Your Eminence, Bishop, and Ladies and Gentlemen. Before I leave this wonderful Church I particularly wanted to thank Bishop Vahan for this really exquisite icon, I will treasure it for the rest of my life and I am hugely grateful. It will be a very special memento to my visit to you all here today.
I particularly wanted, more than anything else, to express my warmest thanks for such a marvellous welcome here to St. YeghichÃ¨. I also wanted on this occasion to pay a special tribute to Vatche Manoukian for the wonderful generosity which has enabled this church to flourish the way it does. It is yet another example of his and Tamar's incredible and continuous generosity to so many remarkable causes all over the world.
I am also so deeply grateful to the Ambassador Dr. Armen Sarkissian who showed me so carefully around Armenia two years ago. It was a visit I had been looking forward to for many years and finally I achieved it and his hospitality was indeed hugely appreciated.
I am also very grateful to you, Bishop Vahan as I know that the Armenian Church in the United Kingdom and Ireland is blessed to have such a Primate whose wonderful work for the Armenian community is rooted in his profound faith and apparently boundless energy.
And Ladies and Gentlemen I am so pleased and delighted to be with you today and to join my prayers to those of the world's oldest established church, which I understand originated from the missions of the Apostles Bartholomew and Thaddeus and was formally recognised as the national faith in, remarkably, 301 AD. So we are very young here in the United Kingdom in terms of Christian experience.
So whilst it is a joy for me to be in St YeghichÃ¨ this morning it is of course the most soul destroying tragedy that the Armenian Church is facing such indescribable persecution in the Middle East, in countries where Armenian Christians have long lived peacefully with their neighbours.
It is, literally, heart breaking to learn of the attacks on Christians and on the churches where they gather, such as the mindless, brutal destruction of the Armenian Church in Deir el Zour earlier this year. A treasured memorial to the appalling sufferings of the Armenian people.
Your Grace, I should like to thank you for standing before us today to tell us about the continued sufferings of the Armenian Church in Iraq. I should also like to say that I greatly admire the courage and faith of your flock who are an example to us all of faith, quite literally, under such grotesque and barbarous assault.
Today's Gospel reading reminds us of our Lord's words of comfort and encouragement to those who are undergoing persecution. Perhaps we need also, to remember the instruction issued by the writer to the Hebrews. "Remember then that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body."
This, Ladies and Gentlemen, is what we must all, as Christians, seek to do. As I have said before along with so many others I have been deeply distressed by the appalling, nightmare faced by Christians, and other minority communities in various parts of the Middle East. Every week I receive see letters from people who are gravely concerned about the persecuted church in the Middle East.
Our prayers for those who have to endure this continuing horror, seem so hopelessly inadequate under such dreadful circumstances, but please, please just know how truly heartfelt they are.