DIOCESE OF GREAT BRITAIN: 3 March 2023
A joint service is held at the Cathedral of the Nativity of the Mother of God
On 26 February, 2023, the Sunday of Forgiveness and the eve of the Great Fast, His Grace Bishop Irenei of London and Western Europe welcomed to the Diocesan Cathedral of the Nativity of the Mother of God and the Holy Royal Martyrs in London, England, the Very Reverend Archpriest Viktor Stojchev of the Macedonian Orthodox Church-Ohrid Archdiocese, for the first concelebration of the Divine Liturgy since the God-pleasing healing of the schism that has kept the churches separated for many years.
Archpriest Viktor, the priest of the St Michael the Archangel Parish in London — at present the only cleric from the newly-autocephalous Macedonian Orthodox Church serving in the United Kingdom — joined the clerics of the Cathedral, Archpriest Vitaly Serapinas, Archpriest Yaroslav Hudymenko, Priest Alexander Groves, and Deacon Andrei Borisas and Deacon Sergei Baranov — in celebrating the Divine Liturgy for the Sunday of the Expulsion of Adam and Eve. After receiving Holy Communion in the Altar together with the Bishop and local clergy, Father Viktor was invited to commune the faithful, including a number of faithful of the Macedonian Orthodox Church who had come to the cathedral for the joyful occasion.
Speaking at the conclusion of the Liturgy, Bishop Irenei addressed the clergy and faithful with words of joy at the unity that God has wrought, manifest on this day dedicated to mutual forgiveness.
“In the present period of history,” noted His Grace, “we see so many signs of division and enmity, manifesting in new schisms, apostasies and even terrible wars. It is surely God’s loving grace that has ensured that in this precise moment, amidst these circumstances, a sorrowful schism has been healed and a lasting division overcome. We see in this the power of God, to make whole that which is broken and unite those who are submissive to the wisdom of His Will. This is a sign for us all, and for the world, of the path towards redemption and spiritual peace.”
At the luncheon following the Divine Services, Vladyka Irenei expressed his prayerful admiration and gratitude for the spiritual labours of His Holiness Patriarch Porphyri of Serbia, at whose intercessions — together with those of the hierarchy of the Macedonian Orthodox Church — the path to unity was at last followed and the Ohrid Archbishopric’s autocephaly proclaimed.
“Through the prayers of such pastors, and their spiritual kinsmen, may we see even more signs of the singularity of the faith and the canonical unity of the Church, to bring us comfort and strength in the years ahead.”