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Churches Remember An Archdeacon And Loving Pastor

Tributes are being paid to Bishop Eric Devenport, former Suffragan bishop of Dunwich in East Anglia who, in retirement, went on to serve for 5 years as Archdeacon of Italy and Malta who had died. He was 86 and is pictured above at this year’s Royal Jubilee celebrations in Norwich.

Bishop Eric was ordained in 1956 and served at Leicester Cathedral and Oadby before a 7 year ministry as Parish Evangelist in that diocese.

He was consecrated a bishop in 1980 and spent 12 years as Suffragan Bishop of Dunwich in the Diocese of St Edmonsbury and Ipswich. When he retired he moved to Florence and Siena in Italy for 5 years and also served as Archdeacon for Italy and Malta.

On his return to Britain he served as an Honorary Assistant Bishop in the Norwich Diocese as well as in the Diocese in Europe.  He is survived by his wife Jean and their two daughters. The funeral will be in Norwich on 22nd November at noon at St George’s Tombland.

Diocesan Bishop Geoffrey writes:- ‘I was saddened to receive the news today of the death at the age of 86 of Bishop Eric Devenport, an Honorary Assistant Bishop in the Diocese. Bishop Eric  served as Bishop of Dunwich, the suffragan see for the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich from 1980 to 1992. On his retirement he came to the Diocese in Europe as Chaplain of St Mark’s, Florence, and Archdeacon of Italy and Malta from 1992 to 1997. On his retirement from that ministry, which he greatly enjoyed, he served the Diocese as an Honorary Assistant Bishop who was already to undertake locum duties as required in many chaplaincies. He served the Church of the Holy Spirit, Genova, in this way no less than twenty times between 2002 and 2010. The Diocesan records show that he offered a locum ministry in San Remo, Venice, Menorca, Taormina, Florence, Utrecht, Lausanne, Menton, the Algarve and Voorschoten, serving in this ministry until well into his eighties. Bishop Richard Garrard, another Honorary Assistant Bishop in the Diocese, who will represent the Diocese at Bishop Eric’s funeral, knew Bishop Eric well from the time when he was an Archdeacon in Suffolk, commented that ‘there was certain clown side to Eric’ but he had the ability to be an animator of groups. From his time in Florence he became very interested in the Focolare Movement founded by Chiara Lubich, and was a frequent attender at their ecumenical bishops’ meetings. He is remembered as a loyal and a faithful bishop. As we commend Bishop Eric into God’s love and care, we give thanks for the many ways in which he served this Diocese – as chaplain of Florence with Siena, as Archdeacon of Italy and Malta, and as an Honorary Assistant Bishop – we pray for Bishop Eric’s widow, Jean, and pray for Eric that he may rest in peace and rise in glory.’  +Geoffrey

Flora Capostagno from the congregation in Genoa says In Genoa our Eucharist on Friday at 4pm will be a Requiem one for him (celebrated by priest-in-charge Fr John Payne) whilst we will sing one of his hymns that he chose for his funeral at next Sunday's 10:30am service. We will all miss him dearly as he was a great friend to this church since his time as Archdeacon in Florence through to being a regular locum who each visit stayed for as long as he was able. Our thoughts and prayers are with Jean and the family.”

Ann Brooks Cerimele writes "I am a member of ST.Mark's Church in Florence and knew Eric and his wife Jean very well indeed having lived in Florence for 53 years. It is hard to put into words how much he meant to me. He was a "comforting" man. A person one could could rely upon to be at your side, no matter the situation or the problem. It was my task to drive him to Siena on occasions, and he always received a warm welcome from his parishioners there . They took it in turns to invite us to lunch or dinner at their homes depending on the hour of the Mass. He was always welcomed joyfully at a tiny chapel just outside Panzano where we attended an ecumenical meeting about twice a year. It was called Le Stinche, a lovely little haven deep in the  Chianti woods.  His participation created a wonderful sense of Christianity and togetherness. Their priest was called Padre Lorenzo.  All those who knew Bishop Eric appreciated his very dry sense of humour; one had to puzzle for a moment or two to see if he was being serious or pulling our legs!   He and I had one very big thing in common, the non-stop pain in our knees! We would commiserate one with the other especially after I had my first  (out of 5 ) unsuccessful operations on my knee. I never did hear whether or not he finally took the plunge and faced surgery. At the back of my mind I think his pain was traced to the hip!

"My sister Audrey always attended St. Mark's ( and to help swell the choir) when she came on holiday and one year she under-took the mamoth task of decorating for a flower festival. People who promised to help dropped out at the last moment. At 6am there were no flowers and no helpers and I had to go to school at 8am. A very dear flower seller at the central market lent us her card for the whole- sellers where we rushed before I had to go off to school. I left her on the steps of St. Mark's and Eric took over!  He was so sorry for what had happened and spent the day (together with Jean) going up and down stairs making dozens of cups of tea and sandwiches and offering encouraging words to help poor Audrey. She told me yesterday that she would never have succeeded had it not been for Eric; he had been her salvation. The festival was 100% success!

"Another two friends who come to Florence occasionally, Coral MacEwen and Mary Forman are near Jean in her loss and remember Eric for his warmth and welcome. Bishop Eric always remembered their names.!  They send their love to Jean. Florence Herd- Smith , a paralysed member of our congregation remembers how beautifully Eric read the 21st psalm at her husband's funeral and how understanding he was."