SUNDAY, 20th JULY / 2nd AUGUST 2020: On the feastday of the holy Prophet of God, Elias, His Grace Bishop Irenei of London and Western Europe made an archpastoral visitation to the Parish of the Kazan Icon of the Theotokos in Cardiff, Wales. Due to a combination of various circumstances, the Cardiff Parish has faced the longest period of Coronavirus-related prohibitions on public worship of any parish in the Diocese, with the Bishop’s visit marking the first Sunday that a public service was possible there since the restrictions came into effect in March. For this reason, His Grace wished to console and encourage the parish with a visit, and with heartfelt common prayer in gratitude to God for this welcome change in circumstances.
The Kazan Icon Parish in Cardiff has, of course, continued with both its liturgical offerings and provision of the Holy Mysteries to the faithful throughout the entirety of the restricted period, in common with all other parishes of our Diocese. There, as elsewhere, the Divine Services continued to be celebrated even if, for a time, it was prohibited by the State to do so in the presence of the faithful, and so the clergy kept the Divine Services on their behalf, in their physical but not spiritual absence — and the ministration of the Holy Mysteries was undertaken by pastoral visits by the dedicated clergymen of the Parish: Hieromonk Mark (Underwood), the Rector, together with Archpriest Luke Holden and Deacon Mark Fisher.
Bishop Irenei’s visit coincided with the first weekend that it became possible for the Parish to welcome the faithful back to the celebration of the Divine Liturgy, though only in greatly reduced numbers and not in the main church building where the parish normally worships (which is still closed due to the restrictions). Thus the normal hierarchical formalities had to be greatly reduced, with the Saturday Vigil and Sunday Divine Liturgy celebrated in a small nearby hall, which the restricted number of faithful had nevertheless beautifully adorned and made worthy of common prayer. In this manner, the Archpastor and a portion of the flock in Cardiff prayed together to Almighty God on behalf of all those who still could not be present, that the example of the Prophet Elias might be an encouragement to all to wait upon the Lord in times of trial, knowing that He is merciful and kind and will always bring to a good end the struggles undertaken by the faithful in patience, obedience, humility and love.
Bishop Irenei returned to London following the Sunday Liturgy and a festal meal and talk with the faithful. While much of His Grace’s international travels to parishes across Europe are still curtailed by the difficulties of travel restrictions, he is beginning to resume a schedule of parish visitations first with those parishes that can be reached by car (i.e. in England and Wales), and gradually to those parishes further afield where flights will again be practical. At the end of August, His Grace will celebrate the Feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God at the Parish of St Elisabeth in Wallasey, northern England; and the following Sunday will make a visitation to the St Alexander Nevsky Parish in Norwich, in the east of England.