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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Wednesday, 31 December 2014

300 attend Carol Service on the Balcony of Europe

King Alfonso XII of Spain once visited Nerja on the Costa del Sol and stepped out onto a viewpoint in the old town which has wonderful sea vistas. He proclaimed that the spot was "the Balcony of Europe". Today the Balcón de Europa, is a much visited tourist site in this Mediterranean town.

The Anglican Parish of Nerja and Almuñécar takes advantage of this famous spot as a point of outreach to the many English-speaking visitors to the area. The locum priest currently serving the parish, the Revd Peter Ford, held a carol service on the Balcón on Christmas Eve. 300 people attended!

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Happy Christmas to Eurobishop readers

For the second year in a row, as I was writing Christmas cards I wrote one to a dear friend, not knowing if he is dead or alive. Mar Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim, the Syrian Orthodox Archbishop of Aleppo was kidnapped on the road between Aleppo and the Turkish border on 22 April 2013. His Greek Orthodox brother Archbishop of Aleppo Boulos Yazigi was kidnapped at the same time.

Mar Gregorios has been a voice for peace and harmony between religions and peoples. For close to 20 years I have known him and his patient and deep faith has inspired me and taught me much about dialogue and love. Just months before his kidnapping he asked me to come with him on one of his frequent journeys to monasteries and communities north of Aleppo so that I could see how Christians in the region seek to live in peaceful co-existence with their neighbours. He wanted me to bring my sons so they would learn from this experience as well. We never made the trip.

Since his disappearance the region of Syria and Iraq has become a complex theatre of war. 9 million Syrians alone have been displaced from their homes; 3 million of them have sought safety in neighbouring countries. (It is almost embarrassing to mention that the UK has admitted approximately 90 Syrian refugees – yes, that’s right, about 90. The UK has given about €700 M in humanitarian aid to the region, however). The Syrian conflict is now considered to be the world’s largest humanitarian and security disaster.

I wondered if I should bother sending Mar Gregorios a greeting this year, as it is not even known if he is alive. But I reflected that what this peaceful bishop has stood for, I should never forget. Christmas is a time to trust in God’s plan to liberate the oppressed. It is a time to renew our faith in Emmanuel, God with us, who brings healing to a crying world. It is a time of hope. I wrote the card.
To the Christ child of Bethlehem we pray: out of injustice, out of warfare, out of fear, lift every human heart this Christmas.

A happy and blessed Christmas to all Eurobishop readers.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Best wishes for a happy and long retirement for Sylvia Brantingham

Sylvia Brantingham, the office assistant at the 14 Tufton Street centre of the diocese, retires, again!

Sylvia began her working career in the Church in 1967, in the office of the General Synod. She retired from that position in 1997, having worked under 4 Archbishops of Canterbury, Michael Ramsey, Donald Coggin, Robert Runcie and George Carey!.She then worked for the Church Union, located at that time across the road from our Diocesan offices in Westminster. Upon retirement from that job, she came to work for us in 2003.

Sylvia is most often the first person our many visitors meet as she welcomes them and fixes them tea or coffee. She is also the one who most frequently answers the telephone and directs enquiries appropriately. Being at the heart of our busy offices, she knows all our challenges, joys and frustrations - and faithfully prays for us all!

We recently honoured Sylvia at the staff Christmas lunch and at our annual "Secret Santa" session. We will miss her, and wish her every happiness and good health in this her third retirement!

Friday, 19 December 2014

A Great Church in a Little Building: St Edmund's Oslo

The Venerable Brian Russell is the former Archdeacon of Aston in the diocese of Birmingham. His experience in that wider ministry of oversight and collaboration have fitted him well for the role of Senior Chaplain of Norway. Although based in St Edmund's Oslo, Fr Brian oversees and supports the ministry and mission of daughter communities throughout the country, but especially in Stavanger, Bergen and Trondheim, all of which have their resident priests as well.

