Orthodox Wales

The History of Orthodox Wales
(Under Construction - More to be Added Soon)

Source: http://www.oodegr.com/english/istorika/britain/Orthodox_presence_in_Wales.htm
The Welsh are descendants of the ancient inhabitants of Britain, long before the arrival of the Angles in the 5th century. The Welsh language also has its roots in the language of the ancient British and there is an actual unbroken tradition that reaches as far back as the ancient time of existence of that language.  To a large degree, the language is deeply Christian, as proven by the numerous medieval odes in honour of Orthodox Welsh Saints, as well as by a rich hymnography. Wales takes up an area of western Britain.  Its western coast is washed by the Atlantic Ocean and to the east it borders with England.  Its population is 2.5 million.   In 1282 Wales lost its independence and has since been governed by England.  In 1999 – and for the first time after 700 years, following a Referendum in all of Wales – the country has once again acquired its own Senate and can now take the initiative and responsibilities for its own life. At this very critical moment of Wales’ History, the Orthodox Church (which was once the Church of the Welsh Nation) has an opportunity to call the people of Wales to return to their historical spiritual roots: to Orthodoxy.

Christianity came to Britain during the 1st century A.D., upon which immediately began the evangelization of the Celts (who were the first inhabitants of Britain).  the Seventy Apostles is regarded as the Apostle to Britain.

A flourishing Celtic Church - Orthodox in faith and in practice - takes root in Britain and brings forth a cloud of Saints, especially during the 6th and 7th centuries.  Savage, idolatrous tribes from the European mainland invade Britain, and the Christian Celts move away towards the north and the east to safer territories - to what is known today as Wales and Scotland.

In 596 Saint Gregory the Pope of Rome sends Saint Augustine (of Canterbury) to proselytize the newcomers who had invaded Britain.  The roman mission came in contact with the local British church and gradually "absorbed" it and placed it under the jurisdiction of the English Archbishopric of Canterbury and thereafter, under the authority of Rome.

With the Great Schism of 1054 the Christian world split in two:  the original, Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman-Catholic "church".  England's Christianity followed Rome.
In 1282 Llywelyn the last Prince of Wales is assassinated and Wales loses its political independence.

In 1536 Henry VIII - the 8th king of England - annexed Wales to England once and for all. He proclaimed himself Head of the Church of England (the Anglican Church) and broke away from Rome. His chief administrator and legal advisor, Thomas Cromwell, destroyed Monasteries, pilgrim sites and Temples with Holy Relics throughout England (1536-1539). By degrees, the Church of England became Protestant in faith and in practice.

In the 18th century the Anglican Church was spiritually very strong. It was for this reason that the Methodists prevailed, especially in Wales: because their theories, combined with Calvin's theology, somehow suited the Welsh mentality.

During the second half of the 20th century, a steep decline in Protestantism appeared in Wales. Temples gradually emptied, however, Calvin's theories had influenced the people's psychology and had alienated them from the Church - and naturally from God.
In 1973 Archimandrite Barnabas - the first Welsh Orthodox priest after the Great Schism - returns to his native land to live the monastic life and embarks on his missionary labours, through to his repose in 1996, at the age of 80.

In 1979 the Abbot Deiniol (Daniel) - another Welshman - is ordained an Orthodox priest and takes on the mission in Wales.
In 1998 fr. Luke, an Englishman, is ordained and serves in southern Wales. In 1999 Wales is officially recognized as a nation; following a referendum, it acquires its own Parliament.  The Orthodox Church is officially invited to participate in the parliamentary commencement ceremony, with the request to offer up a special prayer to the Lord through the intercession of all the Welsh Saints - an act that was prohibited by the Protestants - until now.


In 1973 Archimandrite Barnabas returns to his native land with the deep desire to found a monastic brotherhood dedicated to the Prophet Elijah.  His desire was not fulfilled for various reasons. He was always possessed by the zeal to preach the Orthodox faith in his homeland, and laboured tirelessly towards that goal, right up to the end of his life. He daily performed all the services and joyfully offered hospitality to the many visitors in the monastery that he had built.  He published an informative periodical, he preached, and he always responded to invitations from all over Wales, and also outside it.  He was well known and respected by everyone in Wales. He frequently spoke on radio programs and many Welsh heard about Orthodoxy  for the very first time - and in fact in their native tongue - by a priest who was a fellow-countryman.  At last! An Orthodox priest - the first after the Great Schism of 1054 - who laboured in Wales as a missionary!

After the repose of Father Barnabas, the Monastery of the Prophet Elijah remained closed. It is a fact that its location (near the English borders) is not a suitable one. It is not located in the heart of Welsh society with its linguistic homogeny and its genuine tradition - an element that the Orthodox Church needs to pay close attention to, if it wishes to take root in Wales.

