New York, NY - Responding to the tragedy that occurred on Christmas Day at St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Camp in San Bernardino, CA, His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in America, has issued an urgent appeal to be read in all parishes of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. In this appeal he requests that a special offering be made on Sunday, January 4, 2004, to benefit the families of the victims who perished during the mudslides that ravaged the area of San Bernardino.
Archbishop Demetrios has been in constant contact with Metropolitan Anthony of San Francisco and Rev. John Bakas, Dean of the Cathedral of Saint Sophia in Los Angeles, from the moment the catastrophe began. Metropolitan Anthony visited the site and Fr. Bakas was present throughout the rescue process. St. Sophia Camp has belonged to the Cathedral since 1961.
His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, expressing his deepest sorrow for the tragic loss of this large number of people said, "We were deeply saddened by the tragedy in San Bernardino. The unexpected and harsh death of so many people, on Christmas Day, is a shocking reality that is not easily confronted. The Orthodox Church, though, which has faced innumerable tragedies and sorrows throughout the centuries, has always immediately run to the disaster sites and human pain and has offered unreserved assistance.
Acting according to this sacred tradition, we are called today by the "Father of mercies and the God of all consolation" (2 Cor. 1:3) to offer out of the generosity of our hearts our prayers, love and philanthropic help to the families of the victims of San Bernardino. These offerings constitute the foundation upon which hope is reborn within hurting souls".
On Friday, December 26, while the search and rescue was still ongoing, Metropolitan Anthony of San Francisco emphasized the need for prayer and said, &qout;At times of calamity and human pain, like these, we, as Orthodox Christians must express love and compassion to the victims and their families.
The Greek Orthodox camp is located in Waterman Canyon of San Bernardino, which had recently been ravaged by fires that destroyed all vegetation and woods in the area contributing to the latest tragedy, which caused the death of at least fourteen people at the Campsite.
The camp was officially closed for the season when the disaster hit. The caretaker of the camp, a Guatemalan native and an employee of the Camp since 1997, had invited his immediate family along with other members of his family and friends, all who originated from Central America, to celebrate Christmas at the camp.
Fr. John Bakas and six representatives of the Saint Sophia parish of Los Angeles were given permission to enter the site where they offered a memorial service for the victims.