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Orthodoxy in Ireland

an article for the sixth anniversary of the opening of the first Orthodox church in Dublin

© Gregory Strachan

Although no Orthodox church existed in Dublin before 1981, several hundred Orthodox faithful had settled here by the early 1950's. Greeks and Greek Cypriots came to carry on their business or profession. A few White Russian refugees reached Ireland soon after the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 - among them Nicholas Couriss, who much later became this country's first resident Orthodox priest - but many more, driven out of China by the new Communist government there, were brought over by the Red Cross in 1954.

Nevertheless Orthodox people here still saw no priest except the occasional visitor from England, who would celebrate the Divine Liturgy for them at some such place as the Seamen's Institute on the Quays, Trinity College Chapel, St. Andrew's Red Cross Home on Dundrum, or the Haven, a Masonic home for the elderly in Cloncliffe.

Eventually in 1969 the parish of our Lady's Holy Protection, Dublin, was established by the Russian Orthodox Church in Exile, with Fr. Nicholas Couriss, a widower, as parish priest of the whole Orthodox community. For some years he too celebrated the Divine Liturgy at one or other of the places aforesaid. Then, because of his frail health, he had the faithful attend services in the tiny chapel of the house at 45A Pembroke Lane which friends had lent him for life. Here he received a number of Irish converts into the Orthodox Church.

From 1971 to 1973 Fr. Nicholas had the assistance of Fr. Michael Beaumont, Professor of French at University College, Dublin. A married man, he had become Orthodox in England and had been ordained there under the Patriarchate of Moscow. His sudden death was a great loss to us.

When Fr. Nicholas himself died in August 1977 we were deprived of his chapel as well by the immediate sale of 45A Pembroke Lane to strangers.

Archbishop Methodius consecrated the first Orthodox church in May 1981. This event opened a new era in the life of the Orthodox Church in Ireland, which will be analysed under five headings as follows.

1. Places of Orthodox worship.
a) Church of the Annunciation, St. Mary's Church, Mary Street, Dublin 1. 24th May 1981 - 2nd May 1986.

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