London, 24 November 2016. His Holiness Moran Mor Ignatius Aphrem II Karim, Patriarch of Antioch and Middle East and Supreme Head of the Universal Syriac Orthodox Church consecrated the new St Thomas Cathedral in west London on Thursday 24 November 2016 during his visit to Britain.
At the congregation Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II said that Christians and other people of faith in the Middle East “seek, pray and yearn for peace”. “Today we are suffering in the Middle East – not only Christians but Muslims also – because of fanaticism, because of hatred, because of narrow-mindedness,” he said. “We need the good efforts of everyone to establish peace back in our countries.”
The service was hosted by delegation member, His Eminence Archbishop Athanasius Toma Dawod, Patriarchal Vicar of the Syriac Orthodox Church in Britain and a Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Order of Francis I.
HRH The Prince of Wales was present at the consecration and was welcomed by 600 members of the congregation to the singing of the National Anthem in Aramaic – the language of Jesus Christ and his Apostles.
Addressing the congregation Prince Charles said that it was “surely deeply encouraging, at a time when the members of the Syriac Orthodox Church in their homelands of Syria and Iraq are undergoing such desperate trials and such appalling suffering, that in Britain the Syriac Church is able to expand and gain in strength. In this way the consecration of your Cathedral is indeed a notable sign of hope for the future.”
National and parliamentay leaders, parishioners, and dignitaries attended this special event including the representatives of all the Christian churches and a number of the Muslim community leaders in Britain.
The Delegate for Great Britain and Ireland and Magistral Delegate for Inter-Religious Relations, Anthony Bailey, together with other members of the Delegation were present including The Rev Father Dr Shafiq Abouzayd, Mr Nadhmi Auchi, Mr Timothy George, The Rev Canon Jonathan Gough, Mr Kevin Grant, HE Archbishop Gregorios of Thyateira and Great Britain, Mr Kevin Hart, Miss Anna Hodson-Pressinger, the Apostolic Nuncio HE Archbishop Antonio Mennini and Prince Don Cristoforo Rocco di Torrepadula.
The Delegate, Anthony Bailey, said: “Your Eminence I salute you and your community on this special day and congratulate you on all your efforts in the achieving this wonderful result for the Syriac Orthodox community in Britain.”
The Delegate later attended a private dinner hosted in honour of His Holiness the Patriarch together with senior representatives of the wider Christian communities in Britain, Lebanon, Syria, Palestine and Greece on 28 November 2016 in Virginia Water. The dinner was hosted by Dr Eng Awn Hussein Al Khashlok and Dr Mahasin Al Khashlok.