Orthodox America

  Bones of Contention - St. Edward the Martyr

     Readers of "Orthodox America" are probably familiar with the long-standing difficulties surrounding the English Brotherhood of St. Edward's guardianship of the holy relics of their patron, Edward the Martyr.

      After a long period of more than thirty years in which no one in Britain expressed any desire to protect and enshrine the relics in a manner worthy of the bones of a wonderworker, Mr. John Wilson Claridge offered the relics of this Orthodox King to Edward's rightful spiritual children in Britain--the Brotherhood that bears his name and the Orthodox faithful, in Britain and elsewhere, who confess the same Faith professed by the martyred King.

     Mr. Claridge's action touched off a sudden controversy among people who had before shown an utter lack of interest in the relics and even disbelieved in their authenticity and spiritual worth, until even the Crown entered into litigation to force the “return" of what became attractive as "Crown property."

     British courts found in favor of Mr. Claridge' s intent and in favor of the Brotherhood's petition, and the Brookwood community proceeded to prepare a place of pilgrimage and worship suitable to the relics.

     Now a new threat is being made to disturb the repose of the Martyr King. A new fund, the "Shaftesbury Abbey Trust," backed by large grants from historical foundations and county councils in Britain, has announced its intention to buy the ruins of the Abbey and return St. Edward's relics to Shaftesbury.

     However, those responsible for this plan have no intention to restore the Abbey to its original condition--that of a functioning house of prayer and monastic piety capable of affording a place of spiritual pilgrimage and nourishment. Indeed, no such intention would be credible under the present circumstances of Anglicanism.

     The British media has laid considerable emphasis on the involvement of the "Russian Church" in the custody of these bones of an English King, with the clear inference that there is in the Brotherhood's guardianship a threat to British interests and British propriety. This is most regrettable, insofar as all the members of the Brotherhood are English, as are many of the Faithful in Britain, and the Russian Church Abroad recognizes St. Edward as a right-believing Western King and Martyr, and honors him as such.

      St. Edward the Martyr is part of a precious shared heritage, one of the last remaining tangible links to the days of Britain's true spiritual eminence, the days when the spirit of St, Patrick and of all the Fathers and Mothers of the British Isles had not yet been snuffed out by the errors of the Latin schism and the poverty of the Reformation. By the grace of God the secular courts of Britain were convinced of the propriety of having the Martyr's relics enshrined in Brookwood, and British judges gave a clear and unequivocal verdict in favor of Archimandrite Alexis' position. It would be most regrettable were that verdict to be again tampered with and appealed out of motives less than commendable.

     May God grant that the relics of this Orthodox King be permitted to rest in peace under the care of St. Edward's rightful sons and daughters. May his holy relics not become a tourist attraction in a spiritual wasteland, but may they become a fountain of grace for all who have recourse to him in true faith and piety.