Encyclical of the Holy Synod for September 11
October 17, 2001
The Holy and Eparchial Synod of
the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
To the Reverend Priests and Deacons, the Monks and Nuns, the Presidents and Members of the Parish Councils of the Greek Orthodox Communities, the Day and Afternoon Schools, the Philoptochos Sisterhoods, the Youth, the Hellenic Organizations, and the entire Greek Orthodox Family in America
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
We address you as we approach the fortieth day, a memorial day, since the tragic events of September 11th. It is through the abundant strength of our Lord and our deep love for you, the faithful of the Holy Church of Christ, that we affirm our unceasing prayer and sacred commitment to the needs of our nation, our people, and all of those suffering from the tragedy of that day. With hearts filled with sorrow we lament the loss of thousands of innocent lives, and we endure the pain that this barbaric attack has inflicted on families and communities throughout this country and the world.
In this time of immense suffering from the injustices of evil we hear the groaning of minds and hearts grasping for answers and responses, seeking to comprehend the magnitude of this horrendous event. Such a burden might elicit the cry of the Psalmist and of our Crucified Lord who said, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Psalm 22:1(LXX 21); Matthew 27:46). But from the wisdom of Holy Scripture and the truth revealed by the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, we know that this cry is tempered by hope and faith. For the Psalmist the inner struggle moved beyond feelings of despair and abandonment to an affirmation of the compassionate presence of God. He states in that very same Psalm, "For the Lord did not despise or abhor the affliction of the afflicted; He did not hide his face from me, but heard when I cried to him" (Psalm 22:24). Thus, in the strength and peace from above he goes on proclaiming in hope "all the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord; and all the families of the nations shall worship before him" (22:27). Further, the cry of our Savior upon the cross, a manifestation of the unspeakable suffering he endured as he bore the indescribable burden of our sin, was also indicative of the fact that it was through this act of sacrificial suffering that the power of life and love was revealed in His glorious Resurrection.
Therefore, our response in the midst of this adversity must be grounded in our faith in the Crucified and Risen Lord. Our answer to this tragedy must be in words of comfort and deeds of service. Our yearnings to understand these events and to cope creatively with them must find rest in the presence, the promises, and the action of our merciful God.
Over the past month this kind of response to the September 11th tragedy has been manifested in the tremendous offering of love and assistance that has come from you, the beloved people of our Greek Orthodox parishes. As the Body of Christ and the Holy Archdiocese of America we are laboring with others throughout the nation and the world to address the massive needs that are growing on a daily basis. First, we are leading the people of our Dioceses and parishes in continuous prayer and support for the families of both the innocent victims and those who lost their lives in the attempt to save others. Second, as an Archdiocese we have established the September 11th Relief Fund. Through this fund the amazing generosity of our faithful will meet genuine needs; thus, we are engaged in a careful process of evaluating how we may assist in a very significant and substantive manner. Third, our relief efforts have facilitated the opening of a center for bereavement counseling, a counseling hotline, a volunteer line, and other programs that are being coordinated with International Orthodox Christian Charities, the relief agency of the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas. Fourth, we are addressing the needs and issues related to the destruction of our historic Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, the only church edifice to suffer from the collapse of the World Trade Center. Fifth, our clergy and people in the areas struck by these attacks have responded in numerous ways, both to needs within their own parishes and in the broader communities.
In continuing this sacred work of ministry and prayer, we ask that on Sunday, October 21 a forty day memorial service be conducted in all parishes at the end of the Divine Liturgy for the thousands of innocent people killed on September 11th. On this solemn occasion let each and every one of us light the special "candle for the September 11th victims", the proceeds of which will go to the September 11th Relief Fund of our Archdiocese.
In all of these efforts we are responding to the challenges and needs of our nation, especially in the directly afflicted areas, for as Greek Orthodox Christians we are a vital part of the American community. But more importantly, we are hearing the cry of suffering people, of a grieving nation, and we are answering in word and deed revealing the inexhaustible compassion of our Lord. We ask each of you, through a witness of prayer and generosity, to overcome distress with hope, to face peril with divine strength, to conquer evil with faith, and thus affirm that "neither death, nor life…nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers…nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord"(Romans 8:38-39).
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God the Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.
With paternal love in Christ,
Archbishop of America
Metropolitan of Krinis
Presiding Hierarch of Chicago
Metropolitan of Dardanelles
Presiding Hierarch of San Francisco
Metropolitan of Ainou
Presiding Hierarch of Pittsburgh
Metropolitan of Aneon
Presiding Hierarch of Boston
Metropolitan of Proikonisos
Presiding Hierarch of Denver
Bishop of Atlanta
Bishop of Detroit