The Chancellor and Dean of St Athanasius College, Bishop Associate Professor Suriel, received an Honorary Doctorate from the Australian Catholic University (ACU) on Tuesday 10 October 2017.
Bishop Suriel, the spiritual leader of the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of Melbourne and Affiliated Regions, was selected to receive the Honorary Doctorate Award at the ACU 2017 Spring Graduation Ceremony, given his ongoing and outstanding service to the community. The graduation was held at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, where Bishop Suriel was publicly recognised for his many and significant educational and pastoral contributions to society. This has been particularly demonstrated by way of his influential leadership in the education of Christian Orthodox communities, in growing a Christian Church within Australia, and by building strong relationships of support with the Catholic Church and its communities.
Bishop Suriel said he was humbled to receive this esteemed award from the ACU community, and delivered an address to the ACU graduates present, espousing the importance of inquiring minds, ongoing learning, and self-development. “Education is never ending, it is a continuum from birth to grave. I really hope that for many of you graduating today, this is only the beginning of a fascinating journey of your life. I also hope that it is an educational journey where you will continue to grow, not (holding) knowledge for the sake of it but in order to enrich your lives and most importantly that of others and to be an inspiration to them.”
In his public address, Bishop Suriel also referenced a modern-day Coptic saint, Archdeacon Habib Girgis, who dedicated his life to creating, progressing and imparting quality religious education and theological programmes in the Coptic Church. The Bishop encouraged all to emulate the courage and tenacity of St Habib in living a legacy of love. “Throughout the life journeys that you will all embark upon, you will…be met with obstacles and perhaps with people who will resist your work and ideas,” Bishop Suriel said. “I urge you not to take the easy path and give up, but let this story of Habib Girgis be an inspiration for you today. Will you have this passion and resilience in what you do in the future? This is what makes great women and men, people of stature, people of significance, people that will impact society and the world. Perhaps like St Habib Girgis, your work and resilience may not be recognised immediately, but if you are true to your vision, one day someone will notice and your work will influence and inspire others too.”
Bishop Suriel migrated from Egypt to Australia as a young child. Some of his many life achievements include: starting a charity (Coptic Hope), establishing a Coptic theological college (St Athanasius College – SAC), completing a doctorate at Fordham University in New York (on the leading Coptic educator Habib Girgis); authoring books and articles; pioneering a publishing house (SAC Press); and progressing plans to establish the first Coptic Museum and Coptic Studies Centre in Australia.
Bishop Suriel is also a much sought after teacher and speaker, contributing to academic think tanks, conferences and youth events. More broadly, Bishop Suriel has been a formidable champion for multiculturalism; a voice for persecuted Christian Minorities, particularly in the Middle East; and an advocate for refugees, lobbying for reform and compassion at the highest levels of government, to support migrants seeking a safe refuge on Australian shores. In addition, he has built bridges of peace by way of interfaith and ecumenical dialogue and through his service as a Member of the National Council of Churches.
Bishop Suriel has also established a new and dynamic city presence for the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of Melbourne at Eporo Tower. The 44-storey tower has been built at 285 La Trobe Street by the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of Melbourne. The lower floors of the tower are occupied by the Coptic Church and serve as a place of mission, education, art, culture and faith. Officially opened on 10 September 2017 by Pope Tawadros II, the Eporo site features bespoke Coptic design work including a Coptic Church, function hall, college, bookstore and gift shop. Key design elements which define this Coptic cultural hub include beautiful mosaics, icons, woodwork and stained glass windows crafted by world renowned artists.
15 October 2017