Anba Suriel, previously Bishop of Melbourne, is now on active service in the Diocese of Los Angeles where he was relocated on 1 February by Pope Tawadros II upon a request made by Metropolitan Serapion of LA.
The relocated Bishop has been celebrating Mass and delivering homilies in several churches, and will be joining the Collage Youth Meeting at the church of Archangel Michael in Santa Ana on 12 March. Late last month took part in the joint clergy conference in Florida, and joined in the celebration of the 3rd anniversary of the elevation to metropolitan of Anba Serapion.
Thus the saga of the resignation of Anba Suriel from his post as Bishop of Melbourne came to a peaceful end, as aptly expressed by Pope Tawadros in a statement issued on 8 February 2019 and printed in the weekly magazine al-Keraza, the mouthpiece of the the Coptic Orthodox Church. Noteworthy is that resignation of bishops is highly unusual in the Coptic Church.
Pope Tawadros’s statement last February had declared his acceptance of Anba Suriel’s resignation from his post as Bishop of Melbourne. The statement detailed the history and conditions of the Coptic Orthodox ministry in Australia, including Anba Suriel’s work since he was seated Bishop of Melbourne and up to his resignation on 5 November 2018. The resignation had been posted on his Twitter account for all to see; he cited his [remarkable] work throughout 28 years of loving service in Melbourne, but said that recent years were marred by “divisions and hate-filled actions”. It generated an agonised response from a large portion of the congregation who asked the Bishop to go back on it.
The Pope’s statement in al-Keraza, which was translated into English and posted on the Melbourne Diocese Facebook page, explained that Pope Tawadros dispatched Anba Raphael, Bishop of Downtown Cairo, to Melbourne from 8 to 17 December 2018. Anba Raphael investigated the matter thoroughly, praying daily liturgies and communing with the clergy and congregation. Back in Cairo, he presented Pope Tawadros with a comprehensive report on matters in Melbourne.
On 14 January 2019, Pope Tawadros convened with the committee for Dioceasan Affairs in the Holy Synod, where he discussed the situation with 17 metropolitans and bishops. The statement said that the meeting concluded with issuing a recommendation, not a decision, that “out of respect of the Australian laws, the relationship between his Grace Bishop Suriel and the Diocese of Melbourne and Affiliated Regions be suspended, and initially accept his request to be discharged from the ministry in Melbourne, based on his personal wish, which he announced on 5 November 2018, and to invite him to one of our Coptic monasteries whether in Egypt or outside of it, to reside there without any pastoral responsibility, seeking the salvation of his soul.”
According to the statement, a delegation of Melbourne priests met the Pope with authorisation to speak on behalf of the majority of the clergy of Melbourne, and presented some thoughts about the future of the Diocese. The following day, 1 February, Pope Tawadros met Metropolitan Serapion of Los Angeles and Anba Danial, Bishop of Maadi and General Secretary of the Holy Synod, where the entire matter was thoroughly discussed. During that meeting Metropolitan Serapion presented a letter signed by Bishop Suriel requesting a permanent discharge from the Diocese of Melbourne, and not to return to it as shepherd in any form. Pope Tawadros, the statement said, accepted the request. He also accepted a request by Metropolitan Serapion to relocate Bishop Suriel to serve in the Diocese of Los Angeles. The statement ended with: “Pope Tawadros becomes responsible for the Diocese of Melbourne with a specific management committee until arrangement for its care is taken in suitable time.”
Anba Suriel was consecrated and seated as Bishop of Melbourne in 1990 at the hands of Pope Shenouda III, patriarch from 1971 until 2012. The parish was then 10-churches and 12-priests large; today it includes 26 churches shepherded by 41 priests. Bishop Suriel established Coptic schools, the world’s first accredited Coptic theological college, a hospital and a home for the elderly, to say nothing of the numerous churches and monasteries, as well as Eporo Tower in the heart of Melbourne, which acts as a Coptic cultural centre and campus for St Athanasius College.
9 March 2019