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.

Monday, 11 October 2021

Nordic Baltic Deanery celebrates 25 years of Porvoo Agreement

This is the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Porvoo Agreement which brought Churches of Lutheran and Anglican tradition in the British Isles, Ireland and the Nordic and Baltic states into communion. The Nordic and Baltic Deanery which met in Finland decided to mark this silver jubilee with a special pilgrimage to Porvoo itself, to celebrate a festive mass in the Cathedral, together with the Bishop of Porvoo, the Rt Revd Dr Åstrand and members of the chapter of the cathedral. 

Archdeacon Leslie Nathaniel preaching at the Porvoo Cathedral

Bishop Bo-Göran assisting with Holy Communion

Our own Archdeacon of Germany and Northern Europe, the Very Revd Dr Leslie Nathaniel was the preacher. Fr Leslie is a former Anglican Co-Secretary of the Porvoo Contact Group. He was able to place this historic agreement among Northern European Churches within the wider context of the journey of Christians to fuller unity, including the ground-breaking estabishment of the Church of South India in 1947, the Church into which he was ordained.

Synod members with Bishop Bo-Göran (picture courtesy of Linus Stråhlman)

Bishop Bo-Göran then hosted the members of the Deanery to a dinner in his official residence, an event which included a recital of traditional songs from Finland and in particular the Swedish speaking peoples of Finland, which make up the Diocese of Porvoo (Borgå, in Swedish).

The Synod was pleased to be able to highlight this anniversary. The Porvoo Agreement opens up so many doors for Anglicans in the Nordic and Baltic states. Many of the clergy serving our Church of England chaplaincies are priests from one of the Lutheran Churches. 25 years after the official inauguration of our relations of full communion, we realise we still have much we can do together with our Lutheran partners, in making the sacramental communion we share more visible in our life and work.

Our Lady and Child, in Porvoo Cathedral

We are alive! The voice from the Nordic Baltic Synod

The former prison, now Hotel Katajanokka

In these days when "setting God's people free" is a phrase used in Church of England programmes, the Synod of the Nordic and Baltic Deanery met in a place which was a prison from 1749 to 2002! Katajanokka reopened as a hotel in 2007 and provided a very congenial venue for the clergy and laity from Iceland to Estonia to meet for prayer, deliberation, decision and community from 7 to 10 October. Far from feeling imprisoned, the Synod was a time when we felt a liberation from the necessary contraints of the past year and a half.

As it was the first of any synod gatherings in the Diocese to meet physically since the start of the pandemic, there was much to catch up on together. (A few members did participate by zoom). Clergy and laity shared much of what has been learned in the past 18 months, including, obviously, how services but also educational work such as confirmation preparation and certain kinds of meetings such as Church Council can be conducted online, how there is a greater awareness of the vulnerable in our communities and how creative ways of continuing routine activities can be explored, such as Youth Club in the forest. 

Clergy of the Deanery in solidarity with climate activists

We also have emerged from lockdown with a greater awareness of the environmental challenges facing our planet and how our Church life must adjust to help us address this emergency. The clergy had an unexpected opportunity to stand in solidarity with a group of Finnish people witnessing outside one of the government buildings to the urgency of the climate emergency, a moment of joint witness which was appreciated by the demonstrators. 

So, many good things have happened during the lockdowns, but nevertheless there was a widespread feeling of how much in community life of the Church has suffered. Everyone commented on the joy of being able to gather physically for the synod; the sense of thanksgiving was palpable. 

Fr Amos (2nd from right) leads forward in hopeful song!

Fr Amos Manga of the White Nile congregation in Finland summed up much of what was on our minds and hearta by saying "God has been at work in this coronavirus time. We have learnd about fear and how to overcome it, and pondered once again on life, death, importance of community and the dangers of isolated individualism". He concluded with the hopeful words, "We are alive!"

Archdeacon Nathaniel, Dr Tomi Karttunen and Bishop Matti Repo

Several visitors joined the Synod from our sister Evangelical Lutheran Church in  Finland, including the Revd Dr Tomi Karttunen, the Secretary for Ecumenical Relations and Theology, the Revd Aaro Rytkönen who now works as Director of the Ala Amana Centre in Oman working on peace and reconciliation with people of faith, and the Rt Revd Matti Repo, the Bishop of Tampere and Lutheran Co-Chairman of the Porvoo Contact Group. Speaking about the Porvoo Agreement in this the 25th anniversary year, Bishop Matti challenged us to move forward in our common life, warning that "it is easy to remain as we are, depite the agreements shared". 

