...what if the Spirit's work is to create for us a new problem: that we have a story to tell, mercy to share, love to spread, and we just can't rest until we've done so?"

Some members of the Sunday School
St Alban's already has a reputation for being a lively, inclusive, forward-looking and welcoming congregation. One member who has been worshipping here while posted tto Copenhagen from his home in Tennessee said, "I thought that I would find some old musty church with ten people in attendance on a Sunday...How delighted we have been to discover an energetic, diverse congregation of all ages and backgrounds".

Thursday, 6 June 2019

St George's Berlin, a place of refreshment and life

A Church of England parish where songs are sung in Urdu, African heritage celebrated with a thanksgiving service, vocations are nurtured, and faith confirmed? St George's Berlin, of course! This congregation reflects the vibrancy and diversity of the German capital itself.

A notably multicultural parish, led by the Revd Canon Christopher Jage-Bowler, St George's is a microcosm of the world-wide Church. It seems that everyone, no matter their Church tradition, language spoken, or cultural background can find a welcome here. There are opportunities for all to celebrate and grow in their faith and in their service to their brothers and sisters. For instance, Canon Jage-Bowler is particularly moved by the commitment in St George's to their well-building projects, as a key part of their overseas outreach. So far, funding from St George's has enabled wells to be constructed in Uganda, Nigeria and Yemen. He notes that "wells attract people, as the Church itself should". "Wells are the opposite of walls; they are places of refeshment and life".

At a recent parish visit, baptism and confirmation were celebrated (including two candidates who were confirmed from the parish of Heidelberg). The Revd Fr Joachim Reich was licensed as assistant curate, and I had an opportunity to practise some rusty Urdu during the communion song. Many of the African members of the congregation proudly advertised the upcoming African Thanksgiving Service on 16 June.

Fr Joachim Reich (left) and Fr Christopher Jage-Bowler (right)

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Malines Conversations Group: another instrument working towards a common future for Anglicans and Roman Catholics

Dr Ben Gordon-Taylor of Mirfield presents items related to Bp Walter Frere CR a participant in the origial Malines Conversations.
Many people know of the two official instruments of the international dialogue between the Anglican Communion and the Roman Catholic Church: ARCIC, (the theological dialogue) and IARCCUM (the episcopal commission on unity and mission, of which I am privileged to serve as the Anglican Co-chairman). 

There is another interesting and informal dimension to our international dialogue which takes its inspiration from a unique initiative in the 1920s, long before Vatican II, and not long after Pope Leo XIII declared in the 1896 Bull Apostolicae Curae that Anglican Orders were "absolutely null and utterly void" - the Malines Conversations, 1921 to 1926. 

Fr Thomas Pott presents a gift to Professor Gordon Lathrop. Fr David Richardson looks on.
In 2013 the Conversations began again with theologians from each Communion taking up the task began in the 1920s. The Malines Conversations Group continues to explore matters which the official theological dialogue is not mandated to do, including the difficult question of Anglican Orders. This year we met in York hosted by the Dean and Chapter of York Minster. 

The official communiqué is below:



The seventh international meeting of the Malines Conversations Group took place in York, UK, between Sunday 24th March and Thursday 28th March 2017. Under the patronage of The Right Reverend and Right Honourable The Lord Williams of Oystermouth (former Archbishop of Canterbury), this informal group comprises Anglican and Roman Catholic theologians from seven different countries and meets with the blessing and support of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity and Lambeth Palace. It includes members of both ARCIC and IARCCUM.

The Group was hosted by the Dean and Chapter of York, and welcomed by the Dean, The Right Revd Dr Jonathan Frost. Celebrating the historic relationship between the Archdiocese of Malines and the Diocese of York, Cardinal Josef de Kesel was represented throughout the meeting by the Bishop of Liège, The Right Revd Dr Jean-Pierre Delville, who gave a paper entitled The Eucharist in the context of a divided Church

The Group visited the Community and College of the Resurrection, Mirfield, for a seminar, and joined with the Community for a celebration of the Eucharist having viewed items belonging to Bishop Walter Frere CR, a participant in the original conversations. On the final evening, the group attended Evening Prayer at the Parish Church of Kirby Underdale, where a window commemorates Cardinal Mercier and Viscount Halifax. The Group joined the Earl and Countess of Halifax for dinner, at which Lord Halifax spoke movingly about his ecumenically-pioneering great-Grandfather.

