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The Celtic Orthodox Church is an indigenous, Autocephalous Orthodox Church in Europe with representation in the United Kingdom for over 100 years. The head of the Church carries the title of Metropolitan of Dol and titular Bishop of Iona, with residence in Saint-Dolay (Monastery of the Holy Presence [1] in Brittany (current titular : H B Mael since 1995). Roman Catholicism, Anglicanism, Eastern Orthodoxy and Oriental Orthodoxy do not maintain ties with the Celtic Church. The French body recently (late 2006) formed an association called l'Église Orthodoxe Occidentale (The Western Orthodox Church) together with the French Orthodox Church and the Orthodox Church of the Gauls.[2]


Established as the Orthodox Church of the British Isles in 1866, Apostolic Succession is claimed to have been derived from the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch. With the sanction of the Patriarch Ignatius Jacobus II having first been obtained, on 2 June 1866, Mar Julius, Metropolitan Bishop of Emesa consecrated Jules Ferrette as Bishop Julius and gave him the title of Bishop of Iona and its Dependencies. This consecration, in Syria, was witnessed and the instrument of consecration was verified before the British Consul at Damascus. Bishop Julius was dispatched to erect an indigenous Orthodox Church in Western Europe, one not in any way subject to Antioch.[3]

The British church has a mixed history. Bishop Julius was not well received, and his successors had great difficulty in maintaining the Church. Resistance was made by Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox churches, but gradually it survived and grew. In 1994 the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria received the senior British bishop (and several members of the laity) into its jurisdiction. The remaining bishops elected Bishop Mael (the Abbot of the Monastère de la Saint-Présence) as Primate and Metropolitan. The Orthodox Church of the British Isles took the title, British Orthodox Church with the unanimous agreement of the clergy at a synod held in London.

Those French members who rejected the opportunity to join the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria assumed the title of the French Eparchy: L'Eglise Orthodoxe Celtique (the Celtic Orthodox Church) to indicate that its jurisdiction covered the area of the former Celtic missions.

In 1998 several of the priests of the British Orthodox Church who had become priests in the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria left the wider Orthodox communion and chose to return to the independent movement. Eventually most of them were received by Mar Mael and L'Eglise Orthodox Celtique, though some joined other independent groups.

By 1998 the Church in Britain was given the status of an Eparchy or Province and in 1999 a new Bishop Eparch (Stephen Robson) was elected and consecrated for Britain; he had been one of those British priests who had chosen to leave the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate. Bishop Stephen hit the national newspapers in February 2007, by performing an Orthodox baptism in a public house.[4]

In early 2007 the status of the British Eparchy of the Celtic Orthodox Church became unclear. The Eparch, Bishop Stephen, asked for release from the COC and commenced enquiries for entry to the Episcopal Vicariate of Great Britain and Ireland under Bishop Basil of Amphipolis (Patriarchal Exarchate for Orthodox Parishes of Russian Tradition in Western Europe).

Bishop Stephen was received, as a monk, into the Ecumenical Patriarchate January 26, 2008. He issued this announcement:[5]

On the 26th January 2008 Saint Anne's House [York,UK] was received into the Ecumenical Patriarchate as part of the Archdiocese of Parishes of a Russian Tradition in Western Europe. We are under the care of Bishop Basil of Amphipolis, Episcopal Vicar of Great Britain and Ireland. This will bring a greater unity of Orthodoxy in Britain.

Discussions for this move have been taking place since the autumn of 2006 and in talks with Archbishop Gabriel of Comana, the Exarch, and with Bishop Basil, I expressed a desire not to continue my episcopal state and so am pleased to be 'Father Stephen', an idiorrhythmic (i.e. living alone and responsible for my own support), stavrophore ("cross bearing" fully professed) monk.

It was with great sadness that I left the Monastére Sainte-Presènce in Brittany, where I had discovered Orthodoxy and which had been my monastic home for so long. It is not possible to express fully my gratitude to Metropolitan Mael and the community for their loving support over the years. They will always have a very special place in my heart.

Having been at Saint Anne's for thirteen years now, Bishop Basil has kindly given me a sabbatical break, but we will continue in the day to day care of those who come to Saint Anne's for help and to visit prisons, hospitals and those in need.

We are being fully supported by other clergy of the Vicariate and services continue in the beautiful chapel at Saint Anne's day by day and week by week. It is advisable to check with us as to times of services as, at the moment, these can vary.

We look forward to this new journey forward in the life of Saint Anne's and hope for your prayers. Our situation of being under the Ecumenical Patriarch (as are the Greek Orthodox) and being of a Russian tradition whilst being essentially a western European jurisdiction, with services in English, brings great blessings. Further information can be found by contacting

Please pray for us!

Four clergy remain within the Celtic Orthodox Church in the UK[6], now directly administered by the French Eparchy. (The French website also presently serves the UK. There are now English translations on the French site.[7])

See also


External links

frp:Égllése ortodoxe cèltica