In the southern parts of Wales there have been several Orthodox Christians, several years before the Orthodox Church's revival.  They were mostly Greek women who had married Welsh soldiers during the War and had come to live in their husbands' homeland, where they eventually raised their families. Their desire was to baptize their children in the Orthodox Church. Little by little, some of the locals began to discover the Orthodox faith and to eventually join the Orthodox Church.

The town of Blaenau Flestiniog is situated approximately in the centre of the nation, on a central road that spans Wales from the south to the north. In this town there used to be an Orthodox temple of the Holy Protection, on a breathtaking slope of Mount Manod.

It was in this church that fr. Deiniol (Daniel) was posted immediately after his ordination in 1979 and where he attempted to congregate the Welsh faithful.  Basically, the local language was used during Worship, but also used were English, Greek and Slavonic. But it was for the first time in modern-day history that an Orthodox community began to grow, and with the use of the Welsh language.

"Generally speaking, the town is poor and quite depreciated. Its population of 12.000 citizens has been reduced to 4.500, and with a high percentage of unemployment. We shall also in the future continue to be poor, unemployed, and with countless difficulties. The young are deprived of prospects and a purpose to their lives; but we do believe that the Christian Church is the future of our society.

"In 1995 we began our intensified and systematic missionary work.

"In 1996 and with the blessings of our Bishop, the Orthodox Mission of Wales was officially recognized; its main opus being to call upon all the Welsh to return to the Orthodox faith.

"The people in Europe believe that they know Christianity; but quite often they are misguided, because theirs is not a knowledge of Christianity; rather, it is a caricature of Christianity. Fr. Barnabas used to say that the people in the West had so much Christianity, that they.... were impervious to it!

"However, we believe that it is now time for the Europeans to acquaint themselves with the Gospel of Christ, not their own religions, and with the sacramental life of the Church. That is the scope of our missionary endeavour also.

"In Wales, apart from the difficulties that the entire population of Europe has - i.e. materialism and overspending - there are also certain other problems:

- Centuries of Calvinism in Wales have made the people believe that God is NOT a loving Father but a tyrant Whom they must fear.

- The Protestant dogmas also played a role in splitting society into "the just" and "the sinners", and caused many people to be regarded as outcasts.

"In the face of this mentality, it is imperative for the Church to preach the love, the joy, the acceptance and the forgiveness that God offers.  This is the direction in which the Orthodox of Wales have turned their endeavours. The ecclesiastic hymns that were recorded on tapes in our language had a hugely positive response. It was also very important for us to have hagiographic icons of the Saints of our land.  All the Christians want to have them in their homes. Most of them were produced by the hagiographer Gregory Papageorgiou from Cyprus.

"The first icon to be fashioned was that of Saint Cadwaladr, followed by Saint Lestyn the Monk, Saint Melangell the Abbess (now known in Greece also), Saint Pabo the King, Saint Εilian the Pilgrim, and Saints Cybi and Seiriol who founded monastic brotherhoods on the islands of northern Wales. Christmas cards with Welsh saints, as well as several pamphlets with the lives of saints - including Saint Nectarios - were printed, in the Welsh language.

"In our missionary work, we made use of the mass media, with homilies, discussions on matters of the faith and the life of the Church. Many people nowadays watch televised programs that concern the Orthodox Church; they read related articles in local newspapers and they attend lectures and public discussions on the Orthodox Church and Faith.  School children, college students, various groups of young or old visit the Orthodox temple where the rector, fr. Daniel answers their innumerable questions.  Those visits always end with the Minor Paraclesis (prayer of supplication) addressed to the Holy Mother Theotokos.

"Many are the daily opportunities that we are given to minister to the people of God, from within that temple in the town of Blaenau.  In accordance with the tradition of our Church, we strive to serve the people of our local community and especially those who live isolated, disillusioned, marginalized - in their very homeland, and even in their own families.  This ministry brings us in touch with people who are suffering, unemployed, abandoned, homeless, with broken families... basically, with a host of social problems. To all of them, we desire to bring the message of the Orthodox Christian Faith and the fulfilment of the Eucharistic life, which is none other than the Kingdom of God.

"In July of 1999 our Bishop informed us that a new church will be built in Βlaenau, which will be dedicated to "All Saints of Wales".  This message was to us a source of great joy. Archimandrite fr. Zenon - a major Russian hagiographer - promised to fashion the Icon of All Saints of Wales.  With a missionary spirit strengthened by the intercessions of all our Saints - who were themselves missionaries - we believe that this is how we too shall continue. And in the words of our Bishop: "The parish must become a beacon of Orthodoxy, which will shine upon all the people in Wales."

"After one thousand years, Orthodoxy has finally returned to Wales and our Church commenced Her missionary work in a land that has been Orthodox from the first centuries A.D..  The Welsh people are invited to return to their roots, to the Faith of their Saints, to their sources, to the upright faith and practice.