Coptic Orthodox Church UK
Media and Communications Office
Coptic Orthodox Church (Europe)
Media and Communications Office
Orthodox Diocese of London opens Diocesan Hub, The Sanctuary,
in the heart of the City of London, with a Message from
His Majesty King Charles III
11 September 2023
The Coptic Orthodox Diocese of London held a service, officiated by His Eminence Archbishop Angaelos, Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of London and Papal Legate to the United Kingdom, on Monday 11 September 2023, to mark the inauguration of its new Diocesan hub, named The Sanctuary, at Saint Andrew-by-the-Wardrobe, in the heart of the City of London.
A Message from His Majesty King Charles III was read during the service by The Right Reverend Christopher Cocksworth, Bishop of Coventry and Dean Designate of Windsor. In his message, His Majesty offered his best wishes to the Coptic Orthodox community on the establishment of its new home and ministry hub, recognising his own experience of the life and ministry of the Coptic Orthodox Church for many years, especially in the areas of youth work, homelessness, and advocacy. King Charles commended efforts leading to environmental stewardship, as Saint Andrew-by-the-Wardrobe has recently been renovated as part of an ecumenical partnership, and is now believed to be the first Grade I listed church in London to be carbon neutral.
Today also marks the beginning of the Coptic New Year (Nayrouz), making this historic event even more poignant for members of the Coptic Orthodox community in the United Kingdom and around the world.
The service was attended by senior Church leaders and representatives, ecumenical and interfaith partners, members of the Diplomatic Corps, members of Parliament, representatives of advocacy and non-governmental organisations, as well as the breadth of civil society, accompanied by clergy and members of the Coptic Orthodox Church community.
In his sermon, His Eminence Archbishop Angaelos spoke of renewal and the importance of valuing tradition, saying:
“During this New Year, it is wonderful for us to focus on renewal, but it is equally important for us to hold onto our heritage as well. The Coptic Orthodox Church, established by Saint Mark the Apostle in Egypt, has been faithful for two thousand years in living and sharing its Faith. It is also a Church that, today, here, worships in English, and has a variety of diverse ministries that range from children to youth to sporting ministries, homeless ministry to advocacy, and much more.”
Speaking of the vision underpinning the new Diocesan hub, His Eminence continued:
“Our message is a message of hope; a message of resurrection; a message of love. It is a message that has been unchanged for over two millennia. We are constantly delivering it to different people at different times, throughout different generations in different settings, with different backgrounds and different cultures, and that is an exciting prospect. It is inspiring that people representing this vast and diverse mosaic are able to stand here, in one place, and pray together, looking towards a new beginning.”
Archbishop Angaelos concluded by saying:
“We thank God for new beginnings and all that they bring. We also give thanks for that which is coming that may not be known, but that will excite and inspire us, and speak to our hearts; those things that, above all, will shine the light of our Lord into a world drastically in need of His peace.”
In a message from The Most Reverend Archbishop of Canterbury, read by The Right Reverend Jonathan Baker, Bishop of Fulham, he said:
"I wanted to give you my congratulations on this momentous occasion… As we work together for the unity of all Christ's people, such a sign of our togetherness in Christ is a powerful witness to the world. I hope and pray that St. Andrew's will prove a happy, lasting home for your church community, and a place of prayer and refuge for your people."
In a message from The Right Honourable Rishi Sunak MP, Prime Minister, read by Mr. David Burrowes, the Prime Minister's Deputy Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief, he said:
"I want to emphasise the immense value that the Coptic Orthodox Church brings not only to the United Kingdom but also to the global community. The Coptic Orthodox Church has been a beacon of faith, unity, and compassion for so many, and it has made a significant and positive impact on countless lives. The opening of the Diocesan hub in the City of London is a noteworthy moment. The bustling City is not only a financial centre but also a vibrant community with diverse businesses and city workers. The presence of the Coptic Orthodox Church in this setting will undoubtedly enrich the lives of those who live and work in the area. The Church's teachings of love, acceptance, and service will undoubtedly resonate within the community."
The Bishop of London, The Right Reverend and The Right Honourable Dame Sarah Mullally, began her address by saying:
"It is a delight to be here in person this evening…not only because it is Coptic Orthodox New Year, but also because it is the start of a new ministry and worship in this place for the Coptic Orthodox Church in the Diocese of London.”
Referring to the Gospel message read during the service, she continued:
“I often feel that they are not quite treasures hidden in a field, but our churches are treasures hidden among skyscrapers and big buildings, and having the partnership here with the Coptic Orthodox Church allows that treasure to maybe shine slightly brighter and more constant than it has been. We often talk about ecumenical partnership but, today, we do not only talk about it, we see it demonstrated in action."
Dr. Debbie Weekes-Bernard, London's Deputy Mayor for Communities and Social Justice, offered greetings from the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, and in her address, wishing the congregation a Happy New Year and speaking of her engagement with the Coptic Orthodox Church, she said:
“I have had the honour of meeting and working with faith leaders across London, many of whom are assembled here today, and including Archbishop Angaelos and his representatives, through, for example, the London Faith Sector Panel and our regular interfaith breakfast meetings.”
Highlighting the vital work carried out by various ministries in the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of London, she said:
“The support that you and other faith groups have given to London’s communities is essential to their health and wellbeing. And we see this in the work of the Coptic churches with Exodus Youth Worx UK, and through your youth ministries, empowering young people and fostering their emotional, physical, mental, social, and spiritual growth. We see this also in the Coptic City Mission which goes into the streets of London on a weekly basis to provide food for the homeless. We know how vital collaboration and partnerships are to ensuring that communities have the support that they need in times of crisis. So, I would like to thank all partners in the room for all you do to support Londoners.”
She concluded by saying:
“It is important that we learn from the work that has happened here and continue to build connections and partnerships so that we can continue to serve Londoners and make London a better place, now and in the future. I look forward to working even more closely with Archbishop Angaelos and his representatives over the coming months.”
The service was also attended by the Archdeacon of London, the Venerable Luke Miller, the Rector of Saint Andrew-by-the-Wardrobe, who was presented with a special icon by Archbishop Angaelos with a word of thanks to him and the parish congregation for their hard work and companionship on this journey.
The Sanctuary will serve as a space in the heart of the City of London for ministries already established within the Diocese. These include ministries specifically serving children, youth, students, young women and men, seniors, and the homeless, amongst other existing ministries. The Sanctuary will also be a place from which the Church’s ecumenical and interfaith relations, official engagements, and advocacy work will continue.