At midday on Tuesday, 29th January 2019, His Eminence Archbishop Gregorios of Thyateira and Great Britain hosted a Luncheon at the Royal Lancaster Hotel overlooking London’s Hyde Park, with guests drawn from the Christian Churches and other ecclesiastical and faith organisations with which he has been involved during his 60 years’ ministry in Great Britain and more particularly during his thirty years as Archbishop, to which leading members of his Flock were also invited.
Among those who accepted his invitation were Metropolitan Iossif of the Romanian Orthodox Church in Western & Southern Europe, and Father Simeon Iliev of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church in London; the Archbishop of the Syriac Church and the Bishop of the Armenian Church; the former Roman Catholic Archbishop of Southwark (representing Cardinal Vincent Nichols), and the Apostolic Nuncio; the Church of England’s Bishop of Ebbsfleet (representing the Archbishop of Canterbury), Lord Carey of Clifton (formerly, Archbishop of Canterbury), and Lord Chartres of Wilton (formerly, Bishop of London); the Moderator of the Presbytery of England of the Church of Scotland; the President of the Methodist Church of Great Britain, and Lord (Leslie) Griffiths of Burry Port (formerly, President of the Methodist Conference); together with representatives of the Catholic Apostolic Church and the Salvation Army, as well as the General Secretary of Churches Together in England, the director of the Council of Christians and Jews, and the Delegate for Great Britain & Ireland of the Sacred Constantinian Order of St. George. Non-religious guests included the Hellenic Ambassador and the Cyprus High Commissioner (together with members of their Staffs), and a number of professionally-qualified people.
During the meal, brief addresses were made by Lord Chartres of Wilton (a personal friend), Protopresbyter Stephen Maxfield (on behalf of the Clergy of the Archdiocese), the Ambassador of the Hellenic Republic, the High Commissioner of the Republic of Cyprus, Mr. Marios Minaïdes (Chairman of the Association of Greek Orthodox Communities), the bishop of Ebbsfleet (on behalf of the guests), Lord Griffiths of Burry Port (who reminisced on his and the Archbishop’s year together as students at Wesley House in Cambridge), Lord Carey of Clifton, the Archbishop emeritus of Southwark, and the Apostolic Nuncio. The speakers were introduced by Loïzos Loïzou, Archon of the Oecumenical Throne. Byzantine hymns were chanted by Dr. Demetrios Skrekas.
Archbishop Gregorios (who needed no introduction) brought the gathering to a close with a speech in which he looked back on his contacts with other Christian denominations and Faiths since his birth in Cyprus. He referred to the Moslems, Armenians and Maronite Roman Catholics of his childhood with whom he had had contact and the Jews who had been interned by the British authorities for trying to enter Palestine, whom he had seen in the camps. Coming to England in 1959 initially as a deacon and then as a priest, he was brought into contact with the Protestant family of Churches – such as, the Church of England, developing close relationships with two of the churches close to the church of All Saints in Camden Town to which he had been appointed. Before long, he was involved in Inter-Faith activities, and he was present at the first Commonwealth Day multi-faith observance held in 1965.
As bishop of Tropaeou (1970) and then (in 1988) as Archbishop of Thyateira, he had increasing contacts with leading members of the Christian denominations (and he mentioned those Roman Catholic cardinals and Church of England archbishops of Canterbury whom he had known and worked with). His studies at Wesley House in Cambridge brought him into contact with Free Church personalities. Movingly, he made reference to all those – both members of the Clergy and the Laity – who had assisted him in his many years of ministry, beginning with his mother and close relatives, and speaking of Archbishop Makarios III of Cyprus (who ordained him to the diaconate in 1953), Archbishop Athenagoras I of Thyateira (who ordained him to the priesthood in 1959), Oecumenical Patriarchs Athenagoras, Demetrios and the current holder of that office, Patriarch Vartholomaeos, as well as his Geronda Archbishop Athenagoras II (whose Chancellor he was). He closed by thanking all those who had generously donated to the cost of the celebration, those who had been involved with the preparations, and the management and Staff of the Hotel for the excellence of arrangements.
Among those religious personalities who were unavoidably prevented from being present at the Luncheon were Metropolitan Kallistos of Diokleia, Metropolitan Silouan of the Antiochian Orthodox Church in these Islands, the Moderator of the United Reformed Church and the representative of the Church of England’s bishop of London, together with Sir Roger Gale (MP for North Thanet).
Photos Andrew Michael