The first Persian woman to become a bishop was consecrated by the Archbishop of Canterbury this morning during a service in Canterbury Cathedral. Guli Francis-Dehqani, the daughter of the former Bishop of Iran, Hassan Dehqani-Tafti, will serve as the first suffragan Bishop of Loughborough in the Church of England’s Diocese of Leicester. Her family were forced into Exile after a botched assassination attempt on her father – who was also the first President Bishop of the Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East. He mother was injured in that attack. Guli’s brother, Bahram, stayed behind in Iran. He was murdered in 1980 and is commemorated in Canterbury Cathedral’s Chapel of Saints and Martyrs.
Today’s service reflected the new bishop’s early life in Iran. Bishop Iraj Mottahedeh, who succeeded Bishop Hassan Dehqani-Tafti as Bishop of Iran, gave the sermon. Bishop Iraj is now retired and lives in England. For 15 years, Bishop Iraj was the only Christian priest in Iran.
Bishop Guli’s eldest son Gabriel, playing cello, joined musicians from King’s School, Canterbury, to perform Variations on Bahram’s Melody. The original music had been composed by Gabriel’s uncle Bahram for a Persian hymn written by Bahram and Guli’s father.
The choir also sang music composed by Gabriel and set to a Persian poem and words from St John’s Gospel. Bishop Guli’s other children, Simeon and Eleanor, helped Gabriel carry the offertory gifts to the Archbishop.
Bishop Guli will play a full role in the work of the Church across Leicestershire, working alongside the Bishop of Leicester, Martyn Snow. She will also have a specific brief to oversee and support the vocations of those called to ordained ministry; and to encourage Christians from Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds as the diocese “strives for modern society to be better reflected in its congregations”.
After her consecration, Bishop Guli left the cathedral carrying the crozier first used by her father in the Diocese of Iran and the Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East. On Sunday (2 December) Guli will be welcomed to her new diocese during a service in Leicester Cathedral.
During the Primates’ Meeting in October, Anglican archbishops were given a candle-lit tour of Canterbury Cathedral; which concluded in the Chapel of Saints and Martyrs. After hearing about Bishop Guli’s impending consecration, and the commemoration of her brother in the chapel and the cathedral’s Book of Saints and Martyrs, the primates left their candles burning on the chapel steps.