St George’s Cathedral, London, 27 February 2016
I give thanks to the Holy Trinity for the grace of the holy episcopate bestowed on me, the unworthy. Everything comes from God, from the abundance of His grace and love. We are nothing without Him. It is by God’s will that these parishes came together to form this Archdiocese and by His will I am delegated to be its shepherd. I, in turn, totally rely on God’s will to accomplish His work in my ministry.
I am from the city of Antioch, the city where the apostles began the evangelisation of the world. Our Beatitude Patriarch John Xth says: “The Church of Antioch understands that the Christian mission is divine and universal and is being renewed in this age of secularism, globalisation and universalism.”
The role of the Bishop is not complete unless all believers fulfil their role: the priests, deacons, parish council, chanters, pastoral workers and parishioners. The grace of the Holy Spirit abiding in us unites us and sanctifies our work. The relationship between the Bishop and the believers is built upon evangelical love as taught by Christ: “Love is not self-seeking” (1 Cor. 13:5). In love one reconciles and forgives in order to truly listen and understand each other working together for Christ’s sake. I pray that our relationships become a model for others, an example of love. By prayer we will build together a Holy Archdiocese founded on Christ’s pure love, to gathers the harvest of the faithful with all who love Christ.
We are greatly blessed in our Parish Councils who help their parishioners to enter the Kingdom of Heaven through the Church, living a life in Christ by their example witnessing Christ to those they serve. From such work comes true prosperity in the Church. In our Councils, we find those who think, plan, work and support and their work is essential and indispensable to the glory of God. Work in the Church trains us to work in humility and in holiness, serving each other in love, giving of oneself selflessly to the other with no place for prideful ambitions. Without the Councils there would be no Archdiocese and I would not be here now.
We live in a multi-cultural, multi-religious modern society, enjoying the privileges of many freedoms for example freedom of opinion and speech. With any freedom and privilege comes responsibility not to abuse, or use them selfishly. Without the love of Christ and each other, they become a curse of confusion with no point of reference. Our freedoms must be guided like a lighthouse guiding the ship sailing in the storm and our guide is one, our Saviour Jesus Christ our God and Son of the Father. My beloved sisters and brothers, we must work together to make our churches lighthouses shining the light of Christ to guide each other and all the world, a spiritual reference throughout these Islands for the salvation of us all.
We pray for all those who are suffering and struggling, offering our practical support, consoling them as much as we can. By serving suffering people in this time of war, destruction, and displacement, we serve Jesus Christ Himself, revealing to all the countenance of Christ whose humble love embraces the world. We are guided by love to be open to others and to be respectful of their condition, accepting them as they are, encouraging others to love us as we love them.
As for our youth, they are the future of our Church and we rely heavily on them to make our Church vibrant with life by the Holy Spirit. We must support them spiritually, practically and financially, so that they become a generation that loves God, ready to serve Christ in their Church. We will pass the Church into their care. I challenge the youth to accept and do this.
My brothers and sisters, beloved children of this God protected Archdiocese:
you have many expectations of me, but I have nothing to offer, except to lead you to Christ, His love, teaching and salvation for you and for all people.
Like St Silouan the Athonite we pray fervently that the whole world comes to know Christ through the Holy Spirit. United in Christ our infinite joy begins and suffering ends, establishing God’s Heavenly Kingdom.
We must always remember in our prayers all the captives and prisoners, those who are wounded in body and soul, those who grieve for the loss of their loved ones, and especially for our kidnapped Metropolitans Paul and Youhana of Aleppo, and the many others who have been kidnapped including clergy. Remember always the remaining Christians in the Middle East.
I am very grateful and thankful to you all.
To Metropolitan Ignatius of France, Western and Southern Europe, for serving this Archdiocese on behalf of His Beatitude over the last two years.
of the British Isles and Ireland