The Deanery Clergy - only one person born in England

The Nordic Baltic Deanery is a wonderfully diverse one. Only one of our clergy present was actually born in England. Worship in the deanery is held in Urdu and Arabic as well as English, and multilingual community life is growing as young people especially are increasingly more proficient in the national language such as Finnish rather than in English. Canon Smitha Prasadam, the chaplain of St Alban's Copenhagen, in a bible study she led, reminded us nevertheless that "the universal mother tongue is the praise of God".  

It is an exciting and creative time to be an Anglican in this region! 

Canon Smitha Prasadam (2nd from left) with the other 3 Asian clergy at the synod

Friday, 24 September 2021

Civic recognition, ecumenical warmth, and joyful noise mark the blessing of the extended Church in Casablanca

It is not very often in the Church of England that we have to expand a church building in order to accommodate a growing worshipping congregation.  The fact that this should also happen in a country which is officially Muslim adds to the rarity of such an occasion. That is precisely what has happened in St John the Evangelist Church in Casablanca.

Canon Medhat Sabry

St John's has been home to Anglicans and other English speaking foreign Christians since 1906. In recent years the numbers of Christian migrants from all over the world has increased in this, the largest city in Morocco. Under the then Chaplain of St John's, the Revd Canon Dr Medhat Sabry, a plan was developed to build a community centre as a first phase, which was opened 2 years ago. The next phase was the extension of the actual church building, including the construction of a balcony, to be able to almost double the capacity for attendance at services. The historic church is considered to be part of the patrimony of the city of Casablanca, so great care was taken to preserve its character, in and out. 

Churchwardens Dawn (l) and Candice with Headserver Frank

Canon Medhat is now the Chaplain of St George's Madrid, but remains the Area Dean of Morocco and the Canary Islands, and was able to return to witness the dedication of the new, extended building. It was a joy to welcome Canon Medhat back to Casablanca to see the fruit of much of his efforts. Alongside him were Fr Virgilio Fernandez, a priest from the Iglesia Filipina Independiente who is the locum priest in St John's (thanks to support from USPG) and Fr Dennis Obidiegwu, the Chaplain of St Andrew's in Tangier. Among the growing sector of the congregation in St John's are Filipino migrants, hence the appointment of a Filipino priest to assist with the care for this community.

(L to R) Fr Dennis (Tangier), Fr Medhat, Cardinal Lopez, +D, Fr Virgilio (Casablanca)

The dedicatiom of the extension happened over two days last weekend. On Saturday 19 September the civic ceremony was held when we could give thanks to the collaboration we have received from the Moroccan authorities to be able to implement our plans. Among the dignitaries in attendance were HE the Governor of the Prefecture of Casablanca, the Colonel of the Moroccan Armed Forces Auxilliary for the region, members of the Moroccan architectural/project team and Heads of Mission and other diplomats from the UK, US and Liberian Embassies.

One of the more famous parishioners at St John's was General George Patten of the US Army (pictured below), who commended much of the Mediterranean theatre in WWII from Casablanca. He gave a new pulpit as a gift to the Church.

HE Cardinal Cristobal Lopez, the Archbishop of Rabat, and a close friend of Anglicans in Morocco made a keynote address at the official ceremony, noting the good news when a Christian community has to enlarge its premises. Speaking in French, he said: 

"In recent years numerous persons have arrived in Morocco from many African countries; among them are Christians who seek to join us and who give life, joy, enthusiasm and rhythm to our communities. This is a reason for us to give thanks to God, who sends us brothers and sisters, so we do not have to go looking for them!"

He reminded us that it is not the number of Christians that count, but the quality of our life, how we respond to the questions we face at the last examination by Christ, when he asks when we saw him hungry and fed him, thirsty and gave him to drink, naked and clothed him and sick and in prison and visited him. The Cardinal also challenged us that if we as Church can find the means and the funding to better our physical plant, "to care for dead stones", surely we can find what is necessary to assist the living stones who are our brothers and sisters.

