LONDON: 2 April 2024
Great Lenten Epistle of Bishop Irenei of London and Western Europe

To the Venerable Clergy, God-Loving Monastics and Pious Faithful, Children of the Diocese of Great Britain and Western Europe

Dear in Christ, Fathers, Brothers and Sisters:

As we progress through the sanctifying period of Great and Holy Lent, I write to offer my encouragement in this annual period of ascesis and purification. May the Lord of compassion and tenderness, Who desires all to depart from sin and to embrace, through humble repentance, the Life of Truth, be with us all in these sacred and soul-profiting days!

I urge each member of the pious Christian flock in these God-preserved lands of Europe and the British Isles to enter deeply into the spiritual focus of these present days. I have received great comfort in seeing the enormous numbers of faithful that have filled our churches during the beautiful Divine Services of the first weeks of Lent: may this impetus continue in the weeks ahead, and may it be joined by a serious attentiveness to our fasting, our practice of almsgiving and mutual forgiveness, and the development of the inward yearning to draw ever more deeply into the mystery of the Life in Christ.

That the times in which we live are perilous is known to all. The evil of war — which is always and ever a manifestation of human sinfulness — not only continues, but seems to be spreading. I call upon all our clergy and faithful to remember that Lent is traditionally a period expressly dedicated to almsgiving, and that in these weeks we must redouble our dedication to those being so unjustly harmed and persecuted in the appalling wars taking place in Ukraine and Gaza. Let every parish — and indeed every individual Christian — work tirelessly to provide aid in whatever way is possible: support the work of our food bank in London, which delivers food to Ukrainian refugees and others in need; support the works of the Geneva Cathedral to provide concrete help to refugees in that city; support the undertakings of various parishes and their sisterhoods to raise funds to support those suffering in the Holy Land. Do whatever you can to “clothe the naked and feed the hungry” as our Lord has commanded us (cf. Matthew 25.35-45).

Above, I call upon each and all to stand firmly within our inheritance as the Church Abroad, which was founded in a time of agonizing political strife and war, and has lived through such tragedies before. In the more than a century that we have existed in our autonomy, since by God’s Providence the sorrowful Russian Revolution gave rise to the independent existence of our self-governing Synodal life across the world, our saintly hierarchs and primates have reminded us that we do and must live in the freedom of the Church: we follow no political ideology, we identify with no nationalist cause, we conscience no subordination of the Gospel or the Church to any worldly agenda. The only Kingdom by which we are governed is the Kingdom of God; we are the diaspora, “scattered throughout the world,” not of any worldly empire or State, but of that sacred and divine Kingdom. As the Head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church has recently reminded us, the only world we seek to build is God’s world, guided by His love. Remember this, my dear brothers and sisters! Remember, in this period of evil human warfare, that there is one war that we can call holy, and this is the internal spiritual war waged against sin in the human heart. This is the battle of our Lenten moment. May we rise to the challenge, defeat the sin in ourselves, and become the causes of peace and healing in the world.

May God give each of you strength and consolation in these holy days, and may we soon together arrive at the Holy Resurrection of Christ. Assuring each of you of my unworthy prayers, and zealously coveting yours,

+ Irenei
Bishop of London and Western Europe

Third Week of Great Lent
20 March / 2 April 2024


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