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Romanian Church leaders and Archbishop of Canterbury exchange messages of hope

Saturday 16th April 2011

On 16 April 2011, Lazarus Saturday in the Eastern Orthodox church calendar, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, visited the Romanian Orthodox community in London for the Divine Liturgy celebrated by their bishop, Metropolitan Iosif of Southern and Western Europe.

After the Liturgy, in the presence of a large congregation of all ages, Metropolitan Iosif and the Archbishop exchanged the following greetings.

The Archbishop was also presented with a new icon, painted in a Romanian Orthodox convent in France, of St Dunstan, statesman, monastic reformer and archbishop of Canterbury 960—978. 

Metropolitan Iosif said:

Your Grace, I would like to present to you the message of His Beatitude Patriarch Daniel of Romania.

"Your Grace – we have great joy to greet you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ who today has risen Lazarus, dead in the grave for four days, thus strengthening the whole resurrection.

At the same time, we wish to thank Your Grace for your brotherly visit to our parish of St George in London, for your presence at the Divine Liturgy celebrated by His Eminence Archbishop Iosif, Metropolitan of Southern and Western Europe of the Romanian Orthodox Church.

Likewise, we wish to express our gratitude for the support of Your Grace—and Your Grace's predecessors on the seat of St Augustine, the first Archbishop of Canterbury—have granted the Romanian Orthodox Church of St George in London, ever since it's inception in the year 1965 following the official mutual visits between our two churches' through their heads – Patriarch Justinian of Romania and Archbishop Michael Ramsey of Canterbury.

We do hope that Almighty God will make us worthy to continue this tradition of mutual respect, Christian love and understanding which has been the firm foundation of the relations between the Romanian patriarchate and the Anglican Church, ever since the first Anglican–Romanian Orthodox conference before the Second World War.

With brotherly love in our Lord Jesus Christ who today has risen us Lazarus from the grave:

+ Daniel

Patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church
Bucharest, Friday 16 April 2011

Metropolitan Iosif continued:

Your Grace, I warmly welcome you and members of the Guild Church Council of St Dunstan in the West to this church, the place of worship in London of the Romanian Orthodox Church. In fact I welcome you to your own home – for this is your own house of prayer which you so graciously share with us. We are grateful and indebted to you.

I welcome you also to our Holy Liturgy – the very heart of our Christian life and spiritual progress, where the gifts of bread and wine are presented in mystical prayer to God, and by the descent of the effective operation of the Holy Spirit they become the very body and blood of our crucified and resurrected Lord Jesus Christ. The Holy Liturgy is the visible manifestation of the invisible mystery of the Holy Trinity in from the perspective of our salvation. God the eternal Father so loves mankind and the whole world that he gives his only-begotten Son that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. The Father gives his Son to sacrifice, and because the sacrifice of our Lord is perfect and universal, the Church has a solid foundation and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

Before his sacrifice our Lord Jesus Christ prays to the Father and asks him to give us another Comforter – 'that He may abide with you forever' (John 14.16). The risen Lord sends to us from the Father, the Spirit of truth which proceeds from the Father, 'to dwell with you and be in you'. (14.17) The Holy Spirit is not only with us but in us, and has the power of transforming our inner being. This is why it is so important to know and understand the Holy Spirit in the proper inter-trinitarian eternal relation, and this inter-trinitarian relation should be mirrored in the salvation of the fallen humanity through the Church, the body of Christ.

Your Grace, we have witnessed today an ordination into priesthood. Ordination to priesthood is the putting-on of special power from on high – the special power from on high received by the apostles in Jerusalem when the Holy Spirit descended upon them; the same power that the priest receives through the laying-on of the bishop's hands. Where there is sacrifice there must be priesthood and absolution of sins. And so, here, today, within a very short period of time we have lived a foretaste of eternity. This is the mystery of our faith, which we experience every time we celebrate the Holy Liturgy.

Your Grace, once again I would like to thank you for the time you have taken to share with the Romanian Orthodox community in London. This is your first visit as Archbishop of Canterbury to the Romanian Orthodox community in London. We pray our Lord Jesus Christ to grant us the unity of all Christians. Until that day comes, we ask our Lord Christ to forgive our failures and shortcomings and to impart us the divine gift of love. Thank you, Your Grace.

The Archbishop replied:

Your Eminence, reverend fathers, brothers and sisters in the Lord – I greet you with great joy.

It is a great privilege for me to be with you here this morning and to be able to share in the Holy Liturgy. I wish particularly to express my thanks to Patriarch Daniel for his generous and warm message. He is a much-loved and valued friend and brother in the service of our Lord. And I return his message of greeting with the greatest love, and the greatest respect.

Today we have commemorated the raising of Lazarus from the dead, and that reminds of us of one of the most important facts about the Church and about the Holy Liturgy. We do not come to the Holy Liturgy to do our duty only; nor do we come to get new ideas about God. We come to receive the eternal life of God the Holy Trinity. The life of the Church on earth is the manifestation of true and eternal life, the life of the Holy Trinity. In the face of the corruption and death that prevails so often in the world we know—the death that is created by hatred, by prejudice, violence and by war—our saviour Christ promises us and gives us life: life in the holy sacraments, life in the communion of his Church.

We read in the gospel that after Lazarus was raised from the dead many came out from Jerusalem to see him because he had been raised from the dead. And if we are living out the life of God the Holy Trinity people will wish to see us, they will wish to see life and love – in our eyes and our lives. My prayer is that we may all, together, manifest such life that the world may come wanting to see what this life is, this life of service, of joy in the love of our Saviour and Lord, this life of communion with one another.

We are also told in the gospel that after Lazarus was raised from the dead some of those in power in Jerusalem—the high priests the enemies of the Lord—sought to kill Lazarus as they sought to kill our Lord Jesus (John 12.10—11), because when life appears, death becomes very angry: death fights even more against it. And throughout the history of the Church, many enemies have sought to extinguish, to destroy the new life that they see in Christ's disciples. When we receive this new life we must prepare for struggle. We must prepare to be faithful and brave in our faith. The history of the Romanian Church in the last half century and more, and indeed in many centuries past, has shown so clearly what it is to be brave and faithful in the face of the enemies of faith; and we, your brothers and sisters in our church, all thank God for the witness and the example given by the Christian life that the Romanian Church has shown to the world.

And so my prayer today is simply that that life may continue, in the power of the Holy Spirit, attracting more and more people, drawing them to see the beauty and the splendour and radiance of new life, justice, love and service in the body of Christ. May this be the gift that you all continue to offer to the world, and to your brothers and sisters. And may God grant, as Your Eminence has said, the unity that he wills for his Church, forgiving ours sins and drawing us together in living communion so that the world may see God's life and believe in God's choice.

The Archbishop was then presented with the icon of St Dunstan. 

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