His Beatitude Gregorios III
attends the Lambeth Conference
July 22, 23 and 24, 2008
His Beatitude was delighted to accept the invitation of His Grace, Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, to attend the decennial Lambeth Conference held at the University of Kent, Canterbury. Interrupting his summer vacation, His Beatitude arrived from Munich at Heathrow, whence His Grace’s driver brought him to his destination in the early afternoon of Tuesday, 22 July.
Bishop Michael Langrish of Exeter accompanied His Beatitude from the time of his arrival, helping him to familiarize himself quickly with the campus and the location of events. There was the opportunity to meet old friends among the ecumenical visitors (see photographs) and to forge new ecumenical relationships from among the hundreds of bishops present from the world-wide Anglican Communion.
Evening worship was in Portuguese, with prayers and music being led by Igreja Episcopal do Brasil. After dinner, the speaker of the evening was Cardinal Ivan Diaz, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, whose talk on “Mission, Social Justice and Evangelization” has been widely reported elsewhere. (For the full text of his talk see Zenit: http://www.zenit.org/article-23314?l=english )
In the morning of Wednesday, 23 July, after attending morning prayers, His Beatitude made a personal pilgrimage into the nearby city to visit Canterbury Cathedral and to pray at the site of the martyrdom (1170) of Saint Thomas a Becket. (See photographs.) His Beatitude was most impressed, and overjoyed to make this first visit to a site associated with the earliest period of Christianity in England, which received the Gospel from the Middle East in the second century or earlier. Canterbury has been the senior see of the Church of England since the Synod of Hertford in 672 confirmed the status of the Archbishopric founded by Saint Augustine in 597.
That afternoon, His Beatitude led a Session on the work of the Church in the Middle East. (See separate article: Contribution of His Beatitude Gregorios III to the Session of 23 July 2008 and photograph.) Also speaking at this Session were Anglican Bishop of Jerusalem Suheil Dawani and Rabbi Jonathan Gorsky, Education Officer for the Council of Christians and Jews. The Session was facilitated by Rev. Timothy J. Woods, Middle East Desk Officer at USPG.
Evening prayers, led by the Episcopal Church, focused on the theme of the Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East and its mission to “transform unjust structures of society.” His Beatitude was then among a group of guests invited to a reception at the Old Palace, Canterbury, by His Grace, Archbishop Rowan Williams and his wife, Jane and family. Afterwards, His Beatitude gave a short interview to a journalist from a German newspaper.
Thursday, 24 July was a London day, with the bishops assembling in the morning at Whitehall Place for a Walk of Witness to Lambeth Palace, where both Archbishop Williams and Prime Minister Gordon Brown spoke to the assembly. His Beatitude was seated at the front and afterwards had the opportunity to speak to the Prime Minister on the subject of the need for peace and justice in the Holy Land and throughout the Middle East, matters on which Mr. Brown had himself spoken a few days earlier in Jerusalem. He also met Cardinal Murphy O’Connor and other eminent prelates. After lunch at Lambeth Palace, guests traveled by coach to Buckingham Palace, where a garden party was held in their honor. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth attended and His Beatitude was able to speak to her about the situation in the Holy Land and the Middle East. She indicated that her Prime Minister had spoken of these very matters in the Knesset on 21 July – when he had touched on a shared future for Jerusalem, a viable Palestinian State and a just and agreed settlement of refugees.
His Beatitude went directly from the garden party on the Heathrow Express to the airport, flying back to Bavaria to resume his vacation. He expressed himself very satisfied with all aspects of his visit to England and very grateful for the invitation from Archbishop Rowan Williams. Before leaving, His Beatitude warmly and insistently invited his host to make a pilgrimage to Damascus as his guest in the Year of Saint Paul 28 June 2008-29 June 2009.
text and photos by Valerie Chamberlain