One Year Anniverary - In Memory, In Faith, In Hope: The Church's Response to Tragedy
From September 11, 2002
On the morning of September 11, 2001 a horrendous tragedy struck our nation. The attacks of terrorists caused over 3000 deaths and terrible destruction in New York, Washington D.C., and Pennsylvania. The victims, persons from all over the world, included office workers, airline employees and passengers, public officials, military personnel, and rescue workers who lost their lives in the collapse of the Twin Towers as they were attempting to save others.
In the aftermath of this tragic day, our entire world has been affected and has changed. Numerous families are attempting to cope with the loss of loved ones. Communities and churches have gathered on multiple occasions to mourn. The destruction and the economic ramifications of the attack have left many without jobs or adequate income. Conflicts in Afghanistan and other parts of the world reveal deep animosities in an attempt to confront terrorism globally. Many people are concerned about issues of security and what might happen in the future.
In response to the tragedy of September 11, the Greek Orthodox Church in America has offered continual prayers for the victims and their families, as well as faithful and compassionate service to those in need, to our nation and its leaders. Within hours after the attacks, His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios issued a directive for all of our churches throughout the country to be opened and prayer services to be conducted for divine protection, consolation, and for the repose of the souls of those who died. Within days the Archdiocese established the September 11 Relief Fund for the families of the victims and facilitated the opening of several Relief Centers in coordination with International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC).
The pastoral ministry of our Hierarchs and Priests has been critical over the past year. On the day after the attacks, Archbishop Demetrios visited Ground Zero in New York and offered prayers for the victims, the families and the relief and rescue workers. A service of consolation and memorial was held that evening at the Holy Trinity Cathedral in New York. Area priests visited the injured in local hospitals and served as chaplains during the recovery process. The Hierarchs of the Archdiocese offered direction and words of consolation to the faithful and called upon all of our churches to conduct 40 day memorial services for the victims. Funeral services for the Orthodox Christians who died on September 11 were led by the Archbishop and parish clergy. Six months after the events, His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew conducted a memorial service during his visit to Ground Zero. He affirmed the Church's condemnation of acts of terrorism and offered words of love and healing to the families of the victims.
During the past year the ministry of our Church has also included prayer and counsel for our nation and its leaders, and political and religious leaders around the world. On September 14, 2001, Archbishop Demetrios joined other area leaders for a visit to Ground Zero with President George Bush. The following week in Washington D.C., President Bush met with national religious leaders, including the Archbishop, prior to addressing the nation regarding the crisis. On September 23 the Archbishop delivered the benediction for a national prayer service held at Yankee Stadium. The Archdiocese hosted officials and dignitaries from both Greece and Cyprus as they visited New York and Washington offering condolences and support. In December 2001, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew convened an interfaith meeting of Christian, Jewish, and Islamic leaders in Brussels in an effort to encourage more dialog and collaboration for increasing tolerance and peaceful coexistence. On July 9, 2002, President Bush met with American Orthodox leaders at the White House and thanked them for their prayers and ministry during a year of tremendous challenges.
The love of Orthodox Christians and their faith in the presence and power of Christ has been expressed in numerous ways following the tragedy of September 11. In addition to prayers, blood drives, and donations of supplies, faithful from all over the globe have contributed over $2 million to the September 11 Relief Fund. The membership of the Archbishop Iakovos Leadership 100 Endowment Fund have contributed over $587,500. Thousands of donations have been received from our dioceses, parishes, and individuals.
The fund was established to assist the families of the victims of the tragedy of September 11. The relief fund is now providing assistance to the dependents of the twenty-one Greek Orthodox persons killed on that day. This relief effort will continue in the months to come as the Archdiocese addresses both the immediate and long-term needs of these families.
For the one-year anniversary of September 11, our parishes have been asked by the Holy Synod to conduct memorial services on Sunday, September 8, to open the churches for prayer on September 11, and to participate in local and national observances that will mark this passage of time and continue the process of healing, restoration, and ministry. In our remembrance of what has happened and our acknowledgement of what has and must be done, may we continue to express our faith in God and our hope in the strength and assurance that comes from Him. May we offer a true witness of the power of love as we serve in the name of Christ Jesus our Resurrected Lord.