Bishop Angaelos used the annual Coptic New Year service in Westminster Abbey to remind Christians of their “responsibility to proclaim the good news, to set captives free and to be light and sight to those who may live in darkness and blindness”.
The general bishop of the Coptic Church in the UK said it had been a “challenging” year in the ceremony last week, citing the EU referendum and ISIS. Messages from the Prime Minister Theresa May and the Archbishop of Canterbury were also delivered to the congregation that included MPs, peers and government officials.
“Today as we start this year, ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon us’; we are anointed, mandated and sent into this world as hope, light and promise,” said Angaelos. “It is God in us Who enables us to do this, and so today we really do stand together in this sacred place, with the saints, in unity of heart. Let nothing take that away from us, and let nothing defeat that spirit that allows us to defeat all that seeks to silence us.”
Justin Welby paid tribute to the Copts as a “suffering community” in a message delivered by the Bishop of Lambeth.
He also hinted at closer ties between Copts and Anglicans. “Thank you for your friendship in the gatherings of Church leaders of this country and your willingness to be so constructive in relationships between Churches,” he said.
“I hope and pray that we can increase the love and understanding between our churches that we may draw nearer to our Lord’s desire that ‘all may be one’.”
Lord Bourne, the minister responsible for faith, spoke at the service and thanked Angaelos for his “tireless work” for Christians in Egypt and elsewhere who suffer for their faith. “Our communities here do not live in isolation from events abroad and sadly prejudices and fears do not stop at borders,” he said.
“As the Integration and Faith Minister, I am committed to improving our communities, to ensuring that bridges are built between communities and that this is a country for everyone. I make that oath to you tonight and ask you to join me in committing to fight to ensure that marginalised voices are heard and that people can follow their faith or belief free from fear, no matter where they live.”