On Sunday 19 September the celebrations continued, this time a Christian liturgy for the rehallowing of the Church, the blessing of new stained glass windows, and the baptism and confirmation of many new "living stones". 

The Sunday liturgy was lively, and colourful, beginning with a procession around the Church for the blessing of the building, African music, and general liturgical (and joyful) chaos! Absolutely splendid - a people's liturgy in the truest sense. 

A video of some of the service is below.

Some colourful living stones

2 of the 4 new windows dedicated

Friday, 30 July 2021

Both proud and humbled by the calling of our newly ordained

"Do you believe that God is calling you to this ministry?"

At the ordination of deacons and priests this question is solemnly asked of the ordinands who usually by this time are filled with a mixture of nervousness, joy and anticipation. In the past month and a half I have had the privilege of ordaining deacons and priests in St George's Madrid, All Saints Milan and Her Majesty's Chapel of the Savoy in London. The ordinands all answered the question with a resounding, "I do so believe".

In recent weeks, even as the Church of England has been celebrating ordinations in every diocese, there have been some voices raised which seem to question the need for the ordained. "Key limiting factors" was an expression used to describe them, which caused, rightly, some push-back. Surely these are times when priests and deacons are needed more than ever. 

So I am incredibly proud and humbled by the strong calling of these men and women who are ordained in this time of pandemic. Every ordination is a beautiful and memorable day in the life of the Church but these ordinations are historic, being celebrated in the midst of a global crisis. In my charge to the ordinands I said that some would say that these are difficult days to be taking on Holy Orders: not only is the pandemic still with us, but the world is convulsed with systemic racism and injustice, international order and good governance seems fragile, and the planet is heating up. But the ministry of deacons and priests is all the more vital in such times. These men and women are ordained to be signs of God's love, revealing to the world the values of God's kingdom: justice, compassion, love and peace.

These clergy ordained in the pandemic will carry with them in a very deep way their calling to be instruments of God's healing in a world which needs much rebuilding and reshaping. The Gospel they preach is one of hope which is not dimmed by pandemic or fear. And the heart of their ministry will be the liturgy of the Church, where, in the words of Archbishop Michael Ramsey, they are "to be with God, with the people on [their] heart.” 

Wednesday, 14 July 2021

RIP: The Very Revd Walter Raymond OGS

It is with sadness that we in the Diocese in Europe learn of the death yesterday of the Very Rev. Walter H. Raymond OGS. Fr Walter was the Chaplain of St Paul's Monaco where he served for close to ten years before retiring to his beloved Quebec in 2017. Before coming to Monaco he had served in the Diocese of Toronto and the Diocese of Quebec where he was Dean of the Cathedral in Quebec City. He was a member of the Oratory of the Good Shepherd, and the spirituality of the Oratory fed and sustained his fruitful ministry. 

With Archbishop Bernard Barsi

Fr Walter was known in Monaco for his ecumenical commitment, and he and the Roman Catholic Archbishop, Mgr Bernard Barsi, were great friends. During his time in St Paul's he regularly presented many candidates for confirmation, and was dedicated to nurturing the faith among the young. He also loved to share his passion for the Grand Prix and other sporting events in Monaco, and was a warm and generous host. 

From the French language version of the Canadian Book of Common Prayer which Fr Walter loved:

Accorde-lui le repos éternel, O Seigneur, et que la lumière perpétuelle brille sur lui. Amen.

Saturday, 3 July 2021

Ecumenical meetings in Venice

Fr Malcolm Bradshaw and Fr Castro Adiebah

I was marooned for a few more days in Italy than I had counted on, due to changing COVID quarantine requirements imposed by Italy after I arrived for some parish visits. A return to the UK (with the usual quarantine) then a return to Milan for in time for ordinations, with a newly imposed Italian quarantine, was going to be impossible. 

But it was far from lost time, as I was able to touch base with several of our parishes in Italy duing these days, including Venice. Fr Malcolm Bradshaw, the Chaplain of St George's, was able to introduce me to a Ghanaian priest from the Anglican Diocese of Sekondi, who has been sponsored to do a masters degree in ecumenism, at the prestigious Ecumenical Institute of Venice. Fr Castro Adiebah is clearly an emerging young African theologian, and it is very good to be able to give him an Anglican home in Venice during his studies. 

