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From: His Eminence Abba Seraphim, Metropolitan of Glastonbury

3 March, 2006


His Excellency Negassi Sengal,

Embassy of the State of Eritrea,

96 White Lion Street,

London, N1 9PF. 

Your Excellency, 

      I write to you on behalf of the clergy and people of the British Orthodox Church to express our grave concerns over the Eritrean government’s treatment of His Holiness Patriarch Antonios of Eritrea. 

      As a church of the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate we British Orthodox enjoy full communion with the Eritrean Orthodox Church and, as Your Excellency knows well, we have always held the Eritrean Church and its clergy in the highest affection and honour. It is my privilege to have known Patriarch Antonios since before his episcopal ordination and, in fact, in 1994 we were ordained in the same ceremony by His Holiness Pope Shenouda. 

            According to the canons of the Orthodox Church, the removal of the Patriarch by the civil authority is irregular and uncanonical. The charges brought against His Holiness are vague and unsubstantiated and no opportunity has been accorded His Holiness to defend himself in public at a transparently open and independent hearing. Equally, there is little confidence that the Eritrean Holy Synod, as presently constituted, is independent of government interference, especially in view of the imposition of Mr. Yoftehe Dimitros, a layman, as a government appointee over church matters. In accordance with Canon Law, His Holiness Patriarch Antonios has appealed to the Council of the Monasteries of the Eritrean Orthodox Church and The Coptic Orthodox Orthodox Church through which the Eritrean Orthodox Church received its canonical status.  

      The clergy and people of the British Orthodox Church are also concerned for the health and well-being of Patriarch Antonios and have been greatly distressed at reports that his telephone has been cut off, his chauffeur and other servants dismissed, his official car removed and general harassment to which he appears to have been subjected.  

      I would ask Your Excellency to convey to your government in Asmara our concerns. In addition I ask firstly for assurances that His Holiness is being treated well and with the respect and dignity befitting his high office and secondly, that His Holiness’ position will be determined only by a duly convened ecclesiastical tribunal, independent of government interference and subject to proper canonical procedures, presided over either by His Holiness Pope Shenouda III in person or by his duly appointed delegate.  

Yours very sincerely in XP,

+ Seraphim

Abba Seraphim