The Sankt Ignatios foundation has awarded Bishop Associate Professor Suriel of Melbourne the Order of Sankt Ignatios 2017. The prestigious award, which pays homage to excellence in the area of Orthodox theological education was presented to His Grace Bishop Suriel on Saturday 23 September at the Sankt Ignatios Theological Academy located in Stockholm, Sweden. The award presentation was followed by a celebratory banquet dinner. Bishop Suriel currently serves as the leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church in Melbourne and as the Chancellor and Dean of St Athanasius College (SAC). The Coptic bishop was nominated for his role in establishing SAC as Coptic Orthodox theological college in Melbourne almost 20 years ago. Bishop Suriel has made history in the process as SAC is the first Coptic institution in the world to offer university accredited coursework for theology students. The accreditation was achieved with the support and guidance of the University of Divinity community, which SAC belongs to as one of 11 affiliate colleges What has impressed Bishop Suriel’s academic contemporaries at the Sankt Ignatios Theological Academy is that he has embraced an inter-orthodox approach and partnered with other Orthodox churches to grow SAC into what has become a thriving Orthodox educational hub. Bishop Suriel has dialogued with Patriarch Irinej of Serbia in Belgrade, with the help of Bishop Irinej, the previous bishop of the Serbian Diocese of Australia, to build a platform of trust, cooperation and respect between their faith communities. Esteemed Orthodox theologian Rev Dr John Behr from St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary (SVOTS) in the USA is a sessional SAC lecturer and was recently bestowed an honorary doctorate from the University of Divinity in Melbourne. The official declaration for the award reads as follows: “His Grace Suriel, Coptic Bishop of Melbourne, Canberra, South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania and New Zealand, receives the Order of Sankt Ignatios for renewing the pedagogical vision of St Habib Girgis. His Grace follows the same path as St Habib Girgis who realised that education cannot develop in isolation. His Grace therefore gathers knowledge for his pedagogical work from various orthodox churches, Christian communities and even various religions. Through His Grace’s efforts the Coptic Church now enters a new millennium of studies, once more aspiring to become an example for others, but at the same time learning from others. This will surely transform not only Coptic Orthodoxy in Australia but also other parts of the Coptic world. May this award, together with the award given previously to His Holiness Tawadros II, inspire the Coptic Church to keep their heritage from the Ancient School of Alexandria.” The SAC Chancellor and Dean Bishop Suriel attended the awards ceremony for the Order of Sankt Ignatios in Stokholm, Sweden with the SAC Director of Academic Administration, Rev Dr Peter Dobson. The SAC representatives attended a full two day program which included the 2017 Sankt Ignatios Academic Ceremony, a student graduation ceremony and the installation of a new staff member.  Professor Samuel Rubenson was installed as Professor of Eastern Christian Studies at the Stockholm School of Theology and received at Sankt Ignatios. In receiving the Sankt Ignatios Award, Bishop Suriel also provided a lecture on “The Role of St Habib Girgis in the Renaissance of the Coptic Church.” Other open lectures which featured at the event included two presentations by Professor Samuel Rubenson entitled: “The Past is in Front of Us: On History, Time and Eternity” and “Eastern Christian Studies Today and Tomorrow.”

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