It was also good to have a chance to have a meeting with Metropolitan Polykarpos, the Metropolitan of the Orthodox Church in Italy. His Eminence was previously the Metropolitan of Spain and Portugal, where we shared many ecumenical ventures.

Metropolitan Polykarpos

Excellent relations in Venice are maintained with the (RC) Patriarchate. Don Angelo Pagan is the Vicar General of the Patriarchate of Venice and has the additional role of being the equivalent of an English Catheral Precentor, but in the great basilica of San Marco, the musical home of Giovanni Gabrieli and Claudio Monteverdi!

Don Angelo Pagan, right

Thursday, 1 July 2021

Holy Cross Palermo, old wine and new spirit!

The Marsala Chapel in Holy Cross, Palermo

Many Anglican churches have side chapels, but on a recent parish visit to Holy Cross, Palermo, Sicily, I was reminded of the particularly splendid, and wonderfully named, "Marsala Chapel". In fact the whole church building is rather beautiful, with a splendid apse decorated with mosaics in a style common to this part of Sicily. 

The chapel's dedication comes from the fact that the church was built in the 1870s by the descendents of Benjamin Ingham Sr, an Englishman who settled in Sicily and built up the Marsala wine industry. (There are a few other churches in the Diocese with a similar history, such as in Malaga, Porto and Madeira!)

Today, the members of Holy Cross Church come from around the world, the UK and Northern Europe, Africa, North America, and the Middle East. Others have been born and raised in Italy and have found a spiritual home in this Anglican congregation. Over the years, excellent ecumenical relations have been built, particularly with the Roman Catholic Church. 

The Archbishop of Palermo, Corado Lorefice, with former locum Fr Russ Ruffino to his right.

It was a joy to celebrate the sacrament of Confirmation with some candidates on 20 June. They had been prepared by the locum priest, Fr Nigel Gibson, whom I had not seen for several years. Fr Nigel previously served in this diocese in Milan and Lugano. The faith of the confirmands was palpable and moving. 

The chaplaincy is now awaiting the arrival of their new chaplain, the Revd James Hadley. Fr James will begin his work in September.

Tuesday, 29 June 2021

All Saints Rome: "an eclectic mix"


All Saints Church Council

All Saints Rome describes itself as "an open-minded and welcoming Anglican community in the heart of Rome".  An Anglican congregation has been worshipping in the Eternal City since 1816. Once largely English, today it is the home for "an eclectic mix of expatriated employees of international companies, people working locally in Rome, diplomatic personnel from embassies, visiting scholars and international students". Each Sunday, outside the extraordinary time of pandemic, the regulars are joined by a healthy community of tourists and pilgrims. 

Now that some of the restrictions imposed by the pandemic are being relaxed, like so many congregations, priest and people are working together to map the way forward, with physical worship restored, and online / hybrid services continuing. In All Saints, the numbers at Sunday liturgies are now back to a healthy size and the Council and the Chaplain, Fr Rob Warren, are looking at how to strengthen the stewardship and finances in the parish after a very difficult year, as well as focussing on some essential work to maintain the beautiful building, and attend to the pastoral needs of a diverse and growing congregation.  

All Saints Church Mouse reminds the faithful of the financial needs of the parish!

Situated in Rome, not surprisingly there is a significant ecumenical role for All Saints as well. Fr Rob knows that many non-Anglicans, and many Roman Catholics in particular, may encounter Anglicanism for the first time when they attend a service in the chaplaincy. In so many ways All Saints is a "shop window" for Anglicanism and the Church of England, in the very centre of Rome.

Archbishop Ernest (centre) with Fr McCulloch to his left, and the Pakistani priest to his right

On Sunday 13 June, the sacraments of baptism and confirmation were celebrated, and one of the ecumenical friends of the parish, Fr Robert McCulloch, a Roman Catholic Columban priest, brought a young Pakistani priest with him, who is studying ecumenism in Rome, but who had never witnessed an Anglican liturgy. It perhaps was not a typical Sunday mass, given the baptisms and confirmations, but also because my good friend, Archbishop Ian Ernest, the Director of the Anglican Centre in Rome was present to assist me in the celebration!