During seminars and conversations, the Group was once again guided in its thinking about scripture by The Revd Professor Gordon Lathrop, in considering issues around gender by Professor Joseph Selling of KU Leuven, and in exploring canonical questions by The Revd Professor Georges-Henri Ruyssen SJ, of the Pontifical Oriental Institute, Rome. The social entrepreneur and impact consultant Jurgen Mortier also led a working session on organisational strategy. This year’s gathering focussed in particular on issues of gender, orders and Eucharist, responding to the challenge laid down for our churches to find new yet faithful ways of considering old problems in the context of a communion ecclesiology.

The meeting took place within the context of daily prayer in York Minster, and concluded with a celebration of the Eucharist with the Mercier Chalice, in which is set the Episcopal Ring of Cardinal Mercier. In the week after his funeral, the Group prayed in particular for their former patron Cardinal Godfried Danneels who died on 14th March 2019. May the Lord grant him eternal rest.

The Malines Conversation Group is immensely grateful to all its sponsors and supporters, Anglican and Catholic alike. An eighth meeting is planned for next Spring, in Madeira, where Viscount Halifax first met the Abbé Portal. Preparations are also underway for the centenary of the Conversations in December 2021. 


Anglican members:

The Right Revd David Hamid, Suffragan Bishop of the Church of England Diocese in Europe; Co-chairman of IARCCUM 

The Most Revd David Moxon, Former Co-Chairman of ARCIC III and former representative of the Archbishop of Canterbury to the Holy See and director of the Anglican Centre in Rome

The Revd Canon Professor Emeritus Sarah Coakley, Norris-Hulse Professor of Divinity Emerita, University of Cambridge, UK

The Revd Dr Jennifer Cooper, Director of Initial Ministerial Eduction, Dioceses of Durham and Newcastle; Research Fellow, Campion Hall Oxford

The Revd Canon Dr James Hawkey, Canon Theologian of Westminster Abbey and Fellow of Clare College, Cambridge; member of the International Anglican-Reformed Dialogue.

The Revd Canon Dr Jeremy Morris, Master of Trinity Hall, Cambridge; Senior Associate of the Cambridge Theological Federation, Affiliated Lecturer at the Faculty of Divinity, Cambridge University, Fellow of the Royal Historical Society

The Very Revd Canon David Richardson, former representative of the Archbishop of Canterbury to the Holy See and director of the Anglican Centre in Rome 

The Revd Canon Professor Nicholas
Sagovsky, Former Canon Theologian at Westminster Abbey; Former member of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC)

Catholic members:

His Eminence Joseph Cardinal Tobin, C.Ss.R, Archbishop of Newark

The Revd Canon Anthony Currer, Secretary to the Anglican and Methodist dialogues at the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Rome

The Revd Professor Marc R. Francis, President of The Catholic Theological Union, Chicago, Illinois       

Professor Joris Geldhof, Professor of liturgical studies and sacramental theology at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium; Chair of the Liturgical Institute Leuven; Editor-in-chief of the bilingual journal Questions Liturgiques/Studies in Liturgy; President of Societas Liturgica

Dr Maryana Hnyp, Coordinator of Inter-Religious Affairs, KU Leuven; Institutional Development Officer, Caritas Europa; Founding Chair KU Leuven Lifestance Network

Professor Dr Arnaud Join-Lambert, Université catholique de Louvain; Centre de théologie pratique

The Revd Professor Keith Pecklers, SJ, Professor of Liturgy at the Pontifical Gregorian University (Rome), Professor of Liturgical History at the Pontifical Liturgical Institute of Sant’Anselmo (Rome); Founding president of the International Jungmann Society

The Revd Professor Thomas Pott OSB, Monastery of Chevetogne (Belgium); Professor of Oriental Liturgy and Sacramentology at the Pontifical Atheneum Sant’Anselmo and at the Pontifical Oriental Institute (Rome); Consultor of the Sacred Congregation for the Eastern Churches and of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity

The Revd Cyrille Vael OSB, Monastery of Chevetogne (Belgium); Advisor of NNE (New Narrative for Europe) of the Department for Promotion and Protection of the Regional Cultural Heritage of Europe (European Commission).

Sunday, 12 May 2019

Archdeaconry retreat explores the Jesus Prayer, the Rosary and Martin Luther's teaching on prayer

From 3-5 May 2019 at the Salesian Centre in Barcelona over 25 people from parishes in the Archdeaconry of Gibraltar came together for a weekend to explore prayer and spirituality using insights and traditions from our ecumenical partners.

I gave three addresses outlining some forms of prayer that can enrich our own prayerlife, learning from ecumenical partners. From the Orthodox tradition, the Jesus Prayer; from the Roman Catholic tradition, the Rosary, and from the Lutheran tradition, Martin Luther's teaching on prayer using Scripture or the Creeds, which was a good launchng point for considering the Lectio Divina tradition in general.

There was much time for private prayer and contemplation in the beautiful setting of the Salesian Centre.