Fr Brian is keen to harness the opportunities that the Porvoo Agreement hold out to the Church of England. Already several priests of the Church of Norway in various places are authorised to take Anglican services. There are always new and next steps, however. In the past months, Fr Brian has been in conversation with the Bishop of Tromsø in the Norwegian Arctic region about possible deeper collaboration in that city. Fr Brian is our Diocese in Europe representative on the Porvoo Contact Group.

In the meantime, parish life continues well in St Edmund's Oslo. Last Sunday 4 people received the sacrament of Confirmation. This Anglican congregation, with a modest but historic building in downtown Oslo, is becoming known "the Great Church in a Little Building".

The parish website is here.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Young people at St Paul's Monaco

St Paul's Monaco has an active Sunday Club which provides Christian education to the many children of the parish during the time of the liturgy of the word in the Eucharist. One of the fruitful results of this programme is a steady stream of confirmation candidates each year. It also helps that the Chaplain, Fr Walter Raymond OGS, seeks to involve the youth in the liturgy of the parish, leading lessons and prayers from time to time.

This year, three young people were joined by an adult for the Apostolic Rite of Confirmation. Among the several important moments in the Confirmation liturgy is the time for the renewal of baptismal vows. This happens around the font itself, where our life in Christ begins. After leading the congregation in the words of the Apostles' Creed, the ancient baptismal creed of the Church, the confirmation candidates sign themselves with water from the font, to remind them that they belong to Christ, through their baptism.

Another significant moment, apart from the sacramental rite itself, is when the candidates receive lit candles and then lead the procession out of the Church into the world, for it is in the world, not in the Church, that our discipleship is lived out primarily.

My recent pastoral visit to the parish also enabled me to have lunch with some of our clergy from neighbouring parishes of Beaulieu and Nice, together with two of the Roman Catholic clergy in Monaco who serve English speaking Roman Catholics. St Paul's Monaco, and Fr Walter himself, plays an important role in ecumenical links in the region.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Immaculate Conception in Monaco - reflection on an ecumenical invitation

In the Principality of Monaco the feast of the Immaculate Conception, 8 December, is a national holiday. I was invited by the Archbishop of Monaco, Monseigneur Bernard Barsi, to extend my recent parish visit to St Paul's Monaco by a day, to be an ecumenical guest at the mass at the Cathedral to celebrate that feast, and to join in the traditional candlelit procession which followed. This is also the occasion for the Archbishop to bless various crèche scenes in the neighbourhood of the Cathedral which have been prepared for the Christmas festival.

I was reminded how much ecumenical convergence has been made with regard to this particular feast of the Virgin. When the Immaculate Conception was proclaimed an article of the (Roman Catholic) faith by Pope Pius IX in 1854, an ecumenical problem was created for Anglicans and other Christians. Anglicans were concerned about the teaching authority of the bishop of Rome, independent of an ecumenical council of the whole Church, to proclaim a dogma binding on all the faithful.

However, leaving apart the particular act of Pius IX in 1854, the Anglican-Roman Catholic dialogue (ARCIC) has revealed much that Anglicans and Roman Catholics can teach together about the biblical pattern of grace which underlies this feast of Mary.

Fundamentally this feast proclaims nothing other than Mary's own redemption by Christ. Mary is human, like us. So, the emphasis should not be so much that she lacks something that other human beings have, namely sin. Like us, she is redeemed and set free from sin by grace alone. But that glorious grace of God filled her life from the beginning to prepare her for her great role to be the mother of the Holy One. The feast is a witness, then, to the absolutely radical and thorough nature of the saving grace of Christ. Mary is justified from the first moment of her existence. Her redemption therefore could only be completely independent of anything she could have done!

The Church of England celebrates 8 December as the Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Anglicans in Yerevan: a youthful community in an ancient and holy site

The Revd John Barker, one of our relatively new priests, is in charge of the development of the Anglican congregation in the Armenian capital, Yerevan. The congregation was without a priest for 10 years, and since re-starting the work in April 2013, Fr John has led a growing international community.

On Advent Sunday 30 November, I was able to preside at the service, during a brief pastoral visit to Armenia. After the Liturgy there was a reception hosted by the UK Ambassador, HE Katherine Leach. I met parishioners from many countries, from the USA to Malaysia!

The Anglican service is held every Sunday at 6 pm in Surp Zoravor (Holy Power) Church which the Armenian Apostolic Church very graciously permits us to use, It is an ancient foundation, but was rebuilt in 1693 following destruction by an earthquake. Next to Surp Zoravor, is a small chapel where can be found the tomb of St Ananias, the disciple in Damascus who opened Saul's (future St Paul's) eyes (Acts 9.10-19) .

Chapel of St Ananias with Surp Zoravor behind

Saturday, 6 December 2014

The Pilgrimage Day of the Holy Lance in Etchmiadzin

The Encyclical of HH Karekin II is read. The Holy Lance is on the lower right
On 29 November during the weekend of a pastoral visit to our congregation in Yerevan Armenia, I accompanied the Revd John Barker, priest-in-charge, to Holy Etchmiadzin for a special liturgy. Etchmiadzin is the spiritual and administrative headquarters of the worldwide Armenian Apostolic Church. The Cathedral was founded by St Gregory the Illuminator in 301. It is presently under repairs to get ready for 2015, which is the 100th commemoration of the Armenian genocide.

Holy Etchmmiadzin
The liturgy was to celebrate the Feast of the Apostles St Thaddeus and St Bartholomew. They were the first evangelizers of Armenia and were martyred there, giving the Armenian Church its apostolic foundation. But it was a special celebration. His Holiness, Karekin II, published an encyclical declaring 29 November to be a pilgrimage day of the Holy Lance, in answer to many requests of the faithful to have the opportunity to venerate this sacred relic.

The Holy Lance
The Holy Lance (in Armenian Surb Geghard) is the tip of the spear which the Roman soldier used to pierce our Saviour Jesus Christ while he hung on the cross. (St John 19.34). According to ecclesiastical tradition, the Apostle St. Thaddeus brought this sacred relic to Armenia in the first century.

Fr John Barker, besides being the priest of our Anglican congregation in Armenia is also Apokrisiarios (personal representative) of the Archbishop of Canterbury to His Holiness Karekin II. The full title of His Holiness is, by the way:

Karekin II, Servant of Jesus Christ, by the mercy of God and the will of the nation, Chief Bishop and Catholicos of All Armenians, Supreme Patriarch of the Pan-National Pre-Eminent Araratian See, the Apostolic Mother Church of Universal Holy Etchmiadzin. (The reference to the Araratian See is significant. Close by is Mt Ararat where according to the Bible, Noah's Ark landed after the Flood).

Following the Divine Liturgy there was time for conversation with His Holiness and then lunch with him and the Bishops of the Church.

Mt Ararat

Friday, 5 December 2014

The Revd Dr Frank Hegedűs celebrates 40 years as a priest

The Revd Dr Frank Hegedűs, the priest-in-charge of Saint Margaret's, Budapest, (in the photo above with some of his young parishioners) celebrated the fortieth anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood on Sunday, 30 November. Fr Frank was ordained in 1974 as a Conventual Franciscan  -- the Greyfriars -- in the Roman Catholic Church. He was received as a priest into the US Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion in 1987.

Saint Margaret's is a vibrant and growing community in Budapest, Hungary, with members of all ages coming from many lands, including the UK, North America, several countries in Africa, and of course Hungary itself. The Archdeacon of the East was present for the Sunday liturgy and prayed a blessing on Fr Frank as he affirmed his ordination vows. Fr Frank is also an Area Dean within the Eastern Archdeaconry.

We congratulate Frank on this significant anniversary and pray that he will continue to nourish God's people with Word and Sacrament and guide them as shepherd and priest.