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New Orthodox Mission in Belfast

On Saturday, 20 December 2008, the new Russian Orthodox mission in Belfast will have its first Divine Liturgy, God willing. The celebrant will be Father George Zavershinsky from the parish of St Peter and St Paul in Dublin, the main Russian Orthodox parish in Ireland. Since his arrival in Ireland a few years ago, Father George has travelled the length and breadth of the island, establishing Russian Orthodox missions in Cork, Waterford and Galway. A monthly Liturgy is served at these missions, and now Belfast will also become a Eucharistic centre of the Russian Orthodox Church.

This new Orthodox mission in Belfast is strictly speaking not the first of the Russian Orthodox Church in Northern Ireland. In 1999 an English-language ROCOR mission was founded in Belfast but in 2004 its priest had to leave Northern Ireland. Over the past few years an increasing number of Russian-speaking Orthodox have come to live in Northern Ireland, as part of the wider influx of migrant workers and others from Eastern Europe and today a Russian Orthodox presence is all the more necessary.

In order to serve the spiritual needs of the Russian-speaking community in the Belfast area, a pilot meeting was held in September 2007 with Father George and members of the local Russian-speaking association, Raduga (meaning Rainbow, reflecting the multinational character of the Russian-speakers). An interest in a Russian-language Orthodox mission in Belfast was identified, and to accommodate this need Father George from January 2008 commenced monthly pastoral talks and services of supplication at the well-known Clonard Monastery, which was made available by Roman Catholic friends. A number of reader services in Slavonic and English were also held, and now the time has arrived for our first Liturgy.

The Liturgy will take place in St George’s parish church in the Belfast city centre, made available by Anglican (Church of Ireland) friends. The Liturgy will be followed by the baptism of a baby, which will also be our first baptism in Belfast. This new Orthodox mission welcomes both Russian-speaking immigrants and local Orthodox who wish to practice the traditional Orthodox Christian faith without deviations.

Over the past year we have been heartened by the encouragement we have received from well-wishers on both sides of the sectarian divide in Northern Ireland. We thank the Triune God for His mercy towards us and the Most Holy Mother of God for